Do you get confused by endless 'must-have' vitamins, minerals and 'miracle' substances, the health essentials you're told you can't survive without in today's nutrition-depleted world?
Have you read the tales of our depleted soil and how GMO and processed foods now contain just a 10th of the nutritional benefit of the foods of our grandparents' day? If you faithfully followed the advice you read in the magazines or saw on TV you would be popping 30 pills a day. No need to cook any more... your stomach will be full of plastic capsules!
I loathe swallowing pills. And as for supplements, I get very easily bored by taking them. I have tried many variations on the theme. Once I got up to 17 pills and potions a day, but all that that did was make me feel ill as the various pills all opened inside my stomach at approximately the same time. Sometimes I stop all together, preferring to let my nutrition slide rather than be bothered with sorting through all those bottles and sprays just as I am rushing off to work. And three times a day? Forget it.
There are, however, 5 supplements I will take for the rest of my life. I am convinced they definitely make a difference and shouldn't be done without.
Vitamin D is the one we should all take daily, forever. It is needed by every cell and tissue in your body, and we don't make nearly enough of it by ourselves for those processes to function properly unaided. So if you aren't upping your levels with supplements you are more than likely low or even deficient in D3 like three quarters of the population. (Read more in my recent post on vitamin D.)
Low vitamin D is associated with all sorts of health problems we would all rather not get: diabetes, heart issues, auto-immune disease and cancer, to name but a few. You can see why it's a 'must'. I have tested many versions and prefer under the tongue sprays to pills but try different brands for yourself. Some will raise your levels better than others. The American DaVinci liquid D3 spray works for me where others haven't, boosting my numbers more effectively.
These may not be on your list at all, and you may not even have heard of them, but I regularly ask naturopathic doctors and nutritionists what supplement they would take if they only had one choice. You would be amazed how often enzymes come up.
There are two types of enzymes: digestive enzymes and systemic enzymes.
Digestive enzymes help your gut and are designed to be taken with food. As you get older, your own natural stomach enzymes drop in numbers and gas, bloating and indigestion begin to rear their ugly heads. Is your stomach struggling to digest the food you chuck into it three times a day at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between? This then could be your answer. A miracle solution that helps break down that food efficiently and fast.
Systemic enzymes are my top favourites. They should always be taken on an empty stomach and are brilliant at sorting all sorts of problems, whatever they might be. It doesn't matter if the issue is in the joints, muscles, blood flow or circulation. Enzymes help manage allergies and calm down inflammation. They are, quite simply, extremely clever 'trouble-shooters'. Systemic enzyme therapy is widely used around Europe. It has been shown to benefit a range of chronic health conditions, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, dementia and macular degeneration to name but a few. All those difficult to sort problems have been shown in scientific tests to improve when treated with systemic enzymes. I love them for their anti-ageing properties, too, and for their scar reducing talents. They are a remarkable product.
You may already be taking Vitamin B complex, which is pretty high on my list of 'should-take' vitamins, but did you know how important vitamin B12 is? Approximately 40% of us are B12 deficient, apparently. As a result, to varying degrees, we suffer symptoms similar to the symptoms you find with Alzheimer's and dementia.
If you are feeling mentally foggy, take B12. Memory loss, concentration and cognitive decline can be boosted simply by taking it on a regular basis. B12 supports the myelin sheaths that protect your nerves and your red blood cells. It is vital for your DNA and stops you getting depressed or anxious. Supplements is the way to go with B12, otherwise you need to eat large quantities of meat - liver is particularly good - as fruits and vegetables have virtually none at all. I squirt a couple of shots of liquid B12 under my tongue every morning to keep my numbers up.
You may have read some of my recent posts on gut health. The microbiome of the gut is the latest buzz in preventative medicine and we should all take a probiotic daily.
The gut is the garden of your health. Keep it fertilized and your body stays blooming. Forget to feed and water it, and it becomes barren and the illness weeds begin to sprout. It's that simple. Get gardening!
Probiotics are expensive, but I suppose that if you break it down numerically they are one of the best health bargains out there. Each jar can contain literally billions of different gut flora. And if you can bear to take further supplements, give your hungry probiotics a prebiotic to help them multiply. Probiotics LOVE prebiotics - it's like lunch for the hungry multitudes.
Magnesium is a mineral that affects over 300 processes in your body. Think about that. Imagine 300 books in a row - or 300 anything at all for that matter. That is a lot of processes! A lot of things to go off kilter if you don't have enough of it to get them working properly.
Magnesium calms your nervous system, helping you to sleep at night (subscribe to our newsletter and get a free 28-page sleep guide). It regulates your blood sugar levels and helps your bones, your cells and your nerves and muscles. It keeps your blood pressure down and keeps a lid on your inflammation levels. It's extremely clever indeed and yet many of us have hardly any in our systems. Boost your levels by eating more green leafy vegetables, and adding nuts, seeds, and whole grains to your diet. Alternately, like me, add a few drops to a glass of water each morning and use it to swill down the other supplements. Painless!
What other supplements should I consider?
There are lots of other supplements. B-complex, a multi-vitamin and fish oils are important for daily health. They all help with stress. And goodness knows, we are all stressed these days, struggling to keep up with the faster and faster pace of life and the increasing demands of family, work and life in general. It often feels like a treadmill that's going too fast.
Supplements can help you manage. It's a question of working out your own individualized treatment. Sometimes your immune system will be low, at other times strong. What are the supplements your particular body wants in winter? Are they different in the summer? What are your health issues? What are your symptoms? Everyone's needs are different.
Adapt your supplement support system accordingly. And rotate your pills so your body doesn't become over used to them. Don't take the same things year in and year out. Take pills according to your specific needs and then only take them for 3 months before giving your body a rest for a few weeks before starting again if you still feel you need to.
If you are seriously sick, then boosting your body biochemistry and nutrition levels with supplements is essential. I once met a man who had suffered from extreme depression for more than 20 years. His wife took him to a centre in the States where all they do is rebalance your biochemistry. It took 5 weeks and at one stage he was taking 114 pills over the period of the day, but he hasn't had a day of depression since.
Eating for health and filling yourself with the right supplements is an essential part of your journey to recovery. Never, ever underestimate the importance of bringing your body back to health with nutritional supplements. There are many ways to climb the wellness mountain and nutrition is one of the straight paths to the top. If you get told not to worry about what you eat after treatment, ignore that entirely. You HAVE to eat right to help your body get better.
Supplements work. Never doubt that. And please, feed back your experiences of what worked for you, and what did not. I would really like to hear.
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's largest breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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