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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

Are Your Supplements Helping or Hurting?

Lisa was struggling with acne and IBS. I invited her to bring in the supplements she already has, to review those instead of purchasing more. Lisa's laundry basket of supplements included over 30, high quality supplements daily. Our first plan was to stop all supplements for one week, except for magnesium if needed. Within 1 week her skin cleared up and IBS normalized!

Nutritional supplements are a great shortcut to health, but they can be overused and create imbalances. I use specifically chosen supplements as a shortcut to helping your own body heal itself with food. Usually this means adding in one supplement per week to correct imbalances then slowly removing the extra supplements to settle on a healthy diet for long term health.

Here's my system for picking and choosing supplements for your individual needs:

1. Understand the symptoms you are taking the supplement for. For example, itchy skin in the evening is a sign of a weak liver, so we will choose a liver supportive supplement and monitor changes in your itchy skin.

2. Add 1 supplement per week and monitor your symptoms. If you are taking the liver supplements - N-acetylcysteine at the same time as milk thistle dandelion tea for the itchy skin, you won't know whether to continue taking the tea or the N-acetylcysteine?

3. Notice a difference in your symptom from your supplement. If there is no improvement with the N-acetylcysteine then stop and switch to the tea. If the itchy skin improves slightly, then continue with the N-acetylcysteine and add the tea.

4. Know your medication interactions - if you are taking pharmaceutical medications, meet with a professional who understands nutrient interactions. Some supplements become dangerous only when combined with medications. Other supplements help medications work better by compensating for nutrient depletions. For example, some blood pressure medications deplete magnesium and magnesium is required to relax muscles and lower blood pressure. To create balance, simply take magnesium with your blood pressure medication.

5. Food Sourced Supplements versus Synthetic - Generally, if you have strong digestion and no allergies then a food sourced vitamin /mineral absorbs better and is more balanced for a healthier choice. A highly sensitive person with autoimmune disease can react to anything in the food sourced supplement. Most of my clients are sensitive so I use synthetic vitamins and safely add in one nutrient at a time. Calcium is difficult to absorb so I bend this rule and use a simple food-based calcium for the sensitive folks as well.

6. Supplement timing - These are guidelines to optimize absorption of your supplements. Don't take these rules too seriously! It can be more important to take the supplement any time than to not take it because of timing.

  • Herbs absorb best when taken away from food - 1/2 hour before or 1 hour after a meal is fine.

  • Vitamins, minerals and oils absorb best when taken with a meal.

  • All supplements work better when taken in divided doses. Set a pretty dish on the counter with your vitamins in it and take 1 at a time throughout the day.

  • B vitamins, adrenal herbs and anything for energy is best taken before 12 noon.

  • Obviously, relaxing herbs and anything for sleep is best taken at night to help you sleep.

  • Calcium is tricky because it often requires multiple pills and absorbs well at night. Consider taking calcium at breakfast, dinner and bedtime with a bite of yogurt.

7. Reevaluate your supplement needs every 2-3 months or when you use up a bottle. Supplements only help if they are what your individual body needs at this moment. Any single nutrient taken over time can create an imbalance. During Covid it became popular, and helpful to take zinc for immune health. After a couple months that zinc has to be balanced with copper or you can create zinc toxicity.

I love Elderberry Gummies - they're the perfect combination of tarts, sweet and chewy. Recently, I purchased elderberry zinc gummies and set them in arms reach of my workstation. I knew it was a mistake, but they were just so tasty! Elderberry is a food so it's hard to overdose, but I did get too much zinc. I had to take extra copper to create balance again.

Do you have questions about your supplements? Click here to meet and review your supplements.


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