Taking Supplement or Not

Assorted pills

It is very interesting how divided people are in terms of taking health related supplements. Many older people hold the belief that these supplements are just snake oil that the big companies created to grab more money from gullible people. Some other people, especially those whose health are compromised, keep on seeking for better supplements to relief their pains, insomnia and other ailments. The big question boils down to one thing though – are you knowledgeable enough to make the right decision for yourself whether you need supplement or not.

Many Supplements Actually Work

Many classic supplements, especially the ones made with natural ingredients, work. And most of us actually eat them in one form or another. The very flavourful soup you drank when you were young, the traditional fermented food from your home country and those special cocktail of stuff in your herbal tea for treating your cold are all functional supplements, in a way. The old ways in making these digestible stuff to augment our health still work but it takes time and lots of effort to prepare them. Technology and medical science has taken on these tasks, resulting in readily available forms of these supplements.

However, we have a new issue to deal with as it gets much easier to access to these health supplements. Namely, there are so many kinds of supplements and so many brands to choose from. It is very difficult to figure out which one to take and what is actually suitable for your situation.

Everyone Needs Some Form of Supplements to Stay Healthy

Once a person has reached their prime of 30 years old, the ability to absorb nutrients declines. This belief comes straight from traditional Chinese medicine and is confirmed by Western medical science with better details. This very simple fact contributes a lot to the aging process. Think about this. When you cannot absorb the same quantity of nutrients from the same amount of food you eat, you are starving your body from what is needed to maintain it in top healthy state. Slowly, the deficiency in certain types of essential nutrients will cause sickness in you without you knowing. It is exactly like the story of boiling a frog.

One good example is vitamin D deficiency which was told to me by a nurse managing research cases on patients with long term illnesses. Tons of people living in Canada and other regions of the world where sunlight is not there for the better half of each year rarely get enough vitamin D. Worse yet, as one ages, the ability to absorb sunlight to convert that into vitamin D declines quickly. It takes an elderly much longer time under the sun to get the same benefit like a young adult. One can eat to get enough vitamin D but one has to be aware of the issue in the first place to make sure their diets taking care of that.

The surprising issue with long term mild vitamin D deficiency is feeling depressed. When someone feels down they tend to stay home which in turn further reduce their exposure to sunlight that is essential in generating vitamin D themselves through their skin. Another form of the mild depressed state is the increase in anxiety. I can keep on going of the problems one will get from this one simple issue which can take forever to write. The main point is that we can become very ill from causes we are not aware of, even though you may consider yourself having a relatively healthy lifestyle.

To help patients with long term illnesses that keep them bed ridden, vitamin D is often prescribed now to keep these patients out of mood swings and improve their recovery speed. It works wonder and the approach is adopted in many places in the world.

But if you can keep yourself healthy in the first place by taking vitamin D supplement, why not?

Know Yourself for Real

People often take supplements when they feel something is not right with their bodies. Other times, it is recommended by the family physician after regular body check up. One common recommendation by physicians is taking calcium supplement for women that are 40 years or older as a preventive measure. But can you do more to help yourself?

In fact, yes you can figure things out before it gets to the point it is affecting your health. You can ask for comprehensive checking on your blood profile on both essential nutrients and hormone levels. In Canada, such tests can be ordered by our family physician without extra costs. In many other countries, it will cost you but I think it is well worth it.

One reason why supplements are getting so many bad reps is that people are taking them based on observed symptoms. But many symptoms are common among many kinds of ailments you may be having. In other words, you are guessing what your actually underlying issue is without the proper scientific background nor the complete picture of the situation like having your blood profile on hand. Your pick of supplements will likely be whatever last pop science article or video suggested instead of well informed decision.

So, in fact you can use trial and error method until you find the supplements you need. It takes a long time to get the right combination. Just be patient and learn to study yourself by recording how you feel over time so that you can eventually figure out what you need.

Or, you can use the more scientific approach with blood profile and other biometric measures (i.e. blood pressure, oxygen concentration level, etc.) to see what you need and target those deficiencies right from the beginning.

Personal Preference

I prefer taking supplements that are basically food over the highly refined pills coming from these brand names that have very expensive price tags. It is not because I do not believe that they work. In fact, I know many of these brands work very well. The main concern is that from my background in Chinese medicine, I know these highly concentrated dose of nutrients or stimulants would overdrive the liver (not just the liver as in Western medical science, I am talking about the liver system as in Chinese medicine) over time. In other words, continuous usage of such supplements may eventually cause your liver problems years down the road as suggested by Chinese medicine theories. Again, it is just my personal opinion so if you do not agree to what I say here, move on.

I treat taking supplements similar to taking medicines for sickness with same kind of care. I make such I know what I put into my body but I am also willing to experiment with different supplements to see the effects first hand. Sometimes things just do not workout the way I expected. I certainty hope that whatever I am doing now can help me staying fit and active by the time I am at my 80s.

If you are getting to middle age or older like me, and interested in maintaining good health in years to come. It may be the right time now to educate yourself about health supplements so that you can make informed decisions yourself. In this era of chronic diseases everywhere, safe guarding our health is a challenge we should all take very seriously.

4 Replies to “Taking Supplement or Not”

  1. I have used supplements for many years. Like most things, you get
    what you pay for. Cheap maybe expensive in terms of effectiveness and safety. I have long used Life Extension which also has been quite useful in its informative articles.

    Early on, its information alerted me to the baneful effects of my high level of homocysteine. I followed the suggested supplement regimen and reduced my homocysteine to near normal levels. Recent studies show that high levels are associated with
    depression as well as the known deleterious cardiovascular effects.

    Clearly, the processed food industry uses the cheapest ingredients……high fructose corn syrup, salt and vegetable oils….
    which accounts for a population that lives on prescription drugs dispensed like candy.

    For those interested, Chris Masterjohn is an extraordinary source of information on supplements. As a PhD. in biochemistry, he offers masterclasses, but for the likes of me, also offers very practical explanations and recommendations.


    1. Thanks for sharing about homocysteine level. You are the only other person I have talked to mentioning this. The first one is a doctor I know who specializes in treating thrombosis.

  2. Mind sharing what your current diet and supplementation looks like.

    I think step one is really cut out or limit all the processed foods, and even meats and fish which derived from mass prodlduced farms are terrible and unhealthy. GMO foods are bad Farmed salmon is the worst thing you can eat IMO. That cuts out big % that North Americans eat lol

  3. I am taking a number of things and I have recommended others to close friends and family. I guess it is better explaining what they are individually so that everyone can decide for themselves if they are interested in these stuff.

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