by Dr. Richard Powers
SUPPLEMENTATION: Why, What, Which & How
The concept of taking supplements makes sense. However, to truly gain real value from taking them, there is much to understand to make the correct decision around what to take and what to expect.” ~ Dr. Richard Powers
• Our daily nutritional needs are often not being met through diet alone, especially as one ages.
• The consequences are real, significant, and largely unrecognized by the conventional medical community.
• 2 out of every 3 Americans take supplements (2015), yet most don’t really know what or how much to take; and therefore, aren’t likely receiving the potential health benefits (and don’t know it).
WHY Supplements Are Now Necessary
Take home message: The “right” daily supplementation will help you feel and function your best, while lowering your risk for cancer; heart attacks; strokes; and most chronic degenerative diseases.
There was a time when you could get the nutrition your body required from food alone, but unfortunately those days are long gone.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (6/19/02 – Vol 287, No. 23, pg. 3124), “suboptimal vitamin status is not (unusual) … and is associated with many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis…”
Why? Much of our food is now refined, bleached, chemically preserved, artificially colored and flavored, irradiated, riddled with hormones, and genetically modified. The food on our plate is nutrient deficient, often contains rancid trans-fats, and falls way short in providing the nutrition your body requires.
The combination of quick, nutrient deficient meals + excessive toxicity in our environment + sedentary lifestyles (or over-training) + insufficient quality sleep + high stress = a perfect “recipe” to manifest nutrient deficiencies and to succumb to a life of pain, mood disorders, fatigue, and chronic illness.
Clearly, the necessity of supplementing your diet with the right supplementation has become a reality – even in the face of eating as much “organic” food as is available – to optimize health and reduce disease risk.
Bottom line: Think right; eat well; move often; sleep soundly; and take a safe and effective nutrient formula.
What Supplements DO … And DON’T DO
Take home message: Supplements can help accelerate healing and reduce disease risk; but supplements are NOT a SUBSTITUTE for eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet.
Supplements are appropriately coined “supplements” for a reason – they “supplement” your diet … not replace it.
Although over time the right supplements taken consistently can help you get well and stay well, the best supplements in the world will never sufficiently compensate for a poor-quality diet.
Furthermore, if you are sedentary (or over-training); not getting enough restorative rest; have an excessive toxic body burden; and are often feeling stressed out; just eating a nutrient-dense diet still often falls short of ensuring optimal nutrient sufficiency.
Remember the mantra: Think right; eat well; move often; sleep soundly … and take your supplements.
Bottom line: Take your supplements daily, but don’t think for a moment that you can sacrifice eating well and living “right” because you have things “covered” with the supplements you are taking.
Knowing WHICH Supplement to Take
Take home message: If you take the supplement you actually need – you’ll get the benefit you really want.
Nutrient needs vary from person to person and are dependent upon many factors, including their diet, lifestyle, medication usage, social habits (smoking; drinking), and even genetics, to a lesser extent.
In addition to knowing which supplements to take, you must be sure the nutrients are in the:
- Correct amount (not enough = no benefit; too much = over time may be potentially harmful)
- Optimal ratios (certain nutrients need to be supplemented in specific ratios, e.g., Zinc and Copper; improper supplement ratios can create “artificial” nutrient deficiencies)
- Proper form (incorrect “form” of a nutrient = decreased utilization = little to no benefit; e.g., magnesium oxide vs. magnesium glycinate; cyanocobalamin vs. methylcobalamin; etc.).
Bottom line: It can be a tricky endeavor to know which supplements to take (and how much) to ensure you are doing more “good” than “harm,” considering all the potential factors that impact nutrient need and benefit.
If you are taking or are considering taking self-prescribed supplements, either from Googling supplements or from the recommendation of a well-intended friend or family member, know that it may result in suboptimal or even potentially harmful outcomes – and you would likely never know it. For example, if you take supplements that you don’t need or that are in the wrong form or proportion, you may not get the benefits you are striving for, or worse, it could actually impair healing.
Without sufficient knowledge of nutritional science, the complexities of the human body’s physiology, biochemistry, and immunology, as well as one’s supplement needs (nutrients and natural medicine), it is difficult—if not impossible—to determine which supplements you need, including optimal dosage. And without expert guidance it is equally challenging to assess the potential long-term benefits or harm resulting from your self-prescribed supplementation.
Self-prescribed, supplements – either from Googling supplements or from the recommendation of a well-intended friend or family member – may result in suboptimal or even potentially harmful outcomes … and you would likely never know it. Some of these outcomes from self-prescribed supplements are:
- When the individual doesn’t know what they actually need and/or would benefit from so they don’t take one or more supplements they actually need = suboptimal outcome
- When the individual doesn’t know what they actually need and/or would benefit from and they take more (quantity) of a supplement than they need, and/or do not ensure a proper nutrient proportion (ratio), (for example, zinc to copper ratio should be about 10 to 1), and thus create an “artificial” deficiency = potentially harmful outcome
- When an individual takes a nutrient in a poorly bioavailable form, (for example, magnesium oxide instead of magnesium glycinate) = suboptimal outcome
- When an individual takes a botanical in an insufficient quantity (dosage) to create any benefit = suboptimal outcome
- When an individual takes a botanical in an excessive quantity (dosage) = potentially harmful outcome
- When an individual takes a substance, (for example, a probiotic), expecting an outcome that is unreasonable based on the research = suboptimal outcome
Bottom-line: Without sufficient knowledge of nutritional science, the complexities of the human body’s physiology, biochemistry, and immunology, as well as one’s supplement needs (nutrients and natural medicine), it is difficult—if not impossible—to select a supplement product that is beneficial (optimal) versus suboptimal or even potentially harmful.
Take home message: When it comes to supplement quality and benefit – you get what you pay for.
Even if you truly knew what supplements your body needed (including amounts, forms, etc.), there is still another hurdle to clear … supplement quality. Here’s the rub: Few supplement manufacturers actually guarantee their product purity and potency – even if they say they do.
The fact is that supplement quality-control is poorly regulated and most manufacturers do not make the costly investment necessary to ensure that what is listed on the label is actually in the bottle (upon expiration); and to test and then refuse product that is the least bit contaminated or of inferior quality. Too costly.
For example, regarding purity – there are many “grades” of fish oil quality. Beyond just being molecularly distilled to minimize mercury contamination, Alaskan IFOS Five Star Certified fish oil also ensures minimal oxidation and is guaranteed to be the purest and highest quality fish oil source available today.
Fortunately, there are a few supplement manufacturers that do create truly high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade supplements, and based on the strictest manufacturing process, Xymogen, Inc. is second to none. Not only are their products of superior quality, but Xymogen’s pricing also ensures excellent value and therefore affordability.
Additionally, Xymogen’s management team from “top to bottom” is founded on integrity, and their primary commitment is to improve the quality of people’s lives rather than to the “bottom dollar.”
Since 2005 Dr. Powers has been a founding member of Xymogen’s Medical Advisory Board, and regularly meets with some of the most experienced and respected leaders in the integrative medicine field to ensure that Xymogen’s supplements are safe, effective, and consistent with the current scientific findings.
Bottom line: The supplement manufacturers recommended by Dr. Powers have been vetted to ensure the highest quality available, utilizing Xymogen products whenever possible (including for all MedPax products).
How Do You Know If Your Supplements Are BENEFITTING You?
Take home messages:
- Only take supplements that will likely benefit you (i.e., evidence-based; highly researched formulas; guaranteed potency and purity; etc., as are Dr. Powers Formulas).
- To help clarify if you are benefiting from your supplementation, regularly monitor your health’s progression and nutrient levels/needs (e.g., through functional medicine testing).
When you take a “medicine” to help you feel better in some way (e.g., to lower blood pressure; relieve a headache), you can tell if it is working by noticing if your blood pressure drops, or if your headache goes away. Time frame: Usually hours to days.
But how do you know if the supplements you are taking are benefiting you and making a positive impact on your health? And, for supplements whose primary purpose is to help prevent disease … how do you know that they did?
Nutrients: If the supplement we’re talking about is a “daily supplement” to fill nutrient gaps in your diet (e.g., Dr. Powers FOUNDATIONAL Formulas), the desired “effect” is to ensure your cells have the nutrients they require to make healthy (or healthier) cells.
Nutrient sufficiency = healthier cells = healthier body = feel and perform better and reduce your disease risk.
This process of “filling your nutrient tank” is cumulative and usually occurs over a period of months – not days or even weeks.
Natural Medicine: If, on the other hand, we are talking about a supplement designed for a therapeutic effect (e.g., botanicals; bio-identical hormones), you may feel the desired beneficial “effects” within weeks, but usually not as quickly as a “conventional” pharmaceutical-type medicine (hours to days).
The supplement challenge: Since supplement benefits occur more slowly and sometimes imperceptibly over time, how do you know if they are helping you?
First, take supplements that are most likely going to benefit you … and not harm you. (Refer to Knowing WHICH Supplement to Take as described above.)
Then, periodically track how you are feeling (e.g., overall wellbeing, energy, mood, blood pressure; symptoms), and see if you are noticing or feeling any improvement in your health. Again, look for these changes perhaps after a period of several weeks to months, and not so much day-to-day or even week-to-week.
To further assess the potential benefit of your supplements, regularly monitor your nutrient sufficiency and progress in key areas, e.g., blood sugar regulation; immunity; toxicity; inflammation; gut/digestive health; hormonal balance; stress management; and body composition. Specialized longevity testing (revealing one’s biological vs. chronological age) is also helpful to track one’s health trajectory.
This can easily and affordably be accomplished via painless and harmless testing, e.g., blood tests; urinalysis; and other in-office and/or specialized testing, e.g. Bioimpedence Analysis (BIA); Heart Rate Variability (HRV); Mineral Tally (taste); Visual Contrast Sensitivity; specialized testing for hormones; stool testing for gut/digestive analysis.
The frequency of your evaluation depends on your health status; health goals; and healthcare budget. Once or twice a year may be appropriate for many; though others with existing health conditions would do better with more frequent re-evaluation until their health stabilizes, e.g., quarterly, or even sooner for certain tests.
Bottom line: To help ensure you benefit from your supplements, take ones formulated to be safe and effective, i.e., nutrients you most likely require; in the correct forms and amounts; and guaranteed for potency and purity. Periodically – as fits your budget – monitor your nutrient levels and the trajectory of your health.
WHERE to purchase your supplements
Take home message: Supplements available exclusively through healthcare professionals are usually of higher quality and a better value.
Thinking of getting your prescribed or daily supplements at the cheapest price, like on Amazon or eBay; or at a supermarket; drugstore; or wholesale store? Considering purchasing at health food store or multi-level marketing source because you “heard” they were “better”?
At first, it may make sense, as everyone wants to get the best “deal” on their supplement purchase; and certainly, the best quality. However, you may want to think again, as most authentic, quality supplements, e.g., Xymogen supplements, are only available exclusively through a healthcare professional, and for good reason.
Although not all healthcare professionals have adequate training and experience in nutritional medicine, “holistic” or “functional medicine” physicians are likely to recommend supplements that are (and continue to be) safe and beneficial for you when they are involved in their dispensing.
It is not necessarily beneficial or even safe to take certain supplements indefinitely (botanicals; antioxidants; etc.), and especially at higher, therapeutic doses. By dispensing your supplements, your properly trained doctor can monitor those you currently need to help ensure they are the ones you are currently taking … and nothing more.
Furthermore, it is imperative that you know that you are taking only the highest quality supplementation and that they have been maintained in a properly temperature-controlled environment (as in your doctor’s office or a facility they have fully vetted) to ensure their continued quality and potency.
Fish oils, probiotics, antioxidants, and other supplements are highly susceptible to and are altered by heat (oxidation), reducing their benefit and in some cases, rendering them mildly toxic. Conventional warehouses (e.g., Amazon) and most storage facilities do not maintain temperatures low enough for safe supplement storage (too costly).
So, even if you do your “homework” and find a product that matches up with the exact ingredients of a recommended supplement (e.g., a Xymogen supplement), a cheaper price may at first glance appear to be a good “deal” but … the most expensive supplement is the one that doesn’t work!
For example, if you pay 30% less for a supplement, but receive an inferior quality supplement that only provides 50% of the benefit of the higher quality product, then it really wasn’t such a “deal” after all, right?
Do you really want to gamble with potentially inferior-grade supplements when it comes to their health? Consider this: When you look for a doctor to provide healthcare for yourself or for a loved one, do you seek out the “cheapest” one or the “best” one?
Clearly, each individual has their own healthcare budget but know that one will get a greater health benefit from taking less of a higher quality supplement (truly beneficial), rather than taking more of a (cheaper) lower quality supplement.
Bottom line: Establish trust with a “holistic,” functional medicine-trained physician experienced in nutritional medicine; and obtain your supplementation based on their recommendation.