Supplements

Who wants to be old? None, I am sure, as old age means sickness and pain in the form of  diseases like sugar and BP. But, now, these diseases are striking us at an even younger age, because of the present life style which is ageing our cells at a much faster rate.

The two ways in which it is doing so are as follows:

  1. Increased cellular damage
  2. Insufficient nutrients to repair that damage

This accumulated cellular damage is reflected as body age. Higher  body age means larger  cellular damage and  more aging diseases, which are reflected as Lifestyle Diseases (LSDs) such as diabetes, BP etc. So the best remedy for LSDs is to reduce the body age by correcting the above two basic causes. The supplements are an essential part of the lifestyle modification that is needed to do this. Their role in this is similar to that of anti mosquito devices in controlling infectious diseases like Dengue. Yet, people who are so particular in protecting themselves from mosquitoes, shun the supplements and expose themselves to LSDs, which are a  bigger risk than Dengue, both in terms of finances and long term health.

The reasons for treating the supplements as superfluous foods instead of super foods, which they actually are, are many. Many people stay away from supplements, because they associate the supplement tablets with sickness pills, so taking supplements gives them the feeling of sickness. But they forget that if they do not use supplements to correct their cellular damage, very soon they have to use the sickness pills. Other reasons, which are frequently cited for avoiding supplements, which border onto myths, along with scientific facts that counter them, are listed below:

Myth 1: Supplements are addictive and need to be taken for lifetime.

Fact: Supplements are needed only if the diet cannot supply the required nutrients. So they can be discontinued as soon as the quality of diet improves. But if the nutrient gap is not filled by supplements in time, LSD medicines will become lifetime companions, often at increased dose with the age.

Our bodies function more like our cars. If bad petrol is  put in the car, it starts emitting black smoke, no matter how well it was maintained in the past. Also the car continues to underperform even after replacing the bad petrol with good one, unless is thoroughly serviced. Supplements are like that servicing. They are required to restore the health that is damaged by the bad food.

Myth 2:  Supplements are another “fad” promoted by the western world and media. After all, they were not used when we were growing up, so why should we subscribe to them now ?.

Fact: National Institute of Nutrition says that normal Indian Diet can meet the Required Daily Allowances for all the nutrients including Omega 3 fats, provided one eats 2400 calories per day. But at present our lifestyle does not permit us to eat more than 1500 – 1800 calories. This becomes even less while on weight reducing diet. So most Indians are in need of Supplements and probably wider range than those used by Western people, because our supplements, unlike in West, should also supply proteins and Omega 3 fats.

Also over the time, the nutrition density of our foods has come down with the increase in industrialization of the farming and harvesting practices currently being used. We would therefore need to consume a lot more quantity to get earlier amount of nutrition. For eg. an apple a day can keep a doctor away is an adage as it contains lots of iron and other micronutrients that help with immunity. More importantly a lot of the nutrition is in the skin of the apple but with the wax coating done these days, the skin is rarely eaten which reduces the apples’ nutrition by half. The genetic modifications done to enhance the colour, visual appeal and to increase shelf life has further reduced the nutrition density of the apple. Hence one would need to consume lot more of them to get the nutrition of 1 apple  of 1970s.

Myth 3: “I eat well and I don’t suffer any deficiencies, so why do I need supplements ?”.

Fact: Nutrient deficiencies like, Scurvy and Rickets, show up only when their supply is below Required Daily Allowances. Fortunately, middle class diet has enough nutrients to meet the Required Daily Allowances,  so classic deficiency symptoms like scurvy are not our problem. Unfortunately, the middle class lifestyle requires more nutrients than Required Daily Allowances to prevent the Oxidative Stress that causes LSDs.

Oxidative Stress:  Cells are continuously damaged by Free Radicals (FRs) which are sort of bullets used by the body to kill the infections but cells also get damaged in the process.

The Causes For The Increase of Free Radicals In Our Body Are:

  • Excess Stress: Have you noticed that when you are under severe pressure, you tend to fall sick more often. Severe emotional stress increases free radicals significantly which results in oxidative stress unless more antioxidants are supplied through good diet / Supplements.
  • Pollution: The environment has another major cause of oxidative stress in our lungs and bodies. Heavy metals in air and water pollution, cigarette smoke, including secondhand smoke increase the Free Radicals by multiplying them million fold. Our contaminated water table that is being used for agriculture along with chemical processes that is being used is further reducing the nutrition density of foods today.
  • Medications and radiation: Medications cause increased oxidative stress in the body. Every drug is a foreign substance to the body, and the body has to work harder trying to metabolize and eliminate it. This puts increased demand on many of the metabolic pathways in the liver and the body as a whole. Chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation therapy primarily work by creating oxidative stress damage to the cancer cells, which kill them. That is why, patients find cancer treatments difficult to tolerate. All these result in Increased production of free radicals.

In short, oxidative Stress results when the free radicals damage is more than what body can repair. Our Body repairs this damage by using antioxidants, vitamins and minerals through good nutrition. Oxidative stress can be result of either excess free radicals or less than optimal defense mechanism like the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and good nutrition that can take care of the damage. At present we are suffering from both. While our lifestyle is flooding the body with free radicals, our diet, without supplements, cannot supply enough antioxidants on a continuous basis. So if you see yourself going down with viral, fever, cold, cough often, then chances are that you are experiencing high levels of oxidative stress and It is time to increase your nutrition.

Myth 4: “ I am taking supplements, including some from abroad, so I can eat any junk/unhealthy food or indulge in foods that I like and do not need to bother about good nutrition / healthy active lifestyle”

Fact: Supplements are not a substitute for good, balanced nutrition. They can only complement it by filling up the nutrient gaps left by good nutrition. They cannot undo the damage caused by junk or unhealthy foods. So If you are having supplements and not following a good nutrition program, then chances are some of the health conditions could be delayed but you will not be able to stop them.

Word of Caution When Taking Supplements:

  • Supplement, as the word suggests is to be used as an add-on to a healthy eating habits and not as substitute to the good eating. For example, if one has issues with digestive health, he/she should look at foods that are supportive of the health issue along with fiber, micronutrients and aloe-vera supplements.
  • The company credentials, history, quality of ingredients, supply chain, certification processes and the manufacturing processes that are used to make the supplement is equally important to know and understand, especially if one is looking at using it in the long term

We at Fit for life,

  • can recommend appropriate supplements to support your medical conditions and hence make your medications more impactful and effective
  • can identify those supplements that are needed to support your lifestyle needs and your desired goals