I have some patients who tell me they want to cure their health issues and feel great, but they don’t want to pop any vitamin pills to do it. “Can’t you just tell me what to eat to be healthy?” they ask. I have other patients who tell me straight out that they are too busy to cook or eat healthy or don’t want to change their eating habits. They ask, “Can’t you just tell me what supplements to take to get me healthy?” My answer to both: There is no substitute for a healthy diet, but nutritional supplements are also necessary to achieve optimal health.
A healthy diet is the foundation of health. Live, unprocessed foods (think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, as grown in nature) are infinitely complex and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other healing compounds that we can never be completely replicated with supplements. If you are truly committed to getting healthy, revamping your diet to eliminate or drastically reduce processed white flour, refined sugar, saturated and trans-fats and increase fresh fruits, vegetables, fiber, and omega 3- and 6- rich foods is the most important first step. You are kidding yourself if you think you can eat a fast food, deep fried, no-veggie diet without serious short and long-term negative health consequences, regardless of how many supplements you take.
But can you get everything you need from your diet alone? The answer is no, especially if you already have health issues that you are aiming to improve or cure. First of all, it is unlikely that your diet is so diverse, balanced and pure that you consume all of the nutrients your body needs in the optimal amounts to create health. Even if your diet is excellent, studies show that poor soil quality, pesticides, pollution and food processing are resulting in produce which is severely depleted of nutritional content. Nutritional fortification of foods is the attempt by the food processing industry to put back some of the nutrients that have been stripped out of the foods during the production process. Unfortunately, removing hundreds of nutrients and “fortifying” the food with perhaps five or ten nutrients is in adequate to maintain even a minimum standard of health for the American population. In fact, it has recently been discovered that the folic acid that the food industry has been using to fortify some foods is so dangerous that it will no longer be used.
Since 2002, even the American Medical Association (known for being very conservative about the use of nutritional supplements) recommends that all people supplement their diet with a daily multi-vitamin to prevent deficiencies. It is also acknowledged that it is just impossible for certain groups of otherwise healthy people to satisfy their body’s increased needs for specific nutrients from diet alone. For instance, pregnant and breastfeeding women require supplemental iron, calcium and vitamin D, vegetarians and vegans require supplemental iron, B12, and protein, and the elderly require supplemental calcium and vitamin D. Importantly, eight out of ten Americans are deficient in one or more nutrients and don’t know it.
But what if you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, an intestinal disorder, food allergies, a hormonal disorder, a neurological condition, or some other health issue? What if the medication you take for any of these and other health problems interferes with the absorption of essential nutrients in the body? You need to know that under these circumstances diet alone is not enough to make up for the nutritional deficiencies that result from acute and chronic health problems. Taking the right nutritional supplements, in the right doses, for the right period of time, specific to your blood chemistry and body’s biochemical deficiencies and imbalances, can literally save your life. Vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements in concentrated amounts effectively and beneficially allow for physiologic changes and healing to occur.
How do you know what diet and supplements are right for you, given your health history, age, stress, life style, and health concerns? Consult with a trained nutrition professional who can perform a full health history and analyze your diagnostic laboratory work to individually-tailor diet and supplement recommendations to what your body needs to prevent degenerative disease, cure and reverse illness, support medical treatment, and help you achieve optimal wellness.