Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Thoughts on Dietary Supplements

Hi guys!
It's getting colder now and we're well in to flu season. Around my dorm, there's been a lot of talk about "taking your vitamin C" to avoid getting sick. I was actually gifted a book in my biochemistry class called "The Modern Nutritional Diseases and How To Prevent Them," and I've been reading about supplements from that book and I've been changing up my personal ones, so I thought now was a good time to write about it!

First off, I use "supplements," but I'm primarily talking about vitamins. I don't believe in the effectiveness of performance or weight loss supplements and I actually think there's a lot of evidence that they're harmful. Those are not supplements I would ever personally take, and I would caution you guys to be careful if you take them. 

For most of my life, I did not take any supplements. I wasn't deficient in anything and I felt fine, so I didn't take any. Lately, I've been taking Vitamin B12 supplements every day or whenever I remember (usually 5-6 days a week). I personally take sublingual ones because I think it absorbs better than a pill and I take 3000mg micro-lozenges. I'll talk more about why I only take B12 a little bit later on. 

First off, if you're considering supplementing, try to get a blood test done to see if you're actually deficient in something. That's what's most important. If you're trying to supplement and you're not deficient, that's fine just keep these things in mind... 

1) Is your vitamin fat or water soluble?
This is HUGE because water soluble vitamins need to be taken daily, while fat soluble ones are stored within the body. This means that if you supplement with a water soluble vitamin the excess will be excreted, but if you supplement with a fat soluble one, it'll be stored in your body and could be dangerous in excess. 

2) Absorption
It's easy to read a label and think that's exactly what you're going to get into your body. That is not true at all! If you're taking pills, it has to survive digestion and then get absorbed by your intestines. If you're taking sublingual tablets, it'll go directly into your bloodstream bypassing the gastric system, but still won't absorb anywhere close to 100%. Shots are the one thing that does 100% go into your body, but I'm going to assume not many people are going that route. 

3) Are your levels accurate?
This is more on the testing side of it. Some numbers can go up and down a lot depending on what you've eaten that day, how hydrated you are, your hormones... Keep that in mind if you're tests are showing you as somewhat deficient in something. Not a huge deal, but make sure that you don't freak out if your blood tests come back different because you need to compare multiple ones to get a really good picture of your health. 

So why do I take B12? First off, let's talk about where humans get B12. It's usually found in soil because it is produced by bacteria that live there. Because our produce is washed so much, it's not a good source of B12. Animal meat is where most people get B12, but since I've been going more plant based lately, I thought it might be wise to supplement. B12 is also important for hemoglobin production, which can lead to more energy because more oxygen is flowing through your body. B12 is not absorbed particularly well by humans in any form, so if you eat meat, I think it would be a good idea to try supplement consistently for a month and see if you notice any changes. For me, within two weeks I felt like I have more energy. I don't need to caffeinate in the morning anymore, and I function a lot better. 

My english class this semester is all about food politics and health and I feel like I've learned so much and want to share it with you! This was the easiest first topic for me to do, but if you'd like to read more about health and diet then let me know down below! My research paper is all about high carb veganism, so I'll probably end up making a long video about that soon!
-Sisi

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