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Nutritional Supplements

Posted By Carol L Hunter, PhD, PMHCNS, CNP, Friday, June 5, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recently, I subscribed to consumerlabs.com, an independent testing lab for nutritional supplements and natural products. There is a subscription fee but the information on laboratory testing results is very interesting. In addition, consumers can write in with their personal questions and get them answered. One recent query was in regard to the side effect of nausea from various multi vitamin/mineral supplements. I could easily relate and remembered years ago being hit with a bout of severe nausea while in the middle of a therapy session. I felt like I would fall off my chair, but as horrible as it was, it rapidly passed and I was able to continue. My resolution after that experience was to find a new supplement. Today the problem isn’t as difficult to remedy because the new food based multis are tolerated much better and can be taken with or without food. We’ll look at the ingredients in some of these multiple vitamin/mineral preparations shortly. But first should we even be bothered with them at all?

For decades physicians and registered dieticians proclaimed that nutritional products were a waste of money, producing “expensive urine.” The message was always “you can get everything you need in your food.” Oh, but how I laughed when many health food store owners told me that physicians were buying their own supplements by the boatload. Even though they were personally convinced of the benefit, they were not ready to publicly say so. Let’s consider the logic here. First of all, as a scientist, I know that nothing is a 100% iron clad truth; there are simply too many variables in life. And even when those variables are controlled in research study designs, there are always more that remain; hence, the “limitations of the study.” Therefore, as a consumer, waiting for the final “evidence based” word on a topic of interest may be unwise, especially since in a decade, evidence will have changed. I’ve been around long enough to see the trending of health issues, from pediatric to dietary and exercise advice. I started taking nutritional supplements decades before any awareness had surfaced among the public. Many years ago I was given a book written by Robert Rodale on vitamin E and pregnancy that became my compelling introduction to nutritional supplementation.  Shortly afterwards, it was vitamin C and the work of Linus Pauling. When I was in nursing school, I secretly read Prevention Magazine and knew better than to talk about it. I would have been laughed out of class! Back in the 1970s Prevention presented useful information in a professional manner. The Prevention Magazine of today, which seems to harp on blasting belly fat, is unrecognizable as a distant cousin of that early publication. Evidence was slowly building by such pioneers as Ewan Cameron, Irwin Stone and Carl Pfeiffer, to name just of a few of my early heroes. One must think of supplements as a form of health insurance and why not err on the side of prevention? It just makes common sense as few of us have perfect dietary habits.

It is difficult for professionals to sort out the value of the various studies on the subject of supplementation, let alone the public consumer. It’s confusing enough just wondering through a health food store and pondering the many products and brands. And certain compounds like co enzyme Q-10 is pricey. Fortunately, most of the ACAM members have an affiliation with Emerson Ecologics, a clearing house for high quality nutritional products. Professionals receive a discount on products and the savings can now be passed on to the consumer by way of a virtual pharmacy online. This is fairly new so not all the providers have set up their programs yet, myself included. You can find an ACAM provider near you by going into the directory and entering your location. Even if there is no provider in your own town, you can still contact one by phone or online to arrange for a consultation and advice on the best choices for your particular health issues. You can be directed to the provider’s online virtual pharmacy to order your products along with a discount which varies from provider to provider.

Multi vitamin/mineral products are a good place to begin if you’ve never taken supplements before. Let’s look at a couple brands I just happen to have in my cupboard at the moment, good examples of “whole food” based products. Alive and New Chapter are two brands that are well tolerated. I also like Vitamin Code by Garden of Life for the 50 and wiser women. They are capsules and the serving size is 4 caps per day, easy enough to handle. It is best to spread dosing throughout the day to replenish nutrient supplies. We are constantly metabolizing, absorbing, utilizing and excreting the compounds so more frequent replacement is more desirable. One a day multis are plentiful but I personally do not recommend them for the above reasoning. However, if convenience is an important issue, a one a day is better than nothing.  Another brand I like is Bluebonnet’s super earth multi nutrient, which comes in tablets with a daily dose of three per day. Some of the categories you can expect to see in whole food based supplements are the following:  vitamins, minerals, phytonutrient sprouts, super fruit antioxidants, plant source minerals, plant source enzymes and herbs. Most also include probiotics.  I have only mentioned a handful and there are many other high quality brands from which to choose. They even have a brand of “minis” for seniors that are easy to swallow. After starting on a multi, then you can more closely examine specific nutrients to target your own personal health issues and add them in, preferably one at a time just in case there is a problem.

Nutritional supplements have subtle effects upon the body, comparing them to prescription drugs like antibiotics and allergy medications, so don’t be alarmed. I have had many patients tell me they stopped “because I couldn’t tell any difference.” Most did not give the supplements a fair trial and stopped prematurely. When you have taken them long enough you can detect a difference between days they are taken and days they are not, particularly in terms of energy production. Just be assured you are giving your body extra nutrients that are sometimes difficult to consume in the typical daily diet.

If you’ve never been in a health food store before, it’s an interesting experience. Try to go with a knowledgeable person who can show you the ropes. Staff can be helpful and some are experts in their knowledge base, so don’t hesitate to ask.  While you’re there pick up a bag of PureVia, a natural raw cane sugar and stevia blend sweetener with half the calories of sugar but with the same great taste.

Tags:  Carol Hunter  dietary supplements  nutrition  PhD 

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