When it comes to health and wellness, is there anything quite so maligned as supplements?
In some instances, you will see mentions of supplements that make them sound as if they are the worst things in the world. “Supplements can’t replace a healthy diet!” you will be informed at every turn. “You should be EATING your supplements! If you have a balanced diet, then you don’t need supplements! They’re just a cheat!” It’s not exactly encouraging.
It’s also clearly something that a huge number of us pay no heed to; millions of people buy and consume supplements every year. They must be doing something. We’re a canny society these days, and we won’t continue to do something if we don’t feel it’s assisting us in some way. So if supplements are so bad and a cheat, why do people keep buying them?
TRUE: Supplements are a cheat.
Yes, despite all of the above, now for a little backtracking: supplements are a bit of a cheat. However, what you are actually cheating is up for debate. If you’re taking supplements and then eating nothing but junk food, then no, you’re not doing what’s best for your body. The supplements alone are not going to be able to reverse the damage that might be being done.
However, if you generally eat well (the occasional Friday night takeout aside) then there’s still a legitimate cause for supplements. That’s because…
FALSE: “You can get every nutrient that your body needs from diet alone!”
No. This is just not true – and there’s a variety of reasons behind it, but it’s still absolutely false to say that the food you eat is the only source of nutrients that you need. There’s no cheap “it’s what you drink too!” coming here, either – that won’t fix all the problems either. There is a legitimate case for supplements as a viable tool for helping people achieve optimum health when they have no other way of obtaining it.
If you’re curious as to why that might be, then read on…
Farming Has Changed (And Not For The Better)
Let’s say you can time travel. The you of 2017 walks into a grocery store and buys a single carrot. Then you hop back into the post-war period, where you also go and buy a single carrot. You now have two carrots. Logic would suggest that these carrots are practically identical. They’ll both be orange, they’ll both be of an average size, and they will have the same nutrient content.
No, they won’t. As a result of poor agricultural practices, over-farming, and over-use of soil to the point it is stripped of its nutrients, carrots just aren’t what they used to be. The same is true of all other fruit and vegetables; our modern veg might be more accessible, but it’s simply not as good for us as it once was.
The guidelines on the amount of nutrients we should eat haven’t been updated to reflect this.
There are ways and means that you can recapture these lost nutrients and – you’ve guessed it – those means involve supplements. It’s almost physically impossible to eat your daily recommended amount of certain nutrients; your stomach just isn’t large enough. So that means that supplements are a viable, necessary way of taking back what has been lost. It could be through essentials like ionic potassium drops, organic sulfur crystals, or just a multivitamin that you take every day at breakfast – but they’re all performing an essential function.
Health Conditions Can Prevent Absorption Of Essential Vitamins
While it’s something of an oversimplification, it’s fair enough to say simply that if you have any gastrointestinal illness, then you have a problem with absorbing nutrients.
Gastrointestinal illnesses are not exactly rare, either. In fact, if you look through any health forum online, you will quickly find that it’s one of the most discussed topics. Diagnosis is often difficult to obtain, sometimes leading to the “trashcan diagnosis” of Irritable Bowel Syndrome – but it’s all part of the same problem. If your GI system isn’t running quite as well as it could be, then your ability to absorb nutrients from food could be compromised.
Sometimes, the level of how much it has been compromised can be severe. When people are diagnosed with Celiac Disease, for example, they are often found to be low in levels of Vitamin B12 also. The reason for this deficiency is purely because of their GI problems and the inability to absorb essentials as they should.
If you have any kind of GI illness, then supplements could well be a necessity to keep your body functioning as it should. If you’re on any medication for your GI problems, then ensure you discuss with a doctor prior to adding in any supplements – though chances are, they’ll congratulate you for your forethought.
Something Is Better Than Nothing
How many people do you think can genuinely say they always eat their recommended amount of daily vitamins and minerals? It’s probably not many, especially if people were forced to answer honestly.
Let’s say by some stroke of misfortune you dislike all foods containing Vitamin C. You know you should eat them; there’s no physical reason for you not to eat them… but you just hate them. You tell yourself that supplements are a cheat, and you will just have to find Vitamin C from your diet, choking down every mouthful so your body gets what it needs. How long do you think that would last? It wouldn’t; you’d just skip the foods that you don’t like to eat. The result would be a Vitamin C deficiency.
There’s no point trying to make yourself eat food that you don’t like. By all means, experiment with recipes and cooking techniques, but even these aren’t foolproof. Sometimes, we just don’t like a food.
In these scenarios, it’s far better that you ensure you have your required nutrients than just going without. It’s easy enough to swallow a pill of a morning; it’s ten times harder to consistently force yourself to consume food you dislike. It’s inadvisable to try and do this for everything in your diet – you do have to eat some good foods! – but as a last resort, a supplement is always going to be better than nothing.