In the next portion of our blog series I will be listing the only supplements one should really need if following an epigenetic lifestyle. I am actually not a huge proponent of either supplements or nutraceuticals. However, both can be considered necessary depending on the situation.
Due to industrialization and commercialization of our food products, not being outside for the majority of the day anymore due to working inside and the over prescription of antibiotics, it has become much harder to get (and keep) a few of the essential nutrients we need to live to our best quality of life.. Thus, the necessity for supplementation.
Supplementation vs. Nutraceuticals
As soon as we sit down to do a Wellness and Prevention plan, many of my clients start talking about how many “supplements” they are taking. Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B’s are usually in the conversation. Put bluntly, this is not technically considered supplementation. This is nutraceutical therapy and there is are big differences between the two, although the nuance is not popularly recognized. I want to highlight these differences before we continue through this wellness series, as our next blogs will be speaking on proper supplementation when necessary.
Disease and Treatment Paradigm
Nutraceutical or nutritional therapy fall within the disease/treatment paradigm. A vitamin, mineral, or nutrient is prescribed to a patient due to have low blood levels of a certain nutrient like iron or calcium. However, many of these nutrients are readily found in the diet, as long as the person is eating what is necessary for the body (i.e. genome centric). These treatments are individualistic, based on the individual’s diagnosis and generally used for a short amount time until levels are back to normal.
Wellness and Prevention Paradigm
As nutraceutical therapy is to the disease/treatment paradigm, supplementation is to the wellness/prevention paradigm (Chestnut, n.d., n.p.). Hippocrates once said, “Let food thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” That mantra has become harder and harder to live by due to industrialization and commercialization of our food sources along with the abundance of processed and synthetic foods.
True supplementation, as opposed to nutraceutical therapy, focuses on providing the proper amount of an essential nutrient which is not already found in the human diet (n.p.). Any vitamin, mineral, or nutrient that our human genome requires should be found, or at least used to be found, in our environment. Some such vitamins, minerals, or nutrients are much harder to come by as a part of a regularly accessible diet or environment, hence the need for supplementation.
What is an essential nutrient?
An essential nutrient is based on what is required for that species genome to thrive. Every member of that particular species requires the same essential nutrients, not just for a short period of time, but for life (Essential, n.d., n.p.). I use the same example we used in a previous blog post: can you think of any nutrient that one giraffe needs more than another giraffe? Is there any member of a species in the animal kingdom that has different nutritional needs than another member of its own species? Why would it be any different for the human species?
What is essential to our diet?
Essential, in biochemical terms, means that this specific nutrient cannot be produced by the body, therefore it must be ingested or absorbed from the environment, by every member of that species, for life. True supplementation is not individualistic, like nutriceuticals, but rather, is species-specific and species-wide (Chestnut, n.d., n.p.). One species, one diet.
The Big Three
There are only three essential nutrients that may require supplementation when following a genome-centric nutritional plan: omega-3, vitamin D, and probiotics (Essential, n.d., n.p.).
It is rare given our widespread industrialized food production processes, but there are some humans who may ingest plenty of omega-3, vitamin D, and probiotics naturally to avoid some or all supplementation (n.p.). It’s important to look at your diet and supplement based on your needs rather than taking vitamins in a way that is nutraceutical therapy.
Importance of knowing the difference
Knowing the difference is important because so many get wrapped up taking synthetic forms of vitamins and other nutrients, throwing all kinds of money at a situation that could be corrected by eating real food, mostly plants and then properly supplementing to fill the gaps. Everything one needs to be healthy can be found in our environment, so we need to start there and then supplement when necessary.
In the next few weeks we will discuss these occasions when supplementation may be necessary, as well as go into detail on how important these essential nutrients are for disease prevention.
Chestnut, J. L. (n.d.). Species Wide and Species Specific: The Science and Paradigm of Wellness & Prevention Nutrition. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from http://www.innatechoice.com/viewarticle.cfm?id=0D5B2CAB-A1FF-D8C7-F1F6993DA64D1052&return=/articles.cfm&ref=&plid=
Essential Supplementation. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2018, from http://bonfirehealth.com/essential-supplementation-fish-oil-omegas-probiotic-efa/ (image)