Are Supplements Really Needed for Optimal Health?


How many times have you heard that supplements are merely just expensive urine?  Have you also heard that supplements are not needed as we get everything we need from our diet today?  Even worse, recent mainstream media articles have also suggested that vitamin supplements are even harmful.  It’s time to shed some light on these myths.


In truth, the first 2 comments are actually correct.  HOWEVER…  These statements are only true IF; we ate 100% organic foods, never (yes, that once a month cheeseburger counts) ate processed or fast foods, exercised regularly, got enough sleep, had low levels of stress, were not exposed to toxins, never took pharmaceutical medications, never worked in front of a computer, never used a hair dryer, etc.  Of course none of these factors could possibly apply to us…  In other words, the majority of the population is likely dealing with nutrient deficiencies.

There are literally thousands of studies proving the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of nutritional supplementation.   For example, there are more studies done on Omega 3 supplements than any drug ever known. How many research studies are we talking about?  Well, a search of the U.S. National Institute of Health’s PubMed website finds more than 16,000!

That being said, as in most things in life quality is everything.  There are virtually dozens of options when you walk into most nutritional stores, pharmacies, and even grocery stores today.  This can be an intimidating task!  So what can we do when shopping for a nutritional supplement?

Rule of thumb #1:  If it is the cheapest product on the shelf, there is likely a logical reason for this (and one that does not warrant you putting this in your body).

Rule of thumb # 2:  When selecting which product to go with, always ensure it is a professional level, pharmaceutical grade company.  There are many of these companies around, but there are more that do not fall into this class.   Bottom line – buyer beware.

Many of us have become expert ‘Google Doctors’ and succumb to the common ‘pill for your ill’ mantra based on the latest and greatest supplement advertised or promoted in the media.  These purchases constitute an enormous part of the multi-billion dollar supplement industry.  I have a problem with this approach.  Why do we often make the assumption that what works for one person’s health issue will work for another?  Unfortunately, using this blanket protocol approach does not often work.  We are all biochemically unique, thus no one person has the exact biochemistry as that of his or her neighbor, or even family member.  Treat the person, not the disease.  In addition, many make the critical mistake thinking that by merely taking nutritional supplements will justify them staying on a toxic, nutritionally void standard American diet (coincidence that the acronym is SAD??).

Supplements are meant to supplement a proper food plan – not to replace a bad one.

As the age old adage says; more is not often better.  I regularly have new patients arrive to my clinic with bags (literally) of supplements.  During their first appointment we run a comprehensive nutritional and functional medicine analysis that provides key information regarding specific nutrient imbalances.  This opens an opportunity to create a custom nutritional/supplementation program tailored to each person’s individual health goals.  What comes at a surprise to many of my new patients is many actually walk out taking far less supplements then they were on previously.   This is not to suggest that I feel that supplementation is not helpful.  Rather, quite the contrary.  Supplements can be an extremely powerful tool to help get your health back on track.  However, this needs to be done judiciously.

I firmly believe that in today’s day and age, the healthiest people not only have an exceptional diet, but also apply an appropriate supplement protocol relevant to their specific health goals.

To your health,

Dr. John Dempster, ND, FAARFM, ABAAHP

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