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Despite your best efforts, it’s unlikely that your diet is providing you with sufficient nutrition. Ray Robertson presents the case for supplements

Upping your intake of essential nutrients could be your ticket to year-round good health, and one of the best ways to do this is by taking a few well-chosen dietary supplements.

On the recommendation of fellow DBerDr Graeme Bradshaw, who specialises in naturopathy at the Integrated Medicine Institute in Central, I’ve been taking four core supplements daily for a couple of years now, and I definitely feel the benefit. The first is a multivitamin powder drink to make sure I get my daily allowance of ‘under-consumed nutrients,’ like vitamins A, C, D, E and K, calcium, magnesium, dietary fibre, choline and potassium. The second is omega 3, which boosts the cardiovascular system, reduces inflammation, and is an essential for concentration. The third is a probiotic to support my immune and digestive systems. And the fourth is curcumin (turmeric extract), a powerful anti-oxidant that reduces inflammation in the joints and all the key organs, ensuring they last longer.

I’ve also just placed a big online order for Andrographis Paniculata. This herbal plant extract, widely available in pill form, and commonly known as green chiretta, is an ancient cold/ flu remedy popular across South East Asia. What’s interesting is that the Thai Government has approved it as an alternative treatment for COVID-19. The extract from the plant, known as FahTalaiJone in Thai, can curb the virus and reduce the severity of inflammation, according to studies conducted in Bangkok late last year.

Andrographis Paniculata is being administered in pill form to COVID-19 patients in state-owned hospitals throughout Thailand. It’s available on a voluntary basis to those in the 18-60 age group with minor symptoms. Thai trials have shown that patients’ conditions improve within three days of taking the supplement, if it is administered within 72 hours of testing positive.

Boost your immunity
Not everyone’s going to buy into the idea of a COVID-beating plant extract, but we all need to pay particular attention to our white blood cells right now – the little guys that protect our bodies against infection from viruses and bacteria. Compromised immunity can be caused by something as basic as a deficiency in critical nutrients like zinc, iron and vitamin C.

A lack of zinc, for instance, means that your white blood cells can’t mount a proper defense against infection. If you’re someone who gets coughs or sore throats frequently, up your zinc levels. Our iron levels also need to be in the optimum range because it is an important component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. If you’re not getting sufficient oxygen, you become fatigued, and that exhaustion can have a serious affect on your immune system’s ability to fight infections.

Vitamin C increases the body’s ability to absorb iron, so you’ll need to take plenty of it if your iron levels are low. Vitamin C also enhances the immune system’s response to bacterial and viral infections. Some 45% of colds develop into a secondary bacterial infection but when you take a high dose of vitamin C, this figure drops to just 10%.

Maintaining a good balance of intestinal flora (good bacteria) is another essential for a healthy immune system, which is why many people now supplement their diet with probiotics (live microorganisms, in most cases bacteria, that are similar to those found in the human gut). Probiotics help us to absorb nutrients; they aid digestion and, because they have an anti-inflammatory effect, they make the immune system work harder.

You are what you eat
A quick Google search will reveal the long-term effects vitamin and mineral deficiency can have on your health – consider that insufficient calcium intake alone is associated with a long list of medical disorders, including osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, diabetes and obesity. But the question is, why is your diet not delivering enough nutrients? For the answer to that, you have to look beyond your own kitchen and consider the bigger picture.

Getting your nutrition only from conventionally grown food fails to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to operate disease-free. Consider the way modern farming methods deplete the soil of minerals without replacing them. All vegetables need minerals, and if the soil isn’t replenished with a mineral-rich fertiliser, then the plants, as well as the farm animals that feed off them, become deficient.

Long-term food storage, processing and the addition of preservatives also degrades the nutrient content of food. One solution would be to eat only fresh, organic food, which contains 30% more minerals and 80% more anti-oxidants than conventionally grown food, but that’s not always possible due to financial or logistical reasons.

What’s more, to obtain optimum levels of calcium, magnesium and potassium, you’d need to eat five servings of fresh, organic vegetables a day, along with whole grains, nuts and seeds. Who could really do that in their health quest? It’s possible, but not likely.

The fact that most foods don’t yield sufficient nutrients is compounded because, nowadays, to stay healthy, we need more nutrients than ever before. The modern food supply is contaminated with pesticides, herbicides and chemicals, and we also have to contend with environmental contaminates in the water and air, such as carbon monoxide, lead and mercury. All this increases our need for vitamins and minerals because our metabolisms and immune systems are under constant attack.

One size doesn’t fit all
Do a little online research and you can get a rough idea of which supplements you might need. (Smokers and diabetics will reach for the vitamin C; women who menstruate heavily will turn to iron.) However, a DIY approach won’t cut it – you really need to consult a qualified naturopath for advice.

A naturopath will give you regular blood checks that monitor your nutrient levels, revealing exactly which supplements you need to take. Blood tests may also show excess levels, which can be harmful. For instance, overloading on iron can lead to liver disease, heart problems and diabetes.

Most naturopaths recommend whole-food supplements because they are derived from real food and offer superior bioavailability. For example, vitamin C is more active as an antioxidant when provided with flavonoid cofactors found in wholefood supplements made from oranges, acerola and high phenolic food concentrates.

It’s true that quality supplements don’t come cheap but, these days, neither does nutrition-rich food. Take salmon, for instance – it is better for you to supplement with a high-grade fish oil than to eat ‘cheap’ farmed fish, which is low in omega-3 and high in toxins.

So there you have it – the case for supplements. Getting your nutrition only from food is a bad idea.

Essential chasers
If you’re exceeding the ‘three units a day’ rule:
• Take Liver Support – a potent clinical-grade formula containing milk thistle and other effective herbs – before you have a drink. Our livers need additional nutrients to detoxify the alcohol and boost our immune systems
• Boost your intake of vitamin C (it restores cellular health damaged by alcohol consumption) and B-vitamins, which are highly depleted by alcohol and necessary for energy, a good mood and cognition
• Take magnesium (it supports relaxation, sleep and nervous system functioning) and zinc, which restores hormonal balance and the immune system after drinking
• Ola Loa provides active vitamin B, vitamin D, magnesium and zinc, along with electrolytes and 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C. It’s an easy-to-take rehydrating drink, and provides a stronger detox than the popular Berocca or Emergen C
• Nux Vomica 30 is another popular homeopathic remedy. It helps relieve the digestive stress and acidity caused by too much alcohol. You can also take a probiotic to restore the gut’s microbial balance after drinking

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