The top 3 burning questions answered
The different supplements and minerals that you should supposedly be taking hits the headlines on a daily basis, which can get confusing. To clear the supplement fog that your brain may be experiencing, we have put together a guide to get you supplement savvy. Whether you’re a regular pill popper, or a supplement sceptic it’s good to be aware of what, how and when we can take these nutrients to make the most of their health benefits.
1. Firstly, when and who should take supplements?
Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns explains…
You’re a work-oholic
We all know the best way to get our nutrients is through a healthy balanced diet. However, sometimes our diets are less than ideal. For example, people who are unable to prepare and cook fresh meals – perhaps because they work a lot, travel a lot, are time poor, have limited cooking abilities or access to healthy foods may not be getting all the nutrients they need. This is where supplementation with good quality nutrients, such a multivitamin and mineral can be helpful.
Blame the farming methods
Even if we are managing a healthy diet, we could still be lacking in certain nutrients. Minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium and chromium should be naturally present in our soils. However, due to the farming methods that have been used for the past couple of centuries, our soils have become depleted, therefore leading to lower levels in our food and this where supplementation can be helpful.
You’re naturally deficient
Lastly some of us have higher requirements for certain nutrients, and this can be due to health conditions, (pernicious anaemia) different life stages (for example pregnant women) or because our bodies are being placed under more demands, (for example elite athletes) These are certainly reasons why someone may need to take supplements.
You’re eating for two
In pregnancy a women’s nutrient needs increase. DHA, an essential fatty acid, is important for the normal brain development of the foetus, breastfed infants and the normal visual development for children up to 12 months of age. This is definitely a nutrient worth supplementing during pregnancy and lactation.
You’re under stress
Nutrients can also be supportive when we are subjected to a lot of stress. For example the B vitamins, as a group, are important nutrients needed for healthy function of the nervous system and healthy psychological function. This means how you think and feel your mood, how well you cope with stress and how well you sleep. We use them up a lot more quickly during times of stress. I’d recommend Nature’s Plus Source of Life Garden Vitamin B12 (£17.50, www.naturesplus.co.uk).
You’re on the pill
Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of Natural Solutions for Dementia and Alzheimer’s (www.marilynglenville.com) explains,“Taking the Pill alters the levels of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut, so you can become more susceptible to thrush. You have more cells in your gut than you have in the whole of your body and for every cell in your body there are 10 bacteria living in the gut. That is why the balance of bacteria in your digestive system is so crucial to your health in general and the strength of your immune system.
“With probiotics, don’t go for the probiotic drinks, as they can be loaded with sugar. Probiotics are better taken as a supplement. You want a probiotic that contains at least 22 billion organisms (including both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains) and does not have to be refrigerated because the contents are freeze dried, which makes it much more convenient especially when travelling as they can help prevent food poisoning. The one I use in the clinic is NHP’s Advanced Probiotic Support (£29.98, naturalhealthpractice.com).
2. Is a multivitamin more beneficial or separate supplements? Cassandra explains…
The decision about taking multivitamin vs. a separate supplement is one that depends on the person. Almost everyone can benefit from a good quality multivitamin and mineral complex. This is because a high proportion of the UK population eats foods which have lower amounts of many vitamins and minerals than the advised RDAs. RDAs are the agreed minimum amounts of nutrients needed by the body to remain healthy, and therefore intakes that fall below these levels could lead to ill health. Taking a daily supplement can be an easy way to support our health and make up for what we don’t get through our food. I’d recommend taking Quest Vitamins Once A Day Multi (from £5.95, www.qnutrapharma.com).
For other people, taking supplements separately may be more beneficial, as it allows us to have higher doses than would normally be present in a multivitamin. Vitamin D is a good example. The Department of Health have recognised that it is difficult for children and adults to get enough Vitamin D from food alone, and as we get limited sun exposure in the UK, it is important to supplement with this important vitamin. Try Natures Plus Liquid Sunshine Vitamin D3 Drops (£29.95, revital.co.uk).
3. When and how is it best to take supplements?
Iron is best taken with a vitamin C supplement, or vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, as it increases its absorption. It’s beneficial to take Zinc in the evening as it can support the immune system when it’s repairing overnight. Fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K should be taken with a meal to help absorption. I’d also advise to take your multivitamin with breakfast to get the most benefit out of its energy supporting nutrients.