Supplements: are they really necessary?

The supplement issue is a complex one.

I’ll admit my bias straight up. I’m a fan of nature – and traditional wisdom (if you hadn’t noticed). There are so many examples of us humans getting ahead of ourselves, convinced we’ve trumped either or both, only to be tripped up by an underestimation of nature’s sophistication. I’ll give you two:

1. Germ theory, which resulted in overzealous promotion of hygiene & antibiotics. Oops!
2. The lipid hypothesis, which led to unnatural dietary advice & the over prescription of statin drugs. Oops!

With the fall of such widespread health and medical fads, even the so-called evidenced-based ones, we’re often forced to admit that nature (and many traditional cultures) had it right all along.

The truth of the matter is that sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know. So when it comes to young sciences (especially those backed by a booming industry), by now we should realise that erring on the side of caution has its merits.

Supplements: are they necessary?

In saying that, good quality supplements do have their place when it comes to disease or deficiencies, or for anyone who can’t commit (temporarily or permanently) to eating the recommended 5-9 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily.

There are also many instances in which our requirements for nutrients dramatically increase:

  • Stress, worry, anxiety (even over-thinking)
  • Intensive exercise, acute or chronic illness
  • Pollution and environmental chemicals
  • Smoking, drinking, recreational drugs (yes, even coffee)
  • All pharmaceutical medicines (e.g. asthma meds, birth control)
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding

Failing to meet these requirements impacts the functioning of every system in the body, sometimes irreparably. In these situations, additional nutrition is warranted. It’s not pseudoscience – it’s biochemistry.

So yes, supplements may indeed be helpful for many people, but there is an effective (and inexpensive) alternative for those looking to take a more proactive role in improving their health – and that of the planet. Nature can provide abundantly if you know where to look. And it just happens to be my favourite thing to talk about.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How do you stay on top of your nutritional needs? Supplements or food?

Many supplements available direct-to-consumer are ineffective or contain suboptimal ingredients. There are also numerous contra-indications and complex interactions to be aware of when it comes to prescribing supplements. I recommend working with a knowledgeable practitioner to determine which nutrients are important for you to be taking (or not taking) – regardless of whether you’re opting for synthetic or natural products. There are some brilliant integrative Doctors, Naturopaths, Nutritionists and Dieticians out there who genuinely know what they’re doing when it comes to supplementation. Seek them out. And always remember to listen to your body.


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  • The Eco Mum

    Yes! Totally agree.

    There are definitely times when we simply do not give ourselves adequate nutrition (let alone optimal nutrition…) and the help of supplements is a great way to solve that.

    That being said the market is flooded with synthetically derived supplement products which simply are no substitute for REAL food.

    If you look at say, Vitamin C extracted from a food source vs Vitamin C synthetically created, there is a huge difference in the cellular structure (the latter does not even have a ‘cell’ per se!) which means there will be a difference in how the body absorbs it. Its fairly logically really.

    We supplement with only real food products – herbal infusions (Stinging Nettle is my go-to as a working Mum!) and JuicePlus+ which has been a God-send for me since having my second baby. I will not touch a synthetic supplement now since learning how they are made and how ineffective they can be.

    Great article – gets people thinking about what they are taking and whether it really work which is always a good thing :)

  • Vera Dekanic Dragone

    yes well said,

    I find taking adaptogenic herbs helps me greatly with a history of chronic fatigue… I spent thousand on supplements over the years and learnt the hard way, most don’t work… I get more out of a dozen oysters and a good dose of liver than anything else. But I find with my kids because they still resist certain types of food, I tend to top them up with a good zinc supplement and B6. Vx