Do I Need To Take Supplements or Not?

STEP INTO THE SPOT LIGHT with Dr. Sievers

SupplementDear Dr. Sievers,
I recently visited my doctor for a physical and asked her what she thought about using supplements. She said that vitamin and mineral supplements were unnecessary and that I could get all of the recommended daily allowances from a proper diet. Do people need to take supplements or not?

Dear Patty,
Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of misinformation and controversy surrounding nutritional supplements. It is not surprising that your doctor is unaware of not only their benefits, but the increasing need for them. Conventional doctors, spend little of their educational study on nutrition and virtually none on supplements. Therefore it is not part of their healing ‘tool kit’ to offer patients. Most conventional doctors can only rely on pharmaceutical treatments.

The undisputed fact is supplements are needed even if you are eating a ‘balance diet.’Why? Because the large majority of the food we eat lacks nutrients due to poor soil conditions from farming practices in the United States. In fact, there have been tests conducted on conventional broccoli showing no selenium in it at all! And remember the expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctors away”? Today it is “Four to five apples a day keeps the doctor away” since nutrient levels in apples have decreased significantly in the last 50 years.

It is both tragic and borderline dangerous that some doctors will say that supplements are unnecessary or unsafe. This simply is not true! Millions of supplements are sold and safely used every year with a very promising consumer safety record. Recently released data from risk-management expert Ron Law confirmed that food supplements are by far the safest substances (http://tinyurl.com/ron-law-data) with only a few exceptions (e.g., iron, selenium, zinc, vitamin A). Yet even with the dosages found in high-potency supplements, there is a window of safety of several hundred percent. What doctors should worry about are the over 13,000 truly dangerous prescription drugs on the market with known side effects.

While supplements may not prevent the need for medications, they can create a balance in the body to decrease the likelihood. Nutrient depletion can cause adverse symptoms in the body. In fact, The American Heart Association recommends a diet rich in marine-based omega-3s. And in 2005, Harvard researchers estimated that low intake of omega-3s in the U.S. diet accounted for 72,000 to 96,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease. There have also been numerous animal studies showing direct cancer prevention with omega-3s. However, unfortunately farm raised fish often lack needed amounts and there is always the issue of excess mercury with high fish intake (www.ewg.org).

Supplements are also extremely beneficial for patients on certain medications which often deplete the body of nutrients. For example, metformin, a medicine used for diabetes, and omeprazole, used for acid reflux, can cause B12 deficiency, which can affect anemia, memory and gait, as well as decrease the body’s ability to detoxify hormones and other harmful substances. A routine B12 blood test typically underestimates the body’s true level.

Often, I have patients with symptoms of B12 deficiency with routine blood work that reveals normal levels. But upon further testing they are actually low, and replacing B12 relieved their symptoms.

Supplements have also shown to be very effective with people suffering from fibromyalgia who are often deficient in co q 10, carnitine and magnesium. Using supplements often gives significant pain relief without the harmful effects of many fibromyalgia medications.

Another mineral, Magnesium, is amazing. With 300 different functions in the body, replacing deficiencies can help with muscle aching, migraines, restless leg, blood pressure, constipation, insulin sensitivity and more.

The foundation of my practice is healing through nutrition. Provided it is safe for the patient to wait on medications, getting their body nutritionally balanced is an essential first step. I undertook formal education at the American Academy of Anti-aging, Regenerative and Functional Medicine where I received board certification and an advanced fellowship. Recently, I received a Medical Master’s Degree in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine from the University of South Florida. It is with these credentials and my Board Certification in Internal Medicine that I have a very robust education on nutrition and the role it plays in one’s health.

Often my patients are told by other doctors that what I am recommended has no science behind it. This is false and it is precisely why I obtained my master’s degree from one of the largest medical schools in the US and first ever to offer such a degree. USF, an accredited medical school, is mandated to provide education that is evidence based. It’s important to understand that because doctors lack awareness of this evidence, does not mean it doesn’t exist. It simply means they have not pursued post-doctoral training on the subject.

While it is proven safe to use supplements, it is important to work with a doctor to ensure the proper amounts and interactions with medications are avoided. Most doctors blame any ailment on “supplement use” and health food store employees’ lack of in-depth knowledge. The Best Body Now program uses supplements not only to optimize one’s health, but for better weight loss result as nutrient deficiency will inhibit a patient’s ability to lose weight. Next month we will hear from one such patient.

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