Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Supplements 101

"Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."
Ezekiel 47:12

The Council of Responsible Nutrition estimates that 70% of Americans take some form of vitamin, typically multivitamins, at least occasionally. Do you fall into this 70%? It's not a surprise if you do. According to the Great Physician's RX for Health & Wellness, every major health agency from the American Medical Association to the American Dietetic Association recommends that you at least take a multivitamin on a daily basis.

But with all the myriad of choices available, how do you know which one to choose? Which one is best? Most of us know the feeling of having glow in the dark urine and wondering if we're throwing money down the drain. Don't worry. With some simple background information, you'll be well informed as to how to select the supplements that are most effective and work the best for you and your family, giving you optimal health. (When coupled with healthy eating God's way, of course.)

As a sidenote, before we go on, I must clarify that taking supplements, even the best ones, can in no way replace following God's way of healthy living and eating. You can take the best supplements available, but if you basically follow the standard American diet (aptly coined SAD) and you are stressed out everyday, don't exercise or get proper sleep, you can't expect your supplements to make up for that. Many people eat whatever they want and justify it by taking supplements. It doesn't work that way. They are named supplements for a reason- they're just meant to supplement your healthy diet and lifestyle. There are many cogs in the wheel of optimal health, and you can't follow one but ignore the others, expecting great results.

That being said, supplements are a powerful tool in the arsenal of optimal health, when combined with all of the other aspects of God's health plan, namely proper nutrition.

So how do you know which ones to buy? Easy. It all comes down to how they are manufactured. It's important to understand that not all supplements are created equally. Here's how they differ: (According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and taken from p. 77 of GPRX for Health & Wellness)
  1. Natural. The nutrients are derived from vegetable, mineral, or animal sources with little or no processing. Examples would be cod liver oil, bee pollen, yeast, garlic, kelp, and minerals in their natural form.
  2. Natural source. Although nutrients come from vegetable, mineral, or animal sources, the product undergoes processing. Examples would be extracting vitamins A and D from fish liver oil; vitamin E from soy oil; lecithin from soybeans; and digestive enzymes, protein powders, and amino acids from various natural sources.
  3. Nature identical or bio-identical. These are laboratory-manufactured nutrients identical in molecular structure and activity in the human body to natural nutrients. These nutrients are manufactured because the cost or difficulty of extracting the same nutrients from all-natural sources would be prohibitively expensive. Examples of nature-identical nutrients include certain B vitamins.
  4. Synthetic. These laboratory-manufactured nutrients aren't identical, molecularly speaking, to the natural nutrient. For instance, when you find inexpensive vitamin E or vitamin C on the shelf, you can rest assured that it was produced synthetically. It is estimated that 50% of the supplements available on the market today are manufactured synthetically.
  5. Whole food or food-grown. It's possible to produce nutritional supplements with raw materials, for example, by adding vitamins and minerals to a living probiotic culture. This form of supplement is the most costly to produce and is highly bioavailable, meaning it's highly usable and available to the body.
So where does that leave you? Go to your medicine cabinet (or wherever you keep them) and get your bottles of vitamins and supplements. If your bottle labels say,"contains no filler ingredients, no artifical ingredients, and no preservatives," and it is a "whole food multivitamin/mineral product," then you are in the clear. If not, tune in tomorrow to find out how to buy the right kind of supplements. We'll start with the one most common to Americans- the multivitamin.

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