When it comes to nutrition, we always hear that consuming a balance of whole, organic unprocessed foods from all the food groups is the best way to ensure that dietary requirements are met. While this is 100% true, we most certainly do not live in a perfect world, and there are many flaws and deficiencies in our food sources and overall nutrition. Therefore, it is often necessary and even crucial in many cases to use dietary supplements-but the problem is, supplements are most certainly not created equal.
Most of the supplements we purchase are not natural. They are synthetic!
In general, Americans spend billions of dollars each year on nutritional supplements. The truth is, that the large majority of supplements we purchase in stores today are synthetic. Synthetic supplements are not natural, meaning that they are never found in nature by themselves. They give isolated or fractioned pieces of the whole vitamin or supplement being taken. Taking isolated nutrients, especially at the ultra-high doses found in many supplement formulas today, is similar to taking pharmaceutical drugs.
Studies show the body treats synthetic supplements and formulas like xenobiotics (foreign substances) in many instances. Synthetic supplements can also lead to an imbalance of vitamin intake because we are sometimes getting massive doses of some vitamins, but not enough of others. While supplementation with essential micronutrients and vitamins is necessary, this imbalance can cause health problems in and of itself. Nature does not produce any nutrients in an isolated form. In addition, synthetic vitamins have the potential to trigger the immune system because it is a foreign synthetic substance being ingested.
Functional Nutrition expert Wendy Myers discusses the chemical profile of synthetic vitamins and their makeup. She talks about the ways synthetic vitamins are made from petroleum in chemical plants, while the minerals come from mining companies. Synthetic minerals are derived from rocks like limestone, coral, oyster shell, sand, and chalk. Yes, these are minerals, but not ones that are correctly absorbed or compatible with the human body.
A better and healthier alternative to synthetic nutritional supplements
Dr Daniel Chong is a naturopathic doctor who firmly believes in the importance of whole-food supplementation versus synthetic supplements. He discusses the way in which an isolated nutrient works appropriately in the body, and that it needs all the other parts that are naturally present in the food also. If the parts are not all there, they are taken from the body’s stored supply. This is why synthetic supplements often work for a short time, and then seem to stop working. Once the body’s store of the extra nutrients is used up, the isolated nutrient that is taken does not work as well. A deficiency in these extra nutrients can then be created in the body. Since most synthetic nutrients are isolated from the foods they come in, sometimes using potentially nasty solvents and other chemicals, taking high amounts of these products can potentially create exposure to unwanted toxins as well. Since synthetic vitamins are not made from whole foods, they lack the essential synergistic elements that are usually present in whole foods. Dr Chong cautions that many of the vitamins that are sold in stores and used today generally only need to have a small percentage of their actual content derived from natural sources to be labeled as “natural.” If vitamins are not entirely derived from whole foods, they can make us feel even more out of balance nutritionally.
So, what exactly are “whole foods” supplements?
They are whole foods in a tablet, capsule, or powder that preserve all the active enzymes and vital components that make them work as nature intended. They will list and contain the foods the supplement was made from, without additional and unnecessary nutrients and vitamins. Whole food supplements may include foods that are prepared in a way that safeguards their nutritional value.
How to choose the right whole-food supplement
There are a few key elements to keep in mind when choosing a quality whole-food supplement. To begin, it is essential to ensure it is as close as possible to its natural form, and that much care has been taken in all the phases of its production. Dr Chong tells us that some significant features include growing its ingredients, manufacturing, testing for potency, and quality control.
It is also important to realize that the label term “natural” does not guarantee that a product is safe or free from chemicals. In early 2015, the New York State Attorney General announced that testing found four major retailers sell supplements consisting of cheap fillers and allergenic compounds instead of the herbs that they claimed to contain. Supplements were sold that did not contain the herbs on the label. Instead, they were made up of cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus, and houseplants. From a regulatory perspective, the herbal and supplements marketplace in the United States is not heavily regulated. Unfortunately, there are no federal standards to ensure dosing, safety, or purity. Many products are standardized according to industry guidelines that differ from producer to producer. It is always a good idea to get quality whole food supplements from a trusted practitioner, as well as from a company that has much history of efficacy and testimonials. Selecting supplements from companies and practitioners that have a long track record and reputation of providing high-quality products that produce good results in patients can make a tremendous difference in overall health and wellness.
In addition to proper supplementation and nutrition, a fantastic way to optimize overall health and wellness is through food allergy, intolerance and sensitivity testing. This will allow you to identify foods and nutrients that are most compatible with your diet so that you are able to alter your diet and supplements accordingly. I’m proud to work with Allergy Test, here in the US, which offers one of the most complete intolerance and allergy testing kits on the market.