The thing to remember with supplementation is that its only meant as a temporary solution to boost an area that is otherwise depleted for a variety of reasons. Its very much an allopathic response to a symptom but is also much more natural and gentler than medication. The body has an innate ability to recover on its own without the aid of any supplements as long as the correct diet is used, so there are instances when supplementation is used to boost this recovery. There are also times when supplements should not be used for recovery as the body won’t be able to assimilate them correctly and it is knowing this is key to fully utilizing the correct supplements.
The first thing to consider is that you need to know what you are taking, how they are manufactured, the quality, the source, the product and all of the relevant information on the supplement. Just because its expensive does not necessarily mean it’s the best, having said that most of the better-quality supplements I have come across do cost a little more, so always err on the side of caution when choosing a more inexpensive product. Do your research and try different products, see what other people say. There can be a substantial difference in the quality of these products so just make sure you’ve done your homework before blindly buying the cheapest product out there.
It’s always recommended to work alongside your doctor and/or nutritionist to do the relevant testing and see what deficiencies are there first. Do not start supplementing unless you know what you are low in. For example, taking too much iron can cause iron toxicity which can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain so its best to make sure you are deficient in something before you start to increase your intake. When you do, start small and don’t try taking too many supplements at once otherwise you won’t know what’s good and what’s bad. Remember that the only way to resolve the issue ultimately is through diet so consider what you are low in and start with one or two supplements to see if they help. If you don’t notice any difference, try something else, try a different brand, sometimes just using a different manufacturer makes all the difference.
Try working with your diet first, eliminate some of the more common problematic foods such as gluten, dairy, sugar and diuretics. Introduce more vegetables, berries, grains and legumes with plenty of fruit. If you are still struggling after this then try working through the following guidelines.
Look at your digestion. There is no point in adding supplements to your diet if your food cannot be assimilated properly. Once diet is in order this should always be the first port of call. This should include looking at Betaine HCI (to support hydrochloric acid), and Pepsin (primary digestive enzyme in the stomach), simply adding lemon or lime juice can really help with this. Remember that you need two glasses of water today to produce enough stomach acid tomorrow so make sure your drinking enough each day.
Look at gut health. Examine your stool consistency, not the nicest of tasks but important nonetheless. There are some lovely natural supplements that can be used here like probiotics, antimicrobial's, and herbs such as slippery elm, psyllium husk or linseed's and so on.
Support your Liver. In my own personal opinion, the liver is the single most important organ in the body and is responsible for so much of our health so keeping it healthy is absolutely vital. If the liver is not healthy then toxins will be flushed back into our lymph systems and end up somewhere else we really don’t want it resulting in congestion and presenting as ear infections, tonsillitis, sore throats, chest infections and so on. These symptoms will usually mean a visit to the doctor and some antibiotics further suppressing the problem and destroying healthy gut bacteria so essentially kicking the can down the road for another day. Once digestion is in order there are many ways to flush the liver including some lovely bitter herbs, a clean oil and fat free diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit, plenty of hydration and/or short term fasting.
Essential Fatty Acids. These should also be considered depending on the case but are equally as important if they are not being included in the diet. EFA’s are needed for blood glucose levels and hydration so may also needed to be tested.
Vitamins and minerals. Once we have looked at all other areas, we can look at deficiencies and possibly supplementation.
When your trying to improve your health and diet look at what’s known as the 5 R’s (including the S):
Remove: removing problem foods and food sensitivities
Replace: digestive enzymes, stomach acid, essential fatty acids
Repopulate: reintroduce beneficial bacteria
Repair: the gut lining with nutrients such as L Glutamine
Re-balance: address external stressors such as lifestyle habits and add in any nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium.
Support: liver function and consider support for adrenals, thyroid, adrenals and immune function.
There are so many things we can do before we look at taking pills or tablets, while there may eventually be a need for them its always best to try and fix the problem through diet first. So always consider a trip to your nutritional therapist first as you may not need to supplement at all.