Updated: Feb 2, 2021
You hear it all the time, “Eat a well-balanced diet and your body will get all the nutrients it requires”. That is true if all you want to do is live on the fine line between health and disease. If you want optimal health, you’re going to need supplementation. Diet alone isn’t going to cut it. With the world we live in today we have countless ways the body is depleted of nutrients. Besides just a poor diet, we have stressors like exercise, caffeine, alcohol, medications, drugs and that’s just what we have control over. We also have pesticides, chemicals, and pollutants in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Each of these puts stress on the body and in order to deal with this stress the body needs nutrients. Without the proper nutrients, our bodies can become overwhelmed, leading to sickness and disease. This is why supplementation has to be a part of your daily routine.
The first stressor and the most commonly consumed is caffeine. With over 85% of Americans consuming at least one caffeinated beverage daily, caffeine is one of the most widely used drugs in the U.S. (1) Caffeine is a stimulant that gets your adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that when secreted, increases blood pressure while giving a “boost” of energy. In producing that “boost” your adrenal glands burn up vitamin B1, B2, B5, B6, C, Potassium, and Magnesium. Unfortunately, over time, the stimulation of the adrenal glands, without the nutrients needed to sustain the activity, will exhaust the adrenal gland’s ability to function on demand. On top of the increased demand on your adrenal glands, caffeine when taken with water is a diuretic (causes water loss). That means coffee, tea, sodas, pre-workouts, and energy drinks all wash out every water-soluble vitamin and mineral in your body.
The second stressor that is also consumed fairly regularly is alcohol. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic that causes the loss of every water-soluble vitamin and mineral. Additionally, since alcohol is considered a poison by the body, it takes nutrients to process it through the liver. This process uses up vitamin B1, B2, B5, B6, vitamin C, and most particularly, Niacin (vitamin B3). It also causes a loss of Magnesium and Potassium.
Even though extremely important for optimal health and something that everyone should include in their daily routine, exercise is another form of stress. When you exercise your body burns up vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and Biotin for energy production, Folate and B12 are also burned up for production of red blood cells, protein synthesis, and tissue repair. (2) Also, when you exercise, oxygen consumption can increase up to 10 to 15-fold. (2)
With this increase in oxygen consumption comes increased oxidative stress on your cells. In order to manage this extra stress, your body will use the strong antioxidant nutrients like Vitamin C, E, A, and Selenium. (2) Without the proper nutrients to help your body recover from exercise you begin running the risk of overtraining, injuries, and illness. This is why any exercise program should be paired with a healthy diet and supplementation.
When it comes to medications the nutrients that are lost vary depending on the medication and what action the medication takes in the body. Usually, the side effects of the medication are a big indication of what nutrients are being used up. More often than not, the nutrients that the medication is using are the exact same nutrients that are needed to fix the actual problem that the medication is supposedly “fixing”.
Most of the population is malnourished. Even though the majority of people in developed countries get plenty of calories, most of those calories have minimal nutrients. Even the higher-quality foods that have a higher nutrient density fail to supply the body with all of the nutrients needed for optimal health.
Due to current farming practices, there are far fewer minerals in today’s soil than there were even 50 years ago. (3) You can’t possibly get enough nutrients from food alone. On top of that, most of the food eaten today is highly processed, lowering the nutrient content even further. For example, during the milling process to turn whole wheat into flour over 75 percent of its B vitamins, minerals, and fiber are lost. (4) As you can see, it makes sense why 90% of people don’t meet the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). (4) Additionally, the RDA isn’t a good reference to use to determine if you are getting enough nutrients for optimal health. The RDA was developed originally in 1941 (with minor changes made to it over the years) to give people just enough vitamins and minerals to prevent major nutrient deficiency diseases like beriberi (Vitamin B1), rickets (Vitamin D), scurvy (Vitamin C), etc. and not for optimal health. (4) To give you a better idea of how low the RDA is, a 155-pound goat under non-stressful conditions produces 13,000 mg. of Vitamin C. (5) The RDA of Vitamin C for humans is 90 mg. For optimal health, a human should be getting 6,000 to 10,000 mg. of Vitamin C a day. If the amount of Vitamin C needed is so far off imagine how far off it is for the other essential nutrients.
Your body is extremely resilient and will do whatever it can to maintain homeostasis (balance). This is why it can be difficult to even notice that you have a deficiency in the first place. Your body will start with minor symptoms like fatigue, headaches, mental fog, insomnia, aches and pains, and over time (usually years) will grow into severe chronic diseases.
Vitamins and Minerals are not drugs and they do not work as drugs do. They work with your biology by supporting normal enzyme function and biochemical reactions. Medications, on the other hand, block or interfere with normal functions. So, studying medications and nutrients using the same methods doesn’t make scientific sense. Every year you’ll hear of a new study that says something along the lines of, “High doses of nutrient x increases the risk of disease y”. The problem with these studies that show individual vitamins in high doses as being dangerous are poorly designed. The studies treat the vitamins as if they are like drugs and test each vitamin individually, rather than together. Nowhere in nature do vitamins come individually. They are always paired with other vitamins and minerals. The reason for this is because they work together. There is a balance. When you take a particular vitamin in high doses without taking others you create an imbalance. That imbalance leads to not so positive results. For example, niacin in high doses can cause liver problems, but when paired with vitamin C, high doses of niacin don’t have the same effect on the liver.
As you can see, supplementation is a must. When I say supplementation, I mean more than just a multivitamin. Obviously, a multivitamin is better than nothing, but a multivitamin on its own won’t supply your body with enough nutrients to fix your current deficiencies and get your body to optimal health. To live a long healthy life supplementation is absolutely necessary.
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The information given here is designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, we urge you to seek competent medical help.