There Is a Time, Place, and Need For Supplements!
I am going to preface this article by saying it may be triggering for some. If it is, please know that is not my intention. My intention is to speak about the many lessons I have learned in my long journey with chronic health challenges in hopes that the wisdom finds its way to those who resonate with it and can benefit.
Now that I covered that point, I will be the first to admit that there is a time, place, and need for supplements, NO DOUBT!
I still recommend them in my work with clients and take them myself…BUT…on a much lesser scale than ever before. I no longer feel it is good practice to take loads of supplements for long bouts of time.
It is hard on the body, the pocketbook, the mind, and it is downright tiring swallowing tons of pills, day in and day out.
And, I have yet to see anybody come to me in my Functional Health practice and say “Yep, I took loads of supplements over the last several years and I am well because of it.” If they were well, they would not be seeking my services.
More often, I hear, "I spent thousands of dollars on supplements over many years, I have drawers filled with them, I am still not well, I am sick of swallowing so many pills, and I need something different, but I am not sure what.
Can you relate to the following?
Going from practitioner to practitioner, running numerous labs, and getting prescribed loads of supplements based on lab results, yet you see little to no results.
You have drawers, cabinets, or baskets filled with supplements you never finished, reacted poorly to, or never even opened.
Putting your hope and faith of healing into yet another rigorous supplement protocol only to be let down once again.
Finding yourself not adhering to supplement protocols because you are so burned out from opening bottles, organizing them all, and swallowing pills.
Breaking plans or being anxious about making plans because you don’t know how you will fit taking all your supplements into a change in routine.
Questioning whether or not you should continue with taking so many supplements but also fearful to not take them.
I have experienced each one of these scenarios many times over! :(
Become Informed! It is YOUR Body and YOU Are In Charge Of Your Healing Journey!
As I stated earlier, supplements absolutely play a role in the healing process, but I strongly feel they need to be targeted and are best when:
Guided by the right labs and other relevant assessments.
Based on YOUR bio-individualized needs.
Decided upon in conjunction with a practitioner that knows your full case, that you trust, that you work with collaboratively, and who will help you understand why each supplement is needed.
You know exactly why you are taking a particular supplement and how it is intended to support your wellness goals.
Accompanied by an understanding that supplements and biochemical support, while important, are only one part of the healing puzzle.
I feel some of the more useful and necessary supplements that everyone likely needs to be the following:
Vitamins D and K2 - though I don’t recommend supplementing with D unless both levels are checked: Vitamin D 25 OH (inactive form and the one that most doctors check) and 1,25 OH (active form and rarely ever checked by doctors). The reason for this is that if the ratio of active to inactive is greater than 2:1, this could indicate a chronic infectious process which could be exacerbated by supplementation and lead to further imbalance.
Magnesium - most everyone is deficient due to poor growing soil quality and the fact that stress causes the body to eat through this mineral quickly.
Essential fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. All the cells in our body; especially brain cells require adequate levels, and most people do not get enough in their diets.
B Vitamins, which are nutrients that are easily by depleted from stress! God knows, we all have enough health-blocking stress to contend with in today’s fast-paced, competitive, environmentally unconscious, and tech-driven world!
It Is Easy To Fall Down The Supplement Rabbit Hole!
Most, if not all, people who have been on a journey to heal from chronic health challenges, have fallen down the supplement rabbit hole! I certainly have more times than I can count. Since studying functional and mind-body medicine and evolving as both a person and a practitioner, I find the most common reasons for this to be the following:
Attachment to outcomes, which can lead to trying to force the body to heal via the use of supplements versus focusing on creating the right conditions that stimulate the body's innate healing capacities to come back online.
Lack of understanding and acceptance of the mind-body connection. This leads to over-focus on the biochemical aspects of illness and not near enough on mental and emotional healing. This often leads to perpetually looking for all our answers outside of ourselves versus going within. True wellness requires that we come at the problem from both ends of the feedback loop between mind and body.
The overwhelming amount of advertisement around supplements within the natural wellness spaces can often paint a picture of supplements being “the answer” for many health woes. Pulling ourselves away from this obsession can feel quite scary, but the rewards are great.
Those struggling with chronic illness often tend to give up most if not all their power to practitioners. In my experience with navigating the world of persistent health challenges, I did come across many well-intentioned practitioners that recommended large numbers of supplements as the primary way of helping people to overcome chronic health challenges.
There was often minimal to no discussion around diet, lifestyle, stress reduction, or how each supplement was going to help my mission. Heck! At that point, I was not even sure of what my health goals were. I just wanted somebody to fix me and make all my symptoms go away — which taking loads of supplements never brought that result.
Many, NOT all, of those struggling with chronic health challenges have a back history of perfectionism, being overly analytical, and needing control over life’s circumstances. When chronic illness strikes, however, many lose their ability to apply these tendencies to in the ways they were used to — particularly work. In light of this, it is not uncommon for these tendencies to emerge in new ways within the chronic illness journey.
This can take the form of over reliance on taking loads of supplements as a way to force healing and “control” the outcomes. It can also sometimes seem much easier to engage with supplement protocols than to take a hard look at how we show up in our lives and personal patterns that may be contributing to keeping us stuck. I speak from personal experience here.
Lack of motivation for or lack of understanding of all what is involved in creating sustainable wellness. This often leads to continual cycling of fear-based thinking and searching for “cure all” protocols that don’t exist.
Alternative Health Hacks To Explore!
The more I learn about what is ultimately required to heal and create sustainable wellness, the more I realize there other many other health hacks that often do a better job than supplements in supporting the body’s healing capacities in MANY cases:
The Pillars of Health! Optimal health and recovery from illness of any kind begins with the pillars of health: Diet, Rest, Exercise, and Stress Reduction. Without these in place, I feel taking supplements, and running labs are often entirely futile and will almost always only lead to temporary results if any at all. The World Health Organization estimates that 60% of our health issues are related to lifestyle. (1)
Nature is the BEST Medicine! Spending time in nature, grounding, and getting ample sunlight exposure! As a young child, my father taught me that we are natural beings governed by the laws of the Universe. The further we deviate from these laws, the further from health and closer to dis-ease we move. No supplement can replace our need for exposure to and connection with nature! Sadly, our tech-driven, LED lit-up culture is causing more and more people to deviate further and further from what the Universe provides.
Red Light Therapy – for mitochondrial support, detox, meridian support, immune support, and much more!
FIR Sauna – for detox, inflammation, pain reduction, immune support, and more!
tVNS (transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation) – for rebooting the autonomic nervous system; which is pretty a master control center for all other bodily systems; particularly the immune system! Without balance in this system, it is impossible to heal other systems.
PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic frequency) – to help deliver healing frequencies needed to maintain proper electrical charge in our bodies that we should be getting from the earth but are not getting near enough of anymore.
EMF Reduction! We have reached a point where technological advances provide us with amazing capabilities in all aspects of our lives. We have all once to love and depend up our Smart Phones, iPads, laptops, wireless units of all kinds, blue tooth devices, Alexa, and more. The awesome convenience provided by all these high tech gadgets, however, are not without significant cost. Whether one wants to admit and accept it or not, EMF’s are HUGE health-blocking factors, and we must all take measures to reduce them as much as possible for optimal health.
Hydrogen Water! We are all exposed to an incredible amount of toxic insults each day. Toxic exposures increase our need for antioxidants, and H2 water provides powerful protection in this area of healing as just one of many other benefits.
Emotional Healing / Mind-Body Applications. The way I see it, ALL chronic health challenges have significant mental and emotional components. No amount of supplements, testing, or any other biochemical interventions will be of much help in the long term if we don't give equal attention to mental/emotional barriers. While I can’t possibly thoroughly explain the role of the mind-body connections nor list all the ways to address this aspect of healing in a single article, I can tell you that some of my favorites are:
Finding the RIGHT practitioner to work with to help you navigate your healing path! This is SO IMPORTANT! Being validated, being understood, having somebody to collaborate with, have space be held for you to sort out your own emotional baggage, accountability, and the list goes on are HUGELY important and cathartic. I would say this is the most important of them all! This is something that I desperately needed in my own journey but never quite found; which is a big reason why I now do the work I do.
TRE (Tremor Release Exercises)
Neural Rewiring Techniques
Breath Work and Mindfulness Activities
NES Health Bio-EnergetiX
Transformational Coaching that includes techniques such as Motivational Interviewing, Non-Judgmental Communication, Appreciate Inquiry, Neuro-linguistic Programming, and more!
Meditation and guided meditation (for those new to meditation). A former client just told me about a mindfulness application called the Sam Harris App. I have not yet checked it out, but she said it is GREAT and highly recommends it so I will be looking into it!
If you have been taking supplement protocol after supplement protocol for years on end and you are still very stuck, I say it is time for a shift in perspective and a change in direction.
1. Farhud, Dariush D. “Impact of Lifestyle on Health.” Iranian Journal of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Nov. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4703222/.
2. Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs: How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.