Do we benefit from taking nutritional supplements? Do we need nutritional supplements? Why can’t we get the nutritional support that we need from just our food? These are some of the most common questions we get asked.
After all, people have historically gotten all their nutrition from their foods, and in many environments and eras people were able to lead long and healthy lives. What is different about now?
Part of the answer is that today’s food is not the same food that our great grandparents ate. Today’s food is generally grown on deficient, chemicalized soils, so there is less nutritional content to start with. To make things worse, the food is often stored for long periods before we are able to eat it, losing nutritional value each hour. Finally the food is often heavily processed and this causes additional nutritional losses. One more obstacle: our factory farmed food is bred and grown for ease of bringing to market and ease of storage rather than for nutritional content. Much of the food we eat today is genetically modified or excessively hybridized, and so it may have far less nutritional content than the food our great grandparents ate.
The other side of the equation is that we generally live in a much more toxic environment than our great grandparents. We may need additional nutritional support to help us process these toxins. The toxins are found in the foods we eat in the form of herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides. In addition to these toxins in our foods, other toxins such as heavy metals or industrial chemicals are found in our air, water, and building products. Finally, some of the chronic stresses of modern life may produce additional toxic burdens in our bodies.
So even though in most ways are lives are much superior to our great grandparents, in the question of food and nutrition we are not necessarily better off, even though we can get relatively fresh foods from all over the world simply be going to our local grocery store. The food looks good, but the nutrition we need may not be there.
In practice, most of our patients benefit greatly from some moderate nutritional supplementation of their diet. As with most therapies, we are looking for the balance point of not too little and not too much. Too much supplementation can lead to imbalances also! We often have patients who come in with grocery bags full of supplements and they often benefit when we help them identify what they really need–more is not necessarily better!
In general, supplements that are too refined and concentrated often don’t test well. Plant based enzymes and herbs often do test well. Vitamin and mineral supplements may or may not test well. More on the topics of nutrition and nutritional testing in future blogs….
And remember, supplements can not take the place of a good diet!