Are Vitamin Supplements Necessary for Good Health?

Most people are aware that the body needs a diverse set of vitamins and minerals to function properly. Our bodies run via a symphony of chemical processes rapidly occurring every minute to keep everything running smoothly. These constant cellular transactions give us an efficient supply of cellular energy, removal of damaging particles and toxins, regeneration of blood cells and tissue repair, arming of the immune system to ward off disease, and the maintenance of biological cycles that affect sleep & concentration. This simplified list is a small fraction of what various chemical conversions provide the body. Most of these processes require vitamins or minerals in some form. If these nutrients are in small supply, the body makes due at the cost of other “less vital” functions, which can lead to adverse ramifications over time. Vitamin supplements can help make up for deficiencies in these areas.

In an ideal world, we would all receive the vitamins and minerals our bodies need through our diets. Intake of nutrient-dense foods is the best way to supply your body with vitamins and minerals. The importance of a healthy diet with an array whole foods cannot be overstated. Nonetheless, even with a healthy diet, most people could benefit from vitamin supplements.

So much of our food supply is grown in sterile, controlled environments that leach the soil of much needed minerals. Greenhouse produce is often deficient in antioxidants and vitamins compared to their counterparts grown outside in the sun, wind, and weather. Age, stress, alcohol and sugar intake, and exposure to environmental toxins can all decrease absorption of nutrients while at the same time increasing the body’s needs for such nutrients. Several long term studies confirm that most Americans are deficient in at least one basic vitamin and that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is lacking in several vital nutrients.

So chances are, you could benefit from a good multivitamin at the very least. Furthermore, many functional medicine practitioners recommend several additional vitamin supplements. Dr. Mark Hyman has wonderful information about nutrition and supplements on his excellent website. Here is a basic list of supplements I routinely recommend based on the needs of the average American adult:

  1. Multivitamin – a combination of essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C
  2. Vitamin D3 – necessary for bone health, most adults are deficient
  3. Magnesium – helpful with calming nerves and muscles
  4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – with EPA and DHA, important for heart health
  5. Complex of B Vitamins – energizing, vital for cellular health throughout the body

Before starting any regular regimen of vitamin supplements, it is best to start by seeing a trusted clinician for basic blood work to find out where your specific needs lie. A functional medicine or holistic practitioner, such as myself, can help you compose a personalized supplement plan based on your needs and concerns. You may want to add some herbs such as turmeric for its anti-inflammatory products, cinnamon for to help stabilize blood sugar, or ashwagandha for anxiety. Once you determine what supplements are best for you, the next step is considering which to buy and how to take them.

Because the supplement industry is loosely regulated compared to the pharmaceutical industry, it is important to ensure you are purchasing a quality product that contains what it is claiming to rather than fillers and additives. With herbal products, there is a risk for the presence of heavy metals and toxins that are not routinely tested for with some companies. Therefore, it is good to set high standards when purchasing supplement products.

One good measure of quality is the appearance of “GMP” on the label. This stands for “Good Manufacturing Practices” and should be the minimum standard for the products you choose. Make sure to look at all the ingredients listed; inactive ingredients should be listed as well. There are a number of organizations that test supplement products for purity and quality, look for their stamp of approval on labels or go directly to their websites to access ratings for particular brands and products:

Vitamin Supplements:

  1. Consumer Labs
  2. Natural Products Association
  3. U.S. Pharmacopeia
  4. Informed Choice
  5. Banned Substance Group
  6. NSF International

There are quality vitamin products available at health food stores and even drug stores, especially when they contain a commonly manufactured ingredient, like Vitamin C. However, if you are looking for a formulation that combines ingredients (so you can take less pills) and offers better absorption, you may consider ordering from a pharmaceutical grade specialty company such as Metagenics or NeuroBiologix. These are two companies that Austin Preferred works with to offer patients high quality supplements formulated using evidence-based practices to maximize their benefits in the body. Additionally, they are available for purchase through our website.

For some people, taking multiple pills and capsules everyday is a chore, and one they are unlikely to adhere to. Some products come in powders or liquids that can be mixed with juice or added to smoothies which are more appealing options to certain folks. Moreover, there are even some formulations that come in the form of a topical cream. It is important to find a regimen that works for you and that you are likely to continue.

Schedule a Consultation!

If you wish to start a supplement regimen or just streamline your current one, consider coming in for a visit! I will analyze your blood work and physical symptoms from a holistic perspective. If it is appropriate, we also offer genetic testing that provides more information on how your body processes and uses nutrients. This information can be very useful in creating tailored supplement formulations. Feel free to bring in any products you are already taking so I can check them out.

There a plenty of store bought brands that I trust and can recommend. We can work to create an easy, affordable regimen that gives you energy and offers long-term health benefits. Call (512) 442-2727 to schedule an evaluation.

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