Have you ever wondered what factors affect your nutritional needs?
Recent research has revealed that that 7 in 10 of us now take dietary supplements. The nationwide ‘Impact of Lockdown’ survey conducted by supplement brand YourZooki reveals how Covid-19 has given people a heightened sense of awareness around their health and life. Two thirds of people agree that as lockdown is lifted, they will take better care of their health and wellbeing with 70% now taking some form of supplement.
High quality supplements play an important role in our clinical practice, enabling us to optimise our client’s health in a variety of different ways. But how do you know whether the supplements you’e taking are really benefitting you? There are a number of key factors we take into account when recommending supplements to clients. Here are some of those considerations and how you can bear them in mind to ensure you pick the right supplement for you.
6 FACTORS THAT AFFECT YOUR NUTRITIONAL NEEDS
Increasing numbers of us are avoiding certain foods due to allergies, intolerances or for religious or ethical reasons. However, in restricting our intake of certain foods / food groups, it can mean that we’re also limiting food sources of some vital nutrients.
I have written before about the key nutrients commonly lacking in a vegan diet. B12 and iron are two of the most important nutrients to consider – both playing a key role in energy production. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is worth considering supplementing B12 and, particularly for women, iron.
Meat, fish, seafood and eggs are amongst the best sources of protein as they’re ‘complete proteins’ containing all of the essential amino acids. Protein is essential for growth, healing and muscle development. Vegan sources of protein include tofu, tempeh, peas and pulses. However, unlike animal protein, most vegan protein sources do not contain all of the essential amino acids. This means it’s important to mix and match protein sources. Vegans and vegetarians can struggle to get enough good quality protein in their diets and so a high quality protein powder, added to smoothies or taken as a shake, is a convenient way to increase protein intake. There are a wide variety of different brands available now – look out for a complete protein providing all essential amino acids, while being free from synthetic additives.
Compromised digestive health can prevent us from effectively digesting and absorbing vital nutrients.
IBS is a common issue and supplements be beneficial in helping to address the underlying causes of poor gut health. For example, we often see clients who are experiencing digestive issues following antibiotic use. In addition to killing the bad bacteria they’re designed to, antibiotics also kill off beneficial bacteria in the gut. Compromised levels of beneficial bacteria can result in digestive complaints but the levels of these bacteria can be replenished with the use of a quality protiobic supplement. We like Symprove, BioKult and Optibac who provide a specific supplement for those on antibiotics.
Prebiotics provide food to nourish and promote the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria. They can be supplemented in powder form, easily added to food. Inulin is a popular prebiotic supplement as it has a sweet taste and can be used to replace sugar.
We know that fibre plays a key role in digestive health but many of us don’t consume nearly enough. As well as increasing your vegetable intake, a fibre supplement such as FibreSmart from Renew Life can be a convenient way to up your intake.
STAGE OF LIFE
Your stage of life is one of the factors that affect your nutritional needs. It’s commonly known that pregnant women are advised to supplement folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects. (It’s worth pointing out here that we prefer the natural form of folic acid known as folate). Pregnancy is just one example of how our nutritional needs can vary throughout our lives.
Menopausal women experience a decline in oestrogen levels which is known to protect bones, therefore a focus on nutrients that supports bone health is key at this stage of life. Calcium is the most well known bone nutrient, but vitamins D and K as well as manganese and boron are also important. Try NutriAdvanced Collagen Forte Joints and Bones.
As we age our digestive function often deteriorates and therefore in older adults, compromised digestive function can call for supplementation. Elderly people can experience a decline in appetite so a high quality meal replacement shake with added vitamins and minerals, such as the Complete Meal Shakes from FreeSoul, can be a good option.
Depending on where you live, you could have a higher requirement for certain nutrients. In the Northern hemisphere, such as Europe, Canada and North America, vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem due to the fact that most Vitamin D produced by our skin when it’s exposed to the sun’s rays. Certain parts of the world do not have enough direct sunlight to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels; particularly when coupled with indoor working and a lack of outdoor exercise.
The UK government recommends that we all supplement vitamin D during autumn and winter months. We recommend Better You’s range of D Lux sprays.
If you participate in intensive exercise it’s important to know that we lose certain nutrients through sweating when we work out. These nutrients are known as electrolytes which are vital in maintaining fluid balance in the body. Along with magnesium, calcium, potassium and chloride, sodium is an electrolyte and while too much isn’t good for us, salt is essential for health. To replace your salt levels, simply ensure you have enough salt in the food you eat. Many energy drinks provide electrolytes, but if you are attempting to lose weight, energy drinks also contain high levels of sugar and so we don’t typically recommend them. Instead, you can purchase a quality electrolyte supplement such as Designs for Health Electrolyte Synergy.
Free radicals are produced as a by product of energy metabolism, which is increased when we exercise. Antioxidants are a known way of counteracting free radicals and preventing their cell-damaging effects. In addition to consuming dietary sources of antioxidants from vegetables and low sugar fruits, antioxidant supplements are also worth considering. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant widely available in supplement form. We like YourZooki’s Liposomal Vitamin C.
Medications are amongst the factors that affect your nutritional needs. Certain medications can increase requirement for certain nutrients. For example, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) commonly prescribed for acid reflux are understood to lead to increased risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies impacting vitamin B12, vitamin C, calcium, iron and magnesium.
It’s one of the most commonly prescribed medications but the oral contraceptive pill has been linked to reduction in a number of nutrients including magnesium, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin E and more.
Statin medications, prescribed for lowing cholesterol, have been shown to reduce levels of Coenzyme Q10 and some research has suggested that supplementing CoQ10 could help ease some of the side effects associated with these medications. If you’re taking statin medications, it’s worth considering a CoQ10 supplement such as Pharma Nord’s Bio-Quinone Active Q10.
These are just three examples of medications that compromise our nutritional status but there are many more. If you regularly take any medication, it’s worth looking into how it could be affecting your nutrient levels.
We always take a ‘food first’ approach to nutrition, focussing on acquiring the vast majority of the nutrients we need from our diet. However, the factors outlined above can all affect your nutritional needs. Therefore it’s not always possible to achieve optimal nutritional status through food alone. Well chosen dietary supplements can play an important role in supporting our health. All of the supplements mentioned in this article are available through The Natural Dispensary and can purchased at a discount using our code: PEARSON10.