Nick Wheeler via Compfight
I get this sort of question a lot:
What multi- vitamin should I be using, or giving to my kids? Should I be using one?
My own thoughts have evolved a lot on this over the last few years. When I started this blog I was mostly against supplement use, for a number of reasons. I can’t say that many of those reasons have changed. I can say I’ve added a lot more knowledge, though, and I want to share my thinking today with you.
Do We Need Supplements?
In a perfect world: no. We would not. We would all eat only local foods that our bodies were best-suited to run on, and we would consume plenty of sacred foods, like fermented foods, natural salts, organ meats, and so on. All our food would be grown or produced in rich soils or untainted waters. Our bodies would not face very much stress of any sort.
We don’t live in that world.
Many of us live far away from our “natural habitat,” meaning that the food that’s easily available to us may not be optimal for us. We live in a world of very confusing messages about what is “best” anyway. We often don’t even know what sacred foods are, and if we do — we may not like them, or we may not be able to obtain them. Our food is grown and produced in depleted soils and contaminated waters. Our bodies face innumerable stresses — emotional, physical, and environmental. These stresses deplete our bodies, and often times, the food we eat just cannot make up for our huge needs.
Thus, at least for many of us, some supplementing is in order.
What Supplements are Out There?
Some people go overboard and take a handful — literally — of supplements everyday. It’s understandable: there is constantly some new health news stating that we all need more of ___ nutrient, and that there’s a supplement out there to provide it. It’s easy to get swept away and to believe that we really do need all of these different supplements in order to be healthy.
Generally, though, we just don’t need that many.
There is also the problem of sourcing quality supplements. I’ve talked to plenty of people who claimed that their favorite brand was “the best” one out there. Maybe. Probably not. Most supplement brands that claim to be natural are really not.
If you see the following ingredients on the label (“ingredients” or ” supplement facts” areas), you are dealing with a supplement that contains synthetic nutrients:
- Vitamin A palmitate (synthetic; it’s in Rainbow Light brand)
- Beta-carotene (this sometimes converts to vitamin A, but the conversion rate is very low, and may be absent in young children)
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic Acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Folic Acid (B9)
- Cyanocobalamin (B12) (it breaks down to cyanide in the body!)
- Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C)
- Ergocalciferol (vitamin D)
- d-alpha tocopherol (vitamin E)
Many “whole food” supplements are either produced by using dried fruit/vegetable concentrates, but have added synthetic vitamins. Or, synthetic vitamins are fed to yeast, and then the yeast is used as the supplement — this isn’t natural either.
These synthetic supplements, which experts estimate make up 98% of the supplement market, are not only useless (Dr. Natasha Campbell-MacBride states that some have absorption rates as low as 9%), but potentially dangerous.
We were not made to take mega-doses of different nutrients. Doing so can deplete your reserves of other nutrients (in the case of minerals, like calcium, iron, and magnesium). Taking synthetic forms can also have serious negative effects on your body, like reducing your energy level, impairing the mitochondria in your cells, and impacting the antioxidant system.
With all these problems…why bother taking supplements at all? It sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.
Currently, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) really means “the minimum amount needed per day to stave off deficiency disease.” That is not the same as “the amount needed for optimum health.”
Worse, many foods that the average person consumes do not contain natural vitamins at all, but synthetic versions that are added during “fortification.” Probably most of the readers here aren’t in that boat, but some of you who are newer to the idea of “whole foods” or “real foods” might be. Trust me: those so-called ‘healthy’ foods with lots of added (synthetic) vitamins are not good for you.
But then we go back to that first part: our foods are depleted today, so even if we are eating as much as we need of the healthiest, unprocessed choices, we are probably still deficient. Many of us don’t eat as much as we need, either: we’ve been told to watch our portion control and calorie intake, which leads us to chronically under-eat. (See why low-calorie diets are not healthy.) Getting what we need is difficult, especially in certain circumstances (rapid growth, disease, pregnancy).
What are we supposed to do?
There are only a few major options out there that I consider acceptable for regular use.
Green Pastures Cod Liver Oil — This is something I think everyone should take. It’s a naturally fermented cod liver oil, that is not processed with heat or chemicals and is not deodorized or purified in any way. It is made by a traditional process that leaves all of the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, etc. intact. It is a good source of EPA, DHA, vitamin A, vitamin D, and other essential fatty acids and trace minerals. It is literally a whole food, synergistic in nature. Because it is actually a food, and not “food based,” it is not possible to overdose on it. This is the best natural source of vitamins A and D (other than the sun, for vitamin D). This is required for immune boosting, and we have noticed a big difference when we have remembered to take it regularly over the last two years.
Liquid, herbal multi-vitamin — I usually make my own, because this is cheap and relatively easy. I have noticed a significant difference when I’ve been taking it regularly again lately. I feel more tired at night, I fall asleep more easily, and I sleep more deeply. In the morning I feel more rested and I have more energy. I have a better appetite. Overall I just feel better. Because this is based on real herbs, with all their vitamins and minerals in synergistic proportion, it is also not going to lead to overdoses and out-of-balance nutrient levels. I take both of these supplements together right before I go to bed. The fat in the FCLO increases the absorption of certain nutrients in the liquid herbal vitamin. When I don’t have my own on hand, or if I’m traveling, I usually take Trilight Health’s Blue-Green Minerals.
These are two companies that I trust. I have not been paid to write this and they have no idea that I’m doing so today.
What about JuicePlus+? Everyone keeps extolling the virtues. I don’t think it’s terrible, but I also don’t think it’s as effective as the above two options. I don’t know a lot about their process, but I know they use a powdered form of the fruits and vegetables. I think that a liquid multivitamin that’s been processed much less is going to be a better option.
What if I’m Deficient?
If you have a known deficiency, then correcting it with a natural supplement via temporary use is a good option. Many people are deficient in magnesium, for example. Using a magnesium oil transdermally until your symptoms have been alleviated is okay. However, consuming lots of mineral-rich stock is an even better option and one which you should aim for. (If you overdose on magnesium, you can become deficient in calcium, iron, zinc, and other important minerals. Since these are all found to some extent in stock, and stock is a whole food, it prevents this issue.)
As always, balance is key. Mega-doses of one nutrient are not healthy. Plenty of nutrients in balanced ratios is healthy.
Important Dietary Information
Ideally you will still get most of your nutrients from your diet. Minimizing foods which are not nourishing is important. We all like a “treat” now and then, but as much as possible you shouldn’t eat outright junk. Homemade ice cream is one thing; a Pixie Stik is another.
Consuming fermented foods daily, and ideally with every meal, is another important piece. We absorb some vitamins better in the presence of fermented foods. These friendly bacteria also help to break down our foods and extract the needed vitamins and minerals and get them to our cells. Try out yogurt, kombucha, kefir (I’ll be posting on milk and water kefir soon), fermented veggies, and more.
Eat what makes you feel best. Don’t limit your calories. Take your fermented cod liver oil and a truly whole foods, liquid multi-vitamin, and don’t worry too much about it.
**This post has been entered in Real Food Wednesday.**
What vitamin supplement(s) do you take and why?
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