Let’s talk about nutritional supplements. To begin with as a very basic matter, keep in mind that Supplements “supplement”. The definition of Supplement is something that completes or enhances something else when added to it. So what does a nutritional supplement, supplement?
The two main things supplement, supplement are your daily food intake and the things that your body produces or is supposed to produce naturally. Here’s the point. Your primary source of nutrition is your food. That’s something you can and should do something about. You absolutely must continually work on improving your food consumption behavior, and you absolutely must not assume that forgoing major behavior modification and taking nutritional supplements alone will lead to long-term health, wellness, and immunity. Just remember, supplements supplement.
For example, if you’re consuming a handful of supplements at the same time you’re consuming McDonald’s cheeseburger with coke and fries, you shouldn’t waste your money on supplements if you aren’t going to change your diet. Secondly, as you begin and continue taking nutritional supplements while drastically changing your eating habits, your body chemistry changes and evolves. Therefore there may be some tweaking of our nutritional supplement recommendations for the first six months or so, and at a minimum we should review your health status and supplement recommendations at least annually thereafter. As your eating habits improve, you may be able to reduce or eliminate some supplements and we can help guide you to make the best choices in this regard using the best evidence.
Nutrigenomics: Analyzing your food intake
A major part of our functional medicine practice is nutrigenomics, which is the analysis of the effects of nutrient intake on gene function and health. Genetic variations affect how the body utilizes vitamins and minerals and removes toxins, and understanding of an individual’s genotype enables diets to be tailored to meet specific genetic needs. So in Hope for Healing, we often recommend a new treat genomic test by genomics nutrition. It’s a simple cheek swab to obtain cells from the inside of your mouth, and the lab specifically analyzes 55 genes, looking for snips that is single nucleotide polymorphisms or variances changes abnormalities.
Why these 55 genes? Because these are potential snips that we can do something about. I like to call this actionable genetic testing, not doom-and-gloom testing. What action? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Usually the action is nutritional supplementation with major dietary modifications. So my point here is that nutrigenomics is about the combination of nutrition and genetics and we’re primarily interested in ensuring that your body is properly nourished. Who needs nutritional supplements? Really, everyone to some degree or another. For one, our soils have been significantly depleted and yield crops deficient in many of the nutrients they should include. Second, even in the best circumstances most people do not eat enough variety and nutrient-dense foods to ensure proper nourishment and as we learn from nutrigenomics most of us have some genetic variances which affect our nutrient absorption or processes. In some, the top three reasons most people need nutritional supplements are nutrient deficient foods, imperfect diets, and genetic variances or abnormalities.
I hasten to add that all of these may apply to you but you may be unaware of underlying problems in your body, or problems that may be in your future that can be avoided by nutritional changes we can make now. Most of us, however, if we’re not feeling fantastic most of the time can make phenomenal progress with nutritional supplementation combined with dietary improvements.
So we’ve talked about how nutrigenomics can guide our decisions on supplements and that focuses on our genes which do not change. We’ve talked about how supplementation with diet changes can and should improve our health and change our body chemistry and how we need to evaluate how we’re doing as we go.
How do we do that? Well of course we want to carefully and continually observe how we feel and to systematically evaluate our body functions and document our progress. So it’s important that you subjectively evaluate how you feel and we encourage this. We also have more objective means of evaluating our nutrition.
In particular, we often recommend a micronutrient test by SpectraCell Labs which involves a blood draw. This test for specific micro nutrients, including B vitamins, amino acids, metabolites, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and antioxidants is an outstanding test. So the SpectraCell micronutrient test gives a very objective snapshot of about 6 months of nutrition, showing our body’s intracellular nutrient levels and guides us on deficiencies that we can remedy with supplementation or areas where we can reduce or eliminate supplements because our body function has changed or improved.
We also have urine micronutrient tests for children and adults. We want to provide you sophisticated, individualized, and customized advice based on reliable evidence and testing which is a lot more beneficial than what you may obtain from the nineteen-year-old clerk at the vitamin store, or healthy living aisle at the grocery store, or from Dr. Google. They are not going to be able to talk to you about bioavailable B vitamins, or vitamin d3 and the need to add vitamin k2, or not based on your neutral genomic findings.
Lastly, let’s visit briefly on the subject of supplement sources. Beware of Amazon on issues of storage and temperature controlled practices. Some supplement companies don’t even allow their products to be sold on Amazon such as zymogen, because they want to enforce the strictest standards on temperature storage and delivery practices. Beware of large retail stores. Beware of contaminated or fake products, essentially Chinese knockoffs. Defer to your providers chosen suppliers. I have a few supplement companies that I have personally vetted. I use them. Quality control. For example, heavy metals contamination with lead arsenic cadmium and mercury to name a few. The testing that various companies use on the location of manufacturing.
So in review, we’ve talked about nutrigenomics, micronutrient testing, the who, what, why, where, when, and how of supplements, and our recommendation for at least an annual review of your health status, and supplement recommendations.