Nutrition Masterclass: Expert Advice
Improving your health with supplements can be a complicated task. The same nutrients can have different effects on different people and can be more or less effective depending on when and with what they are taken. We all have different genes, diets, lifestyles, and ages... even the organisms inhabiting our intestines are different.
Furthermore, because of the way our many body processes are entwined, the same nutrients can be used to help achieve entirely different health goals, depending on the situation. That's why there's no one-size-fits-all approach to nutritional advice; every situation is unique.
Ultimately, the only person who can figure out what works best for you; is you. However, if that seems a little daunting, don't worry, here are some top tips to help you on your way:
Tip 1: Take it one health goal at a time
It's not a good idea to try and achieve more than one health goal at the same time, especially by taking multiple new supplements together all at once. Although there are many beneficial nutrient combinations, we would not suggest starting your health journey in this way because, if successful, you will not know which nutrients are responsible for positive results.
If you have multiple complaints or various goals for improving your health, then we would advise trying to deal with them one at a time; starting with whichever issue has the biggest impact on your day-to-day life. Once a regime is established, try adding and removing elements to see what effect it has.
Being more systematic in this way, you will be able to identify which particular nutrients work best for you in the longer term. Furthermore, due to the intricate way our various body systems and processes interact, you could well find that fixing one problem has knock-on benefits in other health areas anyway.
Tip 2: Consider your unique situation
Many factors have an influence on which supplements or foods might be best for you as an individual. Here, we've picked out some of the biggest influences and included some examples of how external factors may affect which supplement will be most suitable.
Every food contains different nutrients and most health supplements are essentially concentrated food or extracted from food, so it stands to reason that starting with nutrients that you do not get a lot of in your diet, is a good way to increase your chances of success. You should also consider how the foods you eat might interact with the supplements you are taking.
E.G. Tim, who eats salmon 7 days a week already, didn't feel much benefit from his omega-3 fish oil supplement. Whilst Rachel, who hates fish and never eats it, saw significant health benefits - especially after learning to super-boost omega 3 absorptions by taking it alongside a fatty meal.
We're not suggesting you try to decode your genome to identify which nutrients your body will benefit most from (although that would be handy!). However, if you're lucky enough to have the opportunity, then simply observing family members or being aware of certain hereditary tendencies can give you a head start on finding the cause of your symptoms.
E.G. Sally experienced frequent bloating despite a well-balanced diet and was struggling to find the cause until one afternoon, after mistakenly giving her a milky cup of tea, she found out her Aunt Beryl was lactose intolerant. Now Sally knows what to avoid, and is taking lactobacillus strain probiotics to see if they can help enable her to put milk in her tea once more...
Hopefully, this has been made clear through the warnings on our products and pages, but if you have a medical condition, illness, or any prescription, then caution is advised. You should always speak to your doctor before taking any new supplement. For more information about nutrient interactions and effect 'double-ups', look for our upcoming 'Nutrient Know-how' article.
E.G. Graham heard that taking turmeric and omega 3 fish oil could reduce the pain in his swollen knees, and it did, but he hadn't heard that you should not use these supplements if you are taking warfarin because they have similar blood-thinning effects. Luckily his GP picked up on it when he came in complaining of gardening cuts that 'would not stop bleeding.
Your mind and body burn cannot operate on energy alone. The human body is a complex system of chemical reactions, processes, and feedback loops - all of which require specific materials to work. If your lifestyle is physically or mentally extreme, even temporarily, you may benefit from supplementing with additional nutrition to replace the nutrients you are burning up.
E.G. Athletes, heavy drinkers, & people suffering intense stress may not appear to have much in common - but all of these lifestyles cause you to use up electrolyte minerals and b vitamins at a far higher rate than normal, hence supplementing accordingly could be highly beneficial.
Tip 3: Listen to your body
So, what does "listening to our bodies" mean? Consider that you have a slight headache. There are various interpretations for this. You might need water because you're dehydrated. You may need protein, or you may lack vital fatty acids, vitamin D3, or B vitamin complex. “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.” This proverb is so true!
Whenever you are trying out a new health supplement, diet, or medication it's even more important to be tuned in to how your body is responding. There is no point continuing with a treatment that does not agree with you, especially when there are plenty of other options available.
That said, don't be too hasty in your judgment. Many nutraceuticals and natural remedies can take time to 'bed in' before taking effect, and there can often be a few days of adjustment with probiotic supplements. Unless serious side-effects occur, we would advise monitoring your physical and emotional well-being over at least 4-6 weeks before making any firm decisions or trying alternatives.
Tip 4: Do your research and be discerning
Browsing supplements online, and reading all the raving reviews and compelling copy, it's easy to get excited about the potential benefits a supplement might have for you. However, you should always cross-reference what you read in marketing material against as many alternative sources of information as you can.
Reviews are a good way of assessing the quality of a product in advance, and this approach can yield positive results, but choosing your supplements purely this way can be a bit hit and miss. With the rise of independent review services such as Feefo and Trustpilot, fake reviews are fairly easy to avoid these days, but as mentioned previously: what works for one person, may not work for you.
Ultimately, any genuine supplement should have some small-scale clinical trials to support the efficacy of the ingredients it uses. These research documents are often vast and confusingly written, but a quick skip to the summary section will save you hours of difficult reading. You'll also find plenty of good quality articles (such as elsewhere on this blog) that summarise the information for you and feature links to the research they are drawing from.
Researching the subject in more depth will help you to understand the biology behind what you are trying to achieve so you can make a more informed decision. It will also enable you to distinguish truth from fiction, so you can pick out the honest, responsible brands who care about their customers and know what they are talking about.
Can't I just buy all my supplements from VitaBright?
We're proud of what we do, but we don't make every supplement there is (yet!), and whilst we will admit that some of our competitors do a decent job, unfortunately, many do not. Our next article in this series; 'Buyers Guide' will take you through the process of shopping for supplements online and give you a more in-depth explanation of what to look out for on product pages, in reviews, and on bottles - to help you find the best companies and the best products (even if they aren't ours!).