Thursday, May 14, 2009

Health - The Truth Of Taking Health Supplements (Updated)

The health supplement industry is a near trillion-dollar one worldwide, where people take them for different purposes. 

Generally, we can categorise the consumer buying desire by the following:

- To supplement nutrients from poor diet/lifestyle
- For an illness
- To delay external signs of aging
- General health

Many people have a misconception that having a full serving of the food pyramid would be sufficient but alot of scientists, doctors and nutritionists in Japan, US and Europe have come to a certain conclusion on adding some health supplement to the contemporary working people's lives:

  • Food these days are bio-dynamically poorer (less potent, not lesser amount of) from the artificial pesticides, fertilizers, fungicide and all
  • The modern lifestyle is far more stressful than a generation ago
  • We live longer but in more chronic illnesses
  • Athletes, smokers, drinkers, drug abusers and frequent meat eaters need a higher level of different nutrients

There are also further side studies that certain supplements help people with mental challenges, autistics, eczema and many issues.  And the most interesting study I've came across so far is, some people are genetically pre-disposed of being unable to absorb or synthetise certain nutrients in the gut, causing them certain "genetic" diseases to turn up.

While there're people who shun health supplements for wholesome food, there are those who take them religiously and some, overdosing themselves.

I've been taking supplements since the age of 19 and with my 3 years in the health supplement and organic food industry many years ago, I've had the fortune to experiement on myself with many supplements at a good cost.  From this experience and others, I can say that supplements do help one's health. 

If, one takes the suitable ones.

Without going into lengthy introductions of the various vitamins, minerals, herbal and food-based supplements where one can research easily over the internet, I'd like to touch on some important basics where many supplement salespeople/doctors have little knowledge of.

And one would be able to make a better, informed decision for themselves.  Please note that the below points are not exhaustive and conclusive.

  1. Fat-soluble supplements have to "break" for one week per month so the body would use off the reserves in our fat cells.  They're - Vitamin A, E, D, most plant and fish oils.
  2. Take the minimum dosage if one is taking for general health purposes, most supplements are made in high dosages.
  3. Drink more water if taking mineral-based supplements
  4. Flaxseed oil tend to go rancid very very easily, the only way to a freshness test is chew the capsule.  If it's bitter = stale.  If it has a nutty flavour = fresh.  Stale oil is highly carcinogenic.
  5. Change the brand of your probiotics every year as different companies have different strains, meaning, Company A's acidophilus can be different from Company B's.
  6. Store all oil-based supplements in the fridge as S'pore is humid and hot.
  7. Dark patches in multi-vitamin and mineral tablets doesn't mean it has gone bad, it's the iron that has oxidise from the air.  The potency is still the same.
  8. All supplements (oil-based only 6 months) must be taken within 12 months, or throw beyond that.
  9. Do not put supplement bottles near heavy magnetic electronic items e.g computers, hi-fi systems
  10. Supplements in powder form has the best absorption rate, next comes capsules'.
  11. Detox supplements shouldn't be taken daily and consistently.  Take only 1-2 times a month unless on a cancer program.
  12. Many herbal supplements contraindicate with certain medicines, please check carefully with your doctor and research extensively over the internet with many websites.
  13. "Sustained-release" ones must not be chewed or broken down before consumption, it's to be protected from the gastric juices from weakening it's potency as it should be absorbed by the intestines.
  14. Vitamin C helps absorption of many vitamins and minerals, pair it with your supplements.
  15. Vitamin C is best taken after a meal for those with gastric problems, even if it's Ester or buffered C.

Between nutritional-based supplements and herbal ones for an ailment, experience tells me it's better to go for nutritional-based ones first before looking into herbal ones.  It's very common (and well-researched) that ailments are often the result of poor gut absorption/breakdown of nutrients thus causing some chronic ailments.

Example, St John's wort is well-known to help depression but some people/patients experienced swinging effects with them, alternating between good days and the bad.  I'd actually suggest a nutrient-based supplement for neuro support before turning to St John's wort.  It'd include:

  • PS serine
  • Lecithin
  • PS choline
  • Inositol
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium

It's also very important for depression patients and ex-patients to receive the benefits of suitable level of exercises and the outdoor sun at least 2 times weekly.

For those who take supplements to support their general health like me, it's good to take them as and when your body "feels like it".  I'd like to believe that our body is a temple, and with this temple, we will receive "callings" to help ourselves.  Taking supplements work this way too.

It's actually an optimal way to health because all human bodies have an unique bio-rhythm.  The peaks help one for optimal work and emotional performances while the troughs are the opposite.  Virtually no living human in the world has a constant bio-rhythm, and I feel it's good to respect that.

With that, we'll know more about ourselves and would deal appropriately when the troughs come.  No stock market in the world always goes northward, and none would always head south.  It's the same theory.

As with anything in Life, we shouldn't let any material thing to lead us.  We should learn to understand our needs for things and be the Master over it.

** The above entry do not serve to replace any scientific medical view on any medical condition.  It's an alternative for one to exercise their options.