In this episode of Love Food, Love Yourself, I take a look at if you really need to take supplements. The long story short:
There is a time and place for supplements, but you probably don’t need to take as many as you currently do. There are vitamins and minerals found in the food you eat every day. So if you’ve been wanting to rethink your supplement routine and/or stop taking them altogether. This episode and the full text below is what you need.
What Are Supplements Made Of?
Supplements are made of vitamins and minerals. They are the daily “micronutrients” that our bodies need to function on a daily basis and also help prevent disease. Vitamins and minerals perform hundreds of roles in the body. They solidify bones, heal wounds, aid in brain function, bolster your immune system, help convert food into energy, and repair cellular damage.
- Vitamins: Vitamins are organic compounds required by humans in small amounts from the diet. Vitamins are made by living organisms (plants and animals). We need them to stay alive. When we are deficient in them, our bodies aren’t working properly.
- Minerals: Minerals are elements that originate in the Earth and cannot be made by living organisms. Plants obtain minerals from the soil, and most of the minerals in our diets come directly from plants or indirectly from animal sources. Minerals may also be present in the water we drink.
Your daily requirements depend on activity, lifestyle, and other health factors. The way to get them is simply by eating real food. Food is nutrient-dense and packed with vitamins and minerals. That means your body is getting most of what it needs from what you’re already eating.
When you’re first starting to eat better and at the beginning of your health journey, you may use nutritional supplements because you may be overly deficient in them. Also, if you’re vegan and/or vegetarian, you may have to take in order to achieve a sufficient amount of them. In general, women need to make sure they’re getting sufficient Iron and Calcium/Magnesium/Vitamin D for bone health.
As you start to eat better, you’ll not need to rely on them as much because the food you eat has naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. The vitamins and minerals found in your food are way better than what has been put into a bottle. Karen Hurd, one of the most practical and educated nutritionists I’ve ever discovered, breaks down supplements versus real nutrients in a very intelligent way:
We can’t put all the nutrients we find in foods into supplements. Supplements have a few key vitamins or contain a few isolates. For vitamins and minerals to be effective, they rely on tens of thousands of cofactors.
Let’s take a tomato. A tomato has over 10,000 cofactors to make vitamin C active. Of those 10,000 cofactors, biochemists have identified 10 that work. Where are all those cofactors in supplements?
Karen’s statement shows that supplements are an incomplete substitute for acquiring nutrients from real food. Supplements can help, but they’re not as effective. They are also not as cost-effective. Think about what you are eating on a daily basis before you start taking an abundance of supplements. While they aren’t required, many women take digestive supplements. I’ve found that enzymes and probiotics are amazingly helpful when it comes to health and nutrition.
As women age, we start to experience reduced amounts of gastric, pancreatic, and digestive system secretions. Overlay stress, a poor diet, and general gut issues (aka unhealthy microbiome) onto the reduction in secretions (just sounds fabulous doesn it) and you pretty much have the ideal conditions for weak digestion and extremely poor nutrient absorption within our bodies.
If your body can’t process what you’re putting into, you can experience gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, poor elimination, fatigue, headache, and numerous other problems (even anger). Given the fact that so many women eat more processed foods than they realize, as they start to change their eating habits, digestive enzymes and probiotics go a long way in helping get their digestive systems back on track and the gut flourishing once again.
Digestive Enzymes Will Help Break It Down
Enzymes are a substance produced by a living organism that acts as a catalyst to bring about a specific biochemical reaction. Digestive enzymes help your body break things down so that it can absorb the nutrients in your food.
While you do create digestive enzymes in your mouth, stomach, and small intestine, many natural health practitioners and doctors recommend the use of supplements for people with extremely poor digestion issues. Foods that contain natural digestive enzymes include pineapples, papayas, mangoes, honey, bananas, avocados, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kiwifruit and ginger. It’s great to eat these.
Like most supplements, there’s some controversy over whether or not non-prescription enzymes are effective, so it’s best to try them and see how they work for you. When used in conjunction with quality probiotics, you’ll know if enzymes are helping you if you experience less gas, bloat, and become more regular (this is from personal experience).
Probiotics Help Your Gut
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. They are best found in goat raw products (like yogurt, cheese and milk), kefir and fermented foods (like miso, kombucha and krauts). You can get them in supplements too.
Depending on what you’re taking them for, probiotics have been found to have positive impacts in multiple areas of health. The top use cases for women are in urinary health, vaginal health, and digestive health. It’s important to know that not all probiotics are the same. Different strains of bacteria have different effects.
When it comes to the use of probiotics for gut health, you will find that some probiotics are shelf stable and others require refrigeration. Most commonly used probiotic bacteria, such as lactobacillus acidophilus, casei, bifidobacterium bifidum, adolescentis, breve, longum and saccharomyces boulardii are some of the most fragile, and are very sensitive to light, heat, moisture, and oxygen.
Refrigerating them helps keep the strains alive, making them more effective for the person taking them. Bacillus subtilis, a “soil-based organism” (SBO), is a probiotic that remains alive and doesn’t lose its potency regardless of refrigeration. It also doesn’t need artificial encapsulations or coatings that other probiotics may require.
Don’t Over Supplement
Supplementing is a personal preference and choice. I encourage you to do your research on the pros and cons of using them as in the long-term it can actually hurt your body versus helping it. If you choose to use them, look for quality supplements from non-commercial grocery stores and don’t take them for prolonged periods of time.
My Top Probiotic and Digestive Enzyme Picks
In terms of cost effectiveness and overall results, here are my five top recommendations for probiotics and digestive enzymes.
- Flora Health Super 8 Hi-Potency Probiotic ($44) & Adult Probiotic ($24)
- Arise & Shine Flora Grow ($52)
- SEED ($50)
- Source Naturals Daily Enzymes ($22+)
- Solaray, Super Digestaway, Digestive Enzyme Blend ($15+)
Great articles to read about supplements:
- Why Do We Spend $35 Billion Per Year On Supplements?
- Should You Get Your Nutrients From Food or Supplements?
As always, I encourage you to find what works best for you on your health journey. If you want to read more about supplements, then grab a copy of my book, Love Food, Love Yourself. Want to learn more about what your body actually needs to thrive, it’s not that complicated. You can also subscribe to my podcast through Spotify or iTunes.