Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Supplementation Made Easy

Every textbook I own on nutrition begins by making the statement that a good diet provides all the nutrients needed to “prevent clinical signs of deficiency.” However, that statement assumes we know and will recognize any and all signs. If you have dry skin is that a clinical sign of vitamin A deficiency, maybe vitamin D? How about a lack of essential fatty acids? That’s also a classic sign of hypothyroidism. Could it be a lack of iodine or tyrosine?

Lack of signs of deficiency is also a long way from healthy. Recommended daily allowances (RDA) are minimums that, when met, will prevent those clinical signs. For example, the RDA for vitamin D is 400IU. However, supplementation levels vary from 400IU per day to 50,000IU per week. What is the margin of safety?

Many clinical conditions require supplementation at levels much higher than the RDA. Macrocytic anemia often requires high doses of folic acid and vitamin B12, frequently in synthetic forms, to stimulate adequate red blood cell (RBC) production. This can be a genetic issue, requiring life time supplementation.

If you want to insure adequate micronutrient intake start with a good diet. That means 5 servings of vegetables, 2 fruits, and 3 protein servings per day. About 50% of the fruits and vegetables should be raw. Now add a phytofood supplement rather than a multiple.

A multiple throws together as many different micronutrients as can possibly fit in the capsule or tablet, without regard to compatibility or dosage. For example, most multiples with contain zinc, copper, and iron. These three minerals compete for absorption and should not be taken together.

A phytofood is concentrated plant food. Wheat grass juice is an example. Pea vine juice, carrots, barley and many other plants can be processed to provide a concentrated form of micronutrients, in the ratios found in nature. There is no need to fortify these supplements. Greens Plus, Sun Chlorella, and Standard Process Catalyn are readily available phytofood supplements.

Virtually all of us are deficient in essential fatty acids, unless we supplement. I commonly recommend doses of omega 3 fatty acids in the range of 6,000 to 8,000mg per day to reduce inflammation. However, 2,000mg (2 pearls) is sufficient intake to meet our daily needs.

Women also need some additional calcium added to the diet. Supplementing 1000mg per day will suffice, unless you are treating osteoporosis or some other condition requiring more calcium. I supplement additional calcium before and during long bike rides or when doing a series of dive trips in the course of a day. This prevents any leg cramps than can develop with constant use of the leg muscles.

The hundreds and perhaps thousands of other supplements are reserved for use with specific clinical conditions. Most of us do not need to supplement vitamin D. All we need is a little sunlight on our skin. In the northern states, during the winter months, supplementation might be needed but that should be based on laboratory testing.

Do not go out and buy the newest, greatest, revolutionary supplement that cures everything. You do not need to take handfuls of supplements everyday. However, if you have clinical symptoms – fatigue, insulin resistance, hypertension, sleep disturbances, etc.; please seek qualified nutritional advice to treat the underlying cause.

Do take a phytofood, omega 3 fatty acids, and maybe some calcium on a daily basis to supplement that good diet.

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