Why use supplements?

I often get asked as a nutritionist who should and shouldn’t take supplements. Firstly and most importantly, I would say supplements should never be used as a substitute for a varied diet, which should be always be prioritised first. However, sometimes this isn’t enough. This is where supplements can be beneficial to make up for those missing nutrients or enhance an already healthy diet. Whether you’re having trouble sleeping, getting colds, lacking energy, or something else which is affecting your overall health, then it might be worthwhile looking at a specific supplement to help.
Listed below are some of the general reasons why you may look at taking supplements and why you may need that extra bit of help from time to time.
Modern Farming Techniques
It’s prevalent nowadays due to changes in farming methods for people’s diets to lack many essential nutrients. Fertilisers used by factory farms strip the soil and, therefore, our diets of its natural minerals and vitamins (1). Specific diet requirements can make it harder to get certain minerals previously found in animals and other produce.
If You’re A Fitness Enthusiasts…
While going to the gym is a great way to keep fit and release endorphins, we can deplete the minerals in our body significantly by working out. This means that if you’re not getting those stores replenished by your diet, you can end up running a deficit of essential vitamins and minerals (2). Taking supplements is a great way to recharge after a good workout! (3).
If You Have Poor Digestion…
Unfortunately, many of us develop problems with our digestion, which can stop certain nutrients from being absorbed. This is quite frustrating as you may be eating great foods but not absorbing what you need. If you are having problems such as bloating, indigestion and uncomfortableness after eating, looking at supporting your digestive system with a probiotic which may help. Specific strains such of probiotics such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus (4&5) and Bifidobacterium (6) have been shown to help break down carbohydrates, strengthen the gut and help with issues such as diarrhoea. If these symptoms persist, however, it is important to see your GP.
If You’re Struggling With High Stress…
Stress also depletes vitamins, especially B Vitamins (7). When our bodies are under stress, it can affect our immune system and energy levels. Trying to eat right and nourish your body through diet alone is not always possible, especially if you are under chronic stress. This is a time when you may need extra support to get you through this stressful period.
Who Shouldn’t Take Supplements?
Supplements are a great way to help most people get the extra vitamins they are lacking. However, pregnant people, elderly or those with underlying health conditions and on medication may want to consult a doctor before beginning a new supplement regime. If you feel you need further guidance on supplements and what to take, please email nutrition@completeme.com to see how Complete Me can help.
1. McCance RA, Widdowson EM. The Mineral Depletion Of Foods Available To Us As a Nation (1940–2002) – A Review of the 6th Edition of McCance and Widdowson. Available from:   http://www.mineralresourcesint.co.uk/pdf/Mineral_Depletion_of_Foods_1940_2002.pdf
2. Woolfe K, Manore M. “B-vitamins and exercise: does exercise alter requirements?” 2006. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17240780/
3. Manore, M. “Effect of physical activity on thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 requirements” 2000. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10919966/
4. Troche, J. Adame, E. Diaz, M. et al.” Lactobacillus acidophilus LB: a useful pharmabiotic for the treatment of digestive disorders” 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7692339/
5. Lactobacillus Acidophilus. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=Lactobacillus
6. O’ Callaghan, A. Sinderen. D “Bifidobacteria and Their Role as Members of the Human Gut Microbiota.” 2016. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4908950/
7. Young, L. Pipingas, A. White, D. et al. “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals”. 2019. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770181/

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