Demystifying Dietary Supplements: Which Ones Should I Take, and Why?
The availability of dietary supplements has grown significantly over the past two decades, mostly because of the growing body of research that shows their contribution to health, healing, and vitality. Dietary supplements have long ago left the realm of "alternative medicine" and in fact are now being marketed and sold by pharmaceutical companies as a way to help prevent health issues before they start.
Unfortunately, not all supplements are created equal. The quality of the raw ingredients, processing standards, packaging, and storage all contribute to the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of supplements. Also, the nutrients in some supplements come in forms that are not easily accessed and absorbed by the body, and so may not provide the health benefits their labels suggest. With this in mind, we at the BoomShop will soon be proud to offer a professional line of dietary supplements that represent the highest standards of the nutriceutical industry with regards to quality, efficacy, and research—so you know your body is getting exactly what's on the label.
Choosing a trusted brand is only half the battle. With so many different types of supplements on the market—vitamins, minerals, herbals, botanicals, oils, powders—which ones are really important to take, and why? In my work as a clinical nutritionist, I highlight these four main reasons for baby boomers to consider supplements, and give them a little insight on where to start.
1. To Achieve a Basic Nutrient Foundation
Although a healthy, balanced, organic diet rich in essential macro-, micro-, and phytonutrients should form the foundation of our wellness, many things actively deplete our nutrient status: aging, loss of cellular and system function, past and present stressors, and the continuous growing burden of environmental toxins. Because of this constant nutrient depletion, I recommend a few standard supplements to the majority of my clients as their "basic health insurance policy," even if they have an otherwise good diet. These include:
A multivitamin/mineral complex designed to meet basic nutrient needs.
Essential fatty acids to help us achieve the 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio necessary to fight inflammation. Inflammation is the cornerstone of all illness, particularly the chronic degenerative conditions associated with aging, and most Americans don't get the proportion of fatty acids that their cells need to reduce it.
Vitamin D3 to build bone strength, regulate immune function, support neurological health, and help balance mood. The role of this vitamin in many aspects of our health cannot be overstated, and many of us have trouble getting enough from direct sunlight alone. If you work indoors or live in a cloudy, rainy climate, supplementation of vitamin D3 is especially important.
A probiotic supplement to support the microbiome in our gastrointestinal tract. The 100 trillion organisms that form this biome affect almost every aspect of our health, and it's important to support it by building and maintaining "friendly" bacteria. Alcohol, a poor diet, hormone replacement therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and antibiotics destroy this friendly flora, skewing the balance of our microbiome and compromising our health.
A plant-based antioxidant supplement to fight the aging effects of free radicals. The process of aging begins when free radicals, or "scavenger molecules," damage cell membranes and DNA. This leads to a cascade of events culminating in inflammation. The use of plant-based nutrients and antioxidants, known as phytonutrients, has proven to be extremely effective at protecting cells from free radical damage, reducing the symptoms of inflammation, restoring cell function, and slowing the effects of aging.
2. To Correct Metabolic, Cellular, and System Imbalances
As we get older, our cellular and systems metabolism can become sluggish or unbalanced, which can lead to symptoms of aging and illness over time. Symptoms that may point to this type of imbalance include:
Elevated blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol
Altered bowel function
Loss of bone density
Changes in body composition
Hormonal shifts manifesting in hot flashes and night sweats
Cognitive changes, including issues related to memory and word retrieval
The strategic use of dietary supplements can be a very powerful tool in rebalancing and supporting these cellular and systems functions, promoting healing, good health, and a great quality of life.
3. To Maintain a Health Reserve
Aging does not necessarily imply illness—it is simply part of the journey of life. In fact, it is possible to age without illness or to compress illness to the very end of life. To help ourselves achieve this, it's essential to maintain a good health baseline, or "health reserve."
As we age, our demand for nutrients rises. There are a number of reasons for this: long-term stress, a loss of nutrient reserve, and decreased metabolic function. If we work to increase our supply of nutrients, our metabolic function will reach a more optimal state. The strategic use of supplements in conjunction with a good diet has been shown to play an important role in maintaining our health reserve and avoiding illness over time.
4. To Promote Vitality and Quality of Life
Quality of life depends on many things—diet, exercise, sleep, social connections, and emotional and spiritual health. All of these aspects can be compromised if we are ill or experiencing discomfort. This is why it's especially important to live in a health-conscious state and use whatever tools we have at our disposal to support and promote a healthy, vital life that we'll love to live for years to come.
Our nutrition expert Peta Cohen has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in addressing underlying metabolic changes that occur as a result of lifestyle choices and aging to prevent diseases, and deals with root causes of complex and chronic health issues. Her extensive clinical experience and research have led her to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's posts for the BoomSpot, she shows that great health starts with you and gives practical tips on how to improve it right now.