Well, it depends…how’s your diet? Genetics? Do you have any unresolved symptoms or diagnoses?
I know, I know…you most likely just want me to say, “Oh! Just take A, B, & C, and you will always feel your absolute best!” Boom. Done. You’re welcome.
Except not. That’s not exactly how this whole Functional Medicine thing works. It’s ALL about personalized plans. And personalized means based on your stage of life, past medical history, genetics, symptoms, diet, and lab work. So, as frustrating as this may be for you to read, let it also be an encouragement that you may not need those 30 supplements your favorite influencer says they can’t live without.
Generally speaking, it is much better to get your vitamins, micronutrients, and minerals from your food, but depending on your diet, where you get your food, and your genetic makeup - you may need a little help. While supplements (referring to vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients not from your food) are a great way to fill in the gaps, I feel we have lost the necessary respect and care for their potential efficacy in our culture. I mean, how many supplements do you take, and you can’t even tell if they make you feel better, worse, or the same? Do you even know why you are taking them? Do you know the ingredients in them? Guarantee you it’s not JUST Vitamin D in that “Vita-Gummy”. Besides making sure you are working with a health professional utilizing your labs, symptom analysis, genetics, and diet, here are 3 things to consider when deciding about supplements. (Oh, and make sure you don’t take this as medical advice!)
Ah, and for those of you who hate reading…there’s a summary at the bottom…you’re welcome!
1) AVOID SYNTHETIC ADDITIVES & PRESERVATIVES AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Like I say with anything you ingest, please make sure to read your labels.
Why are there extra ingredients in your supplements anyway?
Some extra ingredients like fillers, binders, coatings, or flavorings can be hiding (or in plain sight) in many inexpensive supplements you just grab off the shelf at any store. But, some preservatives (which can be naturally-based like citric acid or plant cellulose) are necessary in your supplements in order to keep them stabilized or preserved for the time it takes you to consume the whole bottle. Please try your best to avoid anything with fun flavors or colors as those will have artificial sweeteners and coloring, which pretty much defeat the purpose of you taking the supplement anyway. A couple others to avoid are ingredients like sodium benzoate, magnesium stearate, and BHT. A good reference I like to use is one of my favorite supplement brands, Thorne. They have a “No List” of ingredients that you will never find in their supplements because of the known negative health effects. So, use this as a quick reference to check your current supplements’ ingredients. If you spot a “No” ingredient - I would just toss it.
2) MORE ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
Just because your Multivitamin has 20 different superfoods all packed into your one horse-pill, doesn’t make it better than the next supplement. I say this because you may not truly need all 20 different superfoods, or even worse, something in that multivitamin may actually be making things worse for you. Example: I have MTHFR genetic mutation. I know that taking folic acid (in its synthetic form) can congest my methylation pathway (1 of 6 Phase 2 detoxification pathways in your liver). Folic acid is used as a “vitamin” in many processed foods and multivitamins. Therefore, I do my best to avoid it. During my pregnancies, I have taken methylfolate, which is the methylated natural form of folic acid (folate). You can also just take folate (not methylated).
Anyway, it is better to know as much as you can about your nutritional deficits and genetic makeup with lab work and symptom analysis to allow you to take supplements & vitamins with a purpose instead of…well…just because you think it’s healthy. Do your best to buy singular, pure vitamins & nutrients in bulk powder, liquid, or capsules vs tablets or gummies.
3) LEARN INTUITIVE EATING
What does intuitive eating have to do with vitamins & supplements?
If you are not in tune with your body, then the only way you can really tell if things are working, whether that be supplements, food, drugs, etc, is through your lab results. And does anyone really want to do lab work more often than necessary? NO!
So, when it comes to vitamins, minerals, supplements, or other natural alternatives - try ONE thing at a time. And because things take time, give it time to work before you dismiss it, try something else entirely, or add something to the mix. When I first started learning intuitive eating, I would give something a minimum of a week to see if I noticed a difference, but that is MINIMUM. Many pharmaceutical drugs tell you to wait 2 weeks to notice a difference, so the moral of the story is something you don’t want to hear - PATIENCE. And speaking of drugs, if you do view vitamins, supplements, and other natural alternatives as effective (or more effective than pharmaceuticals), then please treat them as such by making sure you know the possible drug interactions.
In nursing school, I had to endure one of my least favorite classes…Pharmacology. This involved memorizing list after list of classifications, side effects, adverse reactions, and the most common drug interactions. This is when one drug can negatively effect or offset the effectiveness of another. And, it can happen with your supplements too! Especially if you are taking pharmaceutical drugs, please be sure to check for known interactions before trying to add a supplement to your regimen. This resource has pretty much all drugs, and quite the selection of vitamins and minerals as well.
All in all - I’m a big fan of natural alternatives! So, I encourage supplements, vitamins, minerals, and diet change over pharmaceuticals when possible. But, I also encourage science, personalized plans, and working closely with someone who knows how to best help you instead of you just trying things without purpose or plan. I hope you found this helpful, and please always feel free to leave a review or submit any questions on my contact page!
Just remember to keep health simple. Don’t get lost in all the numbers, diagnoses, and symptoms. If you’re having trouble with that - don’t hesitate to sign up for a free consultation on my Services page. I’d be happy to help you keep your health simple, so it’s something you can love!
Avoid synthetics & chemicals…per the usual.
Cheaper isn’t always better. Make sure you are buying the purest forms of vitamins, minerals, and supplements as possible.
Please supplement based on lab work, symptom analysis, and research with a provider vs trial/error.
Some of the brands I use & trust: Thorne, All-Star Nutrition, Metagenics, and Pure Encapsulation