The Proper Definition: Supplements are products taken orally that contain vitamins, amino acids, herbs or botanicals, as well as other substances intended to supplement the diet.
The sad truth: They are as under-regulated as our food. That leaves them wide open for scammers who promise miracle results to blur the line between good and too good to be true.
So, how do you tell the difference? Let’s start with the “good” side of things…
Do We Need Them?
The short answer is YES. Here’s why:
Can’t I get all the nutrients I need from food? It’s a common question in our office, and a legitimate one with all the empty guarantees from the under-regulated “supplements” floating around. In any case, we would assume that if we’re eating a whole, fresh, unprocessed-foods diet, we should be able to get an abundant supply of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. Right? Sadly, no.
Even the “cleanest” food isn’t working at its best potential. Depleted soils, the storage and transportation of our food, genetic alterations of traditional heirloom species, and the increased stress and nutritional demands from a toxic environment all make it nearly impossible to get 100% whole, clean foods. To put it simply, our bodies need an extra hand.
The Basics We All Need
Even the healthiest people with the strongest guts need supplements. Here are some of the basics they might keep as part of their routine to stay in optimal health:
- Gut Support: Probiotics work to protect the gut from everyday life, the environment, diet, and antibiotics, which can all damage the gut ecosystem—the entire foundation that keeps us healthy.
- Fish Oil: An anti-inflammatory brain food, fish oil protects the body from disorders such as ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Arthritis, Anxiety, and Cardiovascular Disease. Our food alone does not provide the correct amount of omega 3-fatty acids we need to live, which is scary. According to research conducted at Harvard University, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is ranked as one of the top ten causes of death in America, claiming the lives of up to 96,000 people each year (Dr. Axe, 2017).
- Vitamin D: On our own, it’s virtually impossible to get the correct amount of vitamin D, which plays an essential role in making disease-preventing proteins and enzymes, and affects more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength, builds bone, has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and bolsters the immune system. Cut this from your daily regime, and you could be leaving your body vulnerable to afflictions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
- Multivitamin: When we don’t get enough fruits and veggies, we miss essential nutrients that we need to lower our risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other health conditions. The right multivitamin will contain all the basic vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, A, E, D2 (or D3), K, potassium, iodine, selenium, borate, zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, beta carotene, and/or iron.
The Healing Process
At Forum Health, many clients come to us when the medical world has failed them. Their overall health is quite low. Although it’s a nice start, a healthy diet alone does not solve the issue and heal the body—and they need ALL the healing they can get. Most of them come to us with weight issues, constipation/diarrhea, chronic pain, fatigue, autoimmune disorders, dependent on medications, and much worse. Our functional medicine nutritionists carefully assess their symptoms and identify what’s causing them. Beyond that, their main objective is to treat the underlying issue and heal the body from within, ending symptoms once and for all. Through their assessments, they determine which third party tested, pharmaceutical grade supplements will aid and speed up the healing process.
A gut-healing treatment might involve additional supplements that look a little different than the basics:
- Medical Food: This usually comes in the form of a daily shake or powder. It is anti-inflammatory and supports detoxification. It’s an excellent breakfast and snack option that helps balance blood sugar, heals the liver, and provides strategic macro- and micronutrient support for someone with compromised gut function. Is it a forever thing? It can be. I still drink mine every morning for that extra oomph of gut support.
- Gut Barrier Support: Contains L-Glutamine to repair and regenerate the mucosal lining, deglycyrrhized licorice root extract (DGL) to increase the production of mucin, aloe vera leaf gel extract for soothing the GI tract, zinc to enhance gut barrier function, and N-Acetyl glucosamine, a mucin precursor. Is it forever? It can be if it makes you feel better. I periodically drop a scoop of this into my morning shake.
- Oil of Oregano: Oregano is one of the most powerful natural anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral herbs created by Mother Nature. It’s also one of the most potent treatments included in a Candida program. Is it forever? No way! It will start to kill good bacteria if taken too long and without direction from a certified functional medicine practitioner.
- Hormone Support: Most of our clients struggle with hormones and they don’t even know it. Think: only hungry at night, lots of cravings. We start them on a comprehensive endocrine and metabolic balancing formula that promotes optimal body composition by modulating the hormones insulin, leptin and cortisol, balancing blood sugar, optimizing fat burning enzyme lipase, and limiting cravings. Is it forever? That all depends on the individual’s needs.
- Liver & Gallbladder Support: A highly specialized formula that features a broad spectrum of unique blend of lipotropic nutrients combined with select amino acids, vitamins and herbs that supports healthy liver and gallbladder function. This will provide nutrients involved in fat metabolism. Also delivers methyl donors, folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 and selected herbs to support bile flow and healthy liver function. Is it forever? No.
- Adrenal Support: Aids the body in adapting to various stressful environmental challenges and helps reduce negative effects of stress. Helps promote vitality, immune function and overall well-being, increased energy and enhanced mental clarity. Promotes healthy hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis function for enhanced ability to adapt to stress. Is it forever? It doesn’t have to be.
*Remember to only get your supplements through your health practitioner while under their care and direction. While you might feel your body needs a certain supplement, only a certified functional medicine practitioner has the knowledge and tools to assess and treat your body to give it the best healing environment possible.
So, yes, we do need supplements, but buyer beware…
The Good, the Bad and the Rip-Offs
Not only are they dangerous, but those gimmicky supplements we see on TV are under-regulated and too good to be true. No, you really can’t eat all the cake and pizza you want and solve it with a special fat melting pill. Sorry. If you’re going to take anything from this today, I hope it’s this: There is no magic remedy—especially when you’re trying to undo YEARS of damage. You must eat a healthy diet to get healthy results. Supplements offer support to a healthy diet, but the two go hand in hand. Anything that promises otherwise is a fraud and probably going to put you further into disease.
Now that we’ve gone over the dangerous “supplements,” there’s another problem you’ll want to avoid. Unfortunately, the lack of proper regulation under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act has allowed fake “supplements” to be sold throughout the country. From GNC to Amazon, companies promise ingredients and doses that just aren’t there. That over-the-counter fish oil from Sweden is probably lemon-flavored sawdust from Ohio. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. Rest assured, though. There is a way to weed through the lies. Simply look for a pharmaceutical grade, third-party tested supplement. Read labels and make educated decisions (common sense) about what you’re putting into your body. You are your best defense. Research EVERYTHING.
At Forum Health, we only use third-party tested, pharmaceutical-grade supplements that we get directly from manufacturers we trust. We know where they came from and what they do. We meet weekly with representatives from those manufacturers to stay on the latest science and research behind everything we prescribe.
At Forum Health, we create a customized plan that addresses your body’s needs in both food and supplement support. If you don’t need it, we won’t prescribe it. Do not diagnose yourself. What someone else might need for their gut issues might not be what works best for you. If you’re at the end of your medical rope or you feel terrible and you just don’t know why, the practitioners at Forum Health take a functional medicine approach to all cases to find out the individual needs of everyone who comes to us.