Diet? Supplements? Why?

By: Dr. Mike Baker, ND

Diet and supplementation

As a naturopathic physician, I routinely talk to my patients about the food they eat.
In fact, some of the greatest improvements I have seen with patients have come from making healthier dietary choices. And there is a very obvious reason for this – all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need to function can be found in the plants and animals we eat.

What I typically do when a patient consults with me is review their diet and tailor it to suit their health concerns. We may also identify foods that are actually worsening their condition by causing inflammation. There is not one condition where making better dietary choices will not help.

In today’s western society we tend to eat too many processed foods devoid of healthy nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Some foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, but often our bodies do not easily utilize these man made particles. The vitamins and minerals found within whole, unprocessed foods are naturally in a format that can easily be absorbed and therefore readily used by our bodies.

There are situations where vitamin and mineral supplementation are important and should be used. One example is supplemental magnesium. In 2009, the World Health Organization reported that a significant portion of all Americans did not consume enough magnesium in their diet. There are multiple reasons for this: processed, high sugar diets lack the leafy greens, nuts and seeds that are sources of magnesium; vegetables produced for mass consumption may be grown in poor quality soil lacking in many of the minerals required for good health; common medications like acid blockers actually prevent the absorption of magnesium; stress and drinking alcohol causes us to lose a lot of magnesium in our urine. Furthermore, when we are under stress, there is a higher demand for vitamins, minerals and nutrients. As you can see, it is relatively easy to be deficient in magnesium and quite possibly many other vitamins and minerals. To combat this, supplementing with a good multivitamin can help you make up for any dietary deficiencies, or lifestyle factors that deplete your stores.

When choosing supplements, it is important to pick ones that are easily absorbed in the intestinal tract. To continue with magnesium as an example, supplemental magnesium comes in various forms; magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed and commonly used as a laxative, whereas magnesium citrate and glycinate are much more easily absorbed.

With so much information to consider, the best way to proceed is to do your best with whole, organic foods produced in good, local soil and have a qualified health practitioner help you supplement your diet where necessary.