The world of supplements has expanded dramatically over the past 50 years and for good reason, quality supplements can support great health. That being said, with so many options, it's easy to get overwhelmed and wonder if you really need to take supplements or is it just marketing? The answer is that some level of supplementing can be highly beneficial and here's why.
Stress Impacts Digestion
You’ve probably heard the adage, “you are what you eat.” In reality there are a few more steps to that process: we are what we eat, digest, and absorb. One of the biggest impacts to our digestive system is our stress levels and how they impact our nerves. Our nervous system has two main modes, our sympathetic (fight or flight, and our parasympathetic (rest and digest.) Those two modes do not operate well at the same time and our nervous system is run, almost entirely by the parasympathetic driven vagus nerve. This means that if you are feeling stressed out, your digestive system doesn’t work as efficiently and you are likely not digesting and absorbing as much from your meals. Supplements can help both with digestion and with calming your nervous system, as with the supplementL-theanine, so you get more out of the food that you’re eating.
Aging Impacts Digestion
As we age, our stomach acids naturally reduce and since stomach acid is the first major step of digestion this can certainly impact how much you’re getting from the food that you eat. Just as with stress, supplements can help support your stomach acid and digestive enzyme levels, in particular nutrients like the enzymebromelain, Betain HCL, pancreatin and other enzymes, and digestive bitters tend to be most helpful.
Decreasing Nutrient levels in soil and food
Over the past 100 years industrialization of our agricultural practices and plant modifications that increase yield and resiliency have resulted in a significant decrease in the nutrient level of our foods. A study done at the University of Texas in review of nutrient levels over a 50 year time period found declines of 5-40% of various minerals and nutrients in our most common crops. This means that even if you are eating a diet full of fresh fruits and veggies you may not be getting enough nutrients to fuel your body optimally. Supplements can help make up that nutritional difference.
Increasing environmental and chemical exposures
The totality of environmental and chemical exposures to the body is called the total body burden and it relates to the number of exposures that the body must process either acutely or chronically. According to the EPA, since 1975 there has been an additional 22,000 chemical added to the chemical substance inventory to make for a total of 86,000 chemicals which does not even include substances such as pesticides, food additives, drugs, or cosmetics. This is a lot of extra substances for the body to process, in particular the liver and kidney’s take the lead on this processing job. Supplements can provide extra support to the processing organs in the body to help them eliminate chemicals that do not support health in the body. In particular herbs that support the liver such asartichoke,boswellia,milk thistle, andturmeric along withB-vitamins which are essential for liver processing can be helpful.
To help manage chronic conditions
According to the CDC, 6 of every 10 adults in the US have some form of chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung or kidney disease, stroke or Alzheimer’s.) When looking at these conditions holistically there is often a root in nutrition, inflammation, gut health, or toxicity, all of which can be supported with the help of supplements.
Now that you’ve got some reasoning as to why supplements may be a good support for you, keep your eyes peeled for our next blog post that will dive into how to pick out a good supplement.
Dr. Jenna Jorgensen is a naturopathic physician and founder of Northwest Life Medicine Clinic in Bellingham, Washington. With an emphasis on healthy and sustainable lifestyle, she works with her patients to find and heal the underlying causes of their symptoms so they are able to live their life to the fullest. You can learn more about her atwww.nwlifemedicine.com or follow her on Instagram at @docjorgensen for insights and updates about sustainable health and wellness.
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