One of the cornerstones of our chiropractic practice is proper nutrition. Indeed, eating a healthy diet and supplementing for the holes in a healthy diet should be a cornerstone of any health related practice. Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, however, I’ve found that very few people ever even give rational though to how they are feeding their body.
The truth is, you will only be able to remain well with adequate fuel and proper maintenance. Your body requires a variety of certain nutrients in order to fight of disease and preserve your health. Too little of certain good nutrients can lead to diseases like neuropathy or cancer. Too much of the bad stuff can lead to heart disease or diabetes. The job of the individual looking to become and stay healthy is to find the happy medium that balances nutritional requirements without consuming excess calories or chemicals from their diet.
It can truly be said that, as Americans, we are overfed but undernourished. The results of this lifestyle are plain. We now suffer from skyrocketing obesity rates and chronic illness continues to rise. Despite having one of the most sophisticated “healthcare” delivery systems in the world, we’re not getting any healthier.
One of the ways we attempt to improve the overall health of all of the patients in our office is through improved nutrition. Some of this comes in the form of nutritional supplementation. I’ve realized over the years that one of the reasons so many people are overweight is that they are getting so few nutrients from their food. Food quality is not today what it was 50 years ago. We’re literally bathed in food that’s high in calories and additives but very low in nutrients. As a result, we end up eating more and more just to satisfy the minimum nutritional requirements of our body. So, we eat and eat and eat just to get to the minimum nutrient requirement your body needs to function. The problem is that the unhealthy foods we are eating are very calorie rich, causing us to literally burst at the seams.
During our patient intake process, I ask patients if they are taking supplements. Not surprisingly, the few people who do take supplements are largely just taking a ‘pot-shot’ in the dark, offering little if any health benefit. Often their decision on certain supplements is not based on health, training, or guidance by a healthcare provider, but is based on advertising. Worse, I’ve had patients who believe or have been told, even by their own healthcare provider, that vitamins are “worthless” or “a waste of money.” The ironic and sad thing is that many of the patients who mistakenly believe this disinformation are some of the most ill new patients we see in our office, often taking the most medication. The bad advice they have been given is sabotaging their health.
Here are several reasons why taking a nutritional supplement is critical to maintaining your health:
1. Many people don’t eat the diet they should – In our busy world, many of us eat a diet of convenience. Meaning, we eat what we can when we can. Our diets are nutrient poor, high calorie, and laced with artificial chemicals. We give little though to what we eat, how we eat, and when we’re eating it. Worse, many people who think they’re eating a healthy diet have never really sat down and evaluated what they really eat during the day. Many are surprised at how shockingly bad their diet really is when they do a 7 day diet intake analysis.
2. General food quality has declined – With an increase in convenience foods, from fast food to microwavable meals, our food quality has suffered. We’ve moved away from cooking and preparing fresh food at home to “picking something up” or “grabbing a bite.” Restaurants also include additional salt and MSG to enhance the flavor of their foods and thus generate repeat customers.
3. Nutrient content of even the good food we eat is on the decline – Think about it. We are growing enough food in the U.S. to feed the largest population ever, over 300 million people. That doesn’t even include the food and food supplies we send to other countries. The problem is that we are growing it on the fewest number of farms in a century. So, what happens when you grow more and more food on less and less land? The nutrient content of the food declines. In other words, a carrot nowadays does not have the same nutrient levels as it did in 1950.
4. How we cook our foods depletes many of the natural nutrients found in healthy foods – The cooking process can often destroy naturally occurring nutritional and digestive enzymes found in raw foods. This is particularly true of fruits and vegetables. Further, cooking and preparing meals often adds undesirable elements such as greases and oils, not to mention chemical additives.
5. As we age we absorb fewer nutrients from our food – Do you honestly think that a 70 year old will absorb the same nutrients from food as a 17 year old? Of course not! As we age, our digestive system ages with us. Just as our muscles may not function like they used to, so does our digestion. It’s critical then to supplement those nutrients for which we may have a problem digesting and absorbing as we age.
6. The medications we take may prevent absorption of certain nutrients and deplete nutrients from our body – There are several examples of medications that affect nutrient absorption. For example, acid reducers for acid reflux neutralize stomach acid which is required for calcium absorption. Likewise, cholesterol medication decreases vitamin D production in the liver, which is also critical to calcium absorption. Cholesterol medication also decreases the body’s production of Coenzyme Q10 which is a critical antioxidant and important for cellular energy. Antibiotics kill bacteria in the gut that produce vitamin K. Even the pain medication you’re taking can deplete a multitude of nutrients from vitamin C to Zinc. And the list goes on…
Not taking a supplement in this age of nutritional decline is a mistake. Even if you do eat a healthy diet, you may not be getting all the nutrients you need to stay well.
So what supplement should you take? That depends on your individual health status and your ability to supplement. I generally recommend that anyone looking to make a serious change in their nutrition consult with a healthcare provider. That being said, make sure that the people you take your health advice from are in the health business and not the disease management business. Just because a provider may understand the cause and treatment of disease, does not necessarily mean that they understand what it takes to be healthy. Managing the symptoms of your disease is not the same as being healthy. Don’t confuse the two.
Supplementation is a crucial aspect to being healthy. With regard to which supplements to choose from the infinite choices, we’ll discuss that in a future blog.