Supplements: Healing or Hoax?Oct 26, 2022
There are usually three camps of people when it comes to supplements:
- The group of people who LOVE trying out every new fan-dangle supplement. They’re usually the ones who are taking 6+ supps a day (self-prescribed).
- The second group are the people who think supplements are a hoax. The ones who believe you just pee out your money. The ones who are suss about the healing benefit of supplements. Who either prefer to pop pharmaceuticals OR get all their nutrients from wholefoods.
- The last group are the people in between. They’re open to the healing benefit of supplements but are cautious about popping supps. Either because they hate swallowing pills and prefer a minimalist approach, or they just don’t know what their body needs.
Where are you when it comes to supplements? I was definitely in the third camp. When my health fell apart after having kids, I was open to using natural medicine, but I was sooooo confused about all the options and what my body really needed that I got stuck in analysis paralysis and didn’t end up taking anything (this was even the case when I was studying nutritional medicine for three years, including learning about EVERY practitioner-grade supplement out there!). I’ll come back to how I navigated supplements a bit later.
But first, I want to talk about why some people come to believe that supplements are a hoax, as well as evidence-based research to show when supplements can be healing.
Supplements as a Hoax
Here are some common reasons why people believe supplements are a “scam”:
Supplements are a waste of money - you just pee/poop them all out.
Yep, I agree. If you buy poor quality supplements that is! You see, cheap supermarket/chemist supps are often made with “cheap” nutrients. Take magnesium oxide for example. This form of magnesium doesn’t absorb very well into the body (you end up pooping most of it out!), yet it’s found in many cheap magnesium supplements. I’ve lost count of how many new clients, when reviewing their self-prescribed supplement regime, are taking the popular Blackmores Bio Magnesium which is loaded with the poorly absorbed magnesium oxide. Cheap supermarket/chemist supps are also often made with more fillers and additives than actual nutrients. Not only do the fillers/additives dilute the therapeutic ability of the nutrients, they can also be toxic and dangerous.
Supplement companies are just trying to make money on your vulnerabilities.
I have a lot to say about this. Firstly, isn’t any commercial entity created to make a living for the founder and staff? If making money isn’t a priority in a business/company, then you may as well stop charging and do volunteer work. It’s not a bad thing to make money. Sure there are legit businesses selling poor quality “snake oil” type supplements, but if you do your research, you’ll know if you are purchasing purpose and results-driven, therapeutic products designed to actually assist proper functioning of the body. I almost always prescribe practitioner-only supplements as they have been tested for quality and have evidence-based research to back them up. If you’re still feeling like ALL supplement companies are out to “steal your money”, then this is a reflection of your own money/self insecurities.
I’ve tried supplements before. They didn’t do anything for me.
There are a few reasons why supplements haven’t worked for you. Firstly, you might’ve been using poor quality supplements, which aren’t ever going to have a deep healing, therapeutic effect (see point number one earlier).
Secondly, you might’ve self-prescribed or been given a supplement by a practitioner, with little evidence of what your body actually needs. Maybe you suffer from fatigue and read or were given CoQ10 because it helps with “fatigue” - but a lack of CoQ10 wasn’t the imbalance leading to your fatigue. Or you tried a probiotic for your IBS, with little results, because actually, your IBS was due to a digestive organ imbalance, not a microbiome imbalance.
Maybe you have actually had testing or some type of diagnostic work that showed you need a specific supplement, but when you took the nutrient nothing changed for you. This could be because the dosage wasn’t right. To actually “move the needle” on a body system imbalance, most people need high therapeutic doses. Small “multivitamin” doses rarely make a difference.
And finally, maybe you were taking the right supplement at the right dosage for what you physiologically needed. Still, your deeper root causes were never addressed - like, say, toxins in your environment, a poor diet, over-exercising, or your inner mental-emotional state and how you respond to stressors. You can’t out-supplement deeper root causes.
Supplements for Healing
Ok, so as long as you’re taking therapeutic supplements, for what your body needs based on testing, at the right dosages, and you’re addressing deeper root causes, I can wholeheartedly say to you: yes, supplements can assist in healing. I have seen this time and time again in our practice, with clients’ body burnout symptoms - fatigue, mood imbalances, gut issues, hormonal imbalances, and skin issues - dramatically improving. It’s literally a daily occurrence!
But for those still sceptical, here are some evidence-based research examples, that have shown the healing effects of supplements:
- Probiotic shows an improvement in mental health (yes! A probiotic): Lactobacillus plantarum DR7 alleviates stress and anxiety in adults: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study
- Nutrients and botanicals for treatment of stress: adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitter imbalance, anxiety, and restless sleep
- Potential for amino acids supplementation during inflammatory bowel diseases
- Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome
- And here’s one even for COVID-19 severity: Vitamin C may reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation in critically ill patients: a meta-regression analysis
I could keep going, listing research that supports therapeutic effects of nutrients. For those who are curious, search PubMed for your given symptom/health condition + supplement.
What Can We Learn Here?
This small handful of studies provides such a valuable teaching moment right here!
What’s infuriating is people often think nutraceutical supplements are a hoax. WRONG! I love it when peer-reviewed scientific literature provides sound evidence that nutraceuticals - in their right form, and in the right dosage - help speed up the recovery and/or prevent illnesses and symptoms.
Recently, there have been many of you who said that you needed help finding effective solutions to your burnout - and that you want to do it NATURALLY.
These research articles (and many like it - just check out PubMed!) shows something - that using nutraceuticals can actually assist in the healing process. The difference between using nutraceuticals compared to using pharmaceuticals, is that you are actually REPLENISHING depleted stores (which often cause symptoms in the first place!), rather than band-aiding the symptom with a drug that is not actually ‘fixing’ the root cause.
How do I know which nutraceutical is going to help you? This is largely based on functional medicine testing - we only ever prescribe what your body NEEDS based on testing.
People often make healing so difficult for themselves when things can actually be so easy!
Like how Jenny (one of our clients - name changed) managed to overcome her anxiety & food addiction by replenishing her burned-out vitamin B stores!
Healing is possible. Let’s do this together!
If you’re keen to quit guessing and actually start testing to see what your body needs in order to heal, book in for a “Connect The Dots” Initial Consult here. Or if you’d prefer to get a feel for how we treat body burnout using functional medicine, you’ll love watching our (free) 10-part Hormonal & Gut Burnout minicourse - register here.
Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.
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