I am often asked by my patients, and I've wondered for myself, "Do I really need a vitamin and/or mineral supplement? If the answer is yes, then what and why?"
The current research would seem to support the recommendation that women can benefit from a good quality,vitamin/mineral supplement taken every day. This is even truer as our aging is taken into consideration. And, one fact is clear, taking a daily supplement won't hurt! Did you know that our bodies make our hormones out of cholesterol? To achieve and then maintain hormone balance, our bodies must have all the nutrients readily available for this non-stop process.
As research in recent years has expanded to include a more focused investigation of nutrition and how it impacts health, chronic health conditions and treatment, we can see clearly the significant role that our everyday, balanced nutritional intake (or lack thereof) can make. For the majority of us, our bodies started off as well-balanced, well-functioning amazing machines. But, as we age, more and more factors (genetic, environmental, cultural, physical and, yes, hormonal) come into play. If our basic nutrition is strong, we start off in a much better position to address whatever challenges arise.
Why can't you and I just be really careful about what we eat and, in so doing, avoid health problems related to or influenced by nutritional lacks? Well, first off, few of us can be fully aware and engaged all the time, everyday, to be sure our diets are excellent. We are just too busy, and perhaps we are not sure what is excellent when it comes to nutrition. Next, we know now that much of our food is lacking in the nutritional benefits it once offered. Our soils have been nutritionally depleted over the years by over-utilization and the increasingly common use of pesticides, inorganic fertilizers, treated water and the like. Our animals are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. We buy foods that come from long distances and are exposed to various chemicals to preserve freshness for weeks. Most of us just don't eat enough of the right things even when they are available and we can afford them. Fast foods and processed foods form the basis of the diets of a large percentage of the population.
Additionally, our lifestyles can contribute to poor nutrition if we are racing through life, trying hard just to keep up. Stress takes a significant toll on our nutritional health, using up B vitamins and depleting nutrients in general, throwing off our insulin balance and even suppressing our immune function which helps us ward off disease. If we smoke, drink more than moderate amounts of caffeine or alcohol, get too much sugar, sodium or saturated fat, our health is affected. We are more prone to viruses, infections, allergies, headaches, fatigue, bowel issues, heart attacks and much more.
Taking all these factors together, the result is that-as reported in a 2002 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone. It appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements." Even if we become educated and try hard, there is definitely a limit to what one body can do. Taking a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement bridges the gap between what we need to eat to best build and protect health and what we actually do eat.
What supplements then should we be looking for? What I recommend to all my patients is a multivitamin/mineral supplement with additional calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D for starters (I also recommend fish oils but we'll talk more about those in another posting). If possible in your budget, pharmaceutical grade vitamins and minerals are the best; they are going to cost more but-in the long run-they will be worth it to good health. For good sources, ask your health care provider, chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist. Check at your local co-ops and health food markets. Talk to friends who are health-conscious and actively engaged in seeking a healthy lifestyle. It can take a long time to make up for the years of deprivation our bodies may have endured. But it's never too late to start. Today is the right day to take that first step.
Published On: November 07, 2008