To Supplement or Not To Supplement?

That is the question

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By Lisa Browdy

Health Blogger

There have always been those who think taking vitamins does nothing but give you "expensive urine." Others swear by their nutritional supplements, and report that they feel healthier and more energetic when they take them. Almost everyone agrees that the best way to get vitamins and minerals (and all those yummy phytonutrients) is to eat a balanced diet, but the sad fact is that in this country, about 95% of us don't do that.

Once again, the headlines on the health pages have been raising questions about whether or not it is a good idea to take vitamins. There's the one from the Iowa Women's Health Study that studied 38,000 older women and found a slight increase of mortality in the women who took multivitamins.

Doing research on people who take supplements is a tricky business. Are they taking them because they know they eat a poor diet? Or because they are having health problems? I have to admit to a small pro-supplement bias because I have used Shaklee products for a few years and have had a noticeable improvement in my health and energy. I even tried selling them for a while – and though sales is not one of my many talents, I still use the products.

On the other hand, doctors and nutritionists that I admire, like Marion Nestle of New York University (author of What to Eat) have argued against supplementation.

"The better the quality of the research, the less benefit [supplements] showed," she said in the Wall Street Journal. "It's fair to say from the research that supplements don't make healthy people healthier."

If there are three things I can say for sure on the subject it is:

1) I've seldom heard or read anything bad about Omega 3 supplementation (usually with fish oil or krill oil). It helps the brain, the heart, the skin, the eyes, you name it. I used to have mild eczema and asthma, but the fish oil helped clear them up. Be sure to get a good quality product that filters out all the mercury, dioxin, PCBs and other toxins that the fish take in from the pollution in the water.

2) It makes sense to pay a little more for high-quality, natural (or pharmaceutical grade) supplements. The artificial things you get at the grocery store or drugstore are made with synthetic ingredients and are simply not absorbed well by the body. They could indeed make you sicker because the liver has to work so hard to filter out the stuff your body can't use.

3) You can't go wrong with a good probiotic, especially if you have digestive issues or have been on antibiotics recently. Make sure it has a coating to protect it from stomach acids so all the good bacteria can get into the intestines and do its work. A huge percent of our immune system is in the intestine, so give it a little extra care!

Have you tried using supplements? Did you find them worthwhile, or not?

Email: Twitter: LisaBrowdy

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