You can't watch or read anything these days without being bombarded with adverts or advice about the latest superfood or 'must-have' supplement to help you with your xyz health issue - many with an eye-watering price or a subscription plan to help you out. And most will target only symptoms, and not the root cause of your health problem. My position is that supplement use should be regarded as a temporary solution to a problem or quick relief while you and your primary medical practitioner continue to identify and then address the root causes. That’s the main guiding principle of functional medicine – focus on the root cause. And it's the best path to long-term healing.
However, there are some exceptions and I want to discuss two – one that we all need and another that many people need.
Research has shown that the further away from the equator that you live, the higher the incidence of vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. Vitamin D is important for helping with the absorption of key minerals such as calcium, maintains healthy bone, regulating genes and cell growth, modulating the immune system, and more. So a chronic insufficiency has real health implications. It’s difficult to get enough of it from our food – cod liver oil or fatty fish is the best way (although mercury contamination is a problem). It’s also difficult to get vitamin D naturally via exposure to the sun so supplementation is a solution.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just taking a vitamin D capsule, especially high dose options. Vitamin D needs cofactors to be absorbed – these include magnesium, boron, zinc, and vitamin A. So if you take vitamin D by itself, it will sequester the available cofactors to help with absorption. And you may become deficient in the cofactors. The solution is choosing a product that comes with enough of these cofactors – and this is usually in a good quality multivitamin. Vitamin D is also fat soluble, so you need good quality fats in your diet and enough bile to help with fat digestion.
Vitamin D needs magnesium, boron, zinc, and Vitamin A to be absorbed. These should be included in a good multivitamin. Taking Vitamin D on it's own may contribute to deficiencies or insufficiencies in these cofactors.
And this brings us to the second important supplement. Bile Salts. Does everyone need to be taking bile salts? No, but there are many people who have had their gall bladders removed and they absolutely need to be taking bile salts with every meal. Why? While the liver makes bile, the gall bladder stores and releases it at the optimal time and at the optimal concentration. Bile is the substance that emulsifies fats, allowing absorption for use in the body. It also allows for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K. Not having sufficient bile will lead to nutrient deficiencies over time and result in degrading health.
What's the root cause?
And that leads me another related issue. One usually has the gall bladder removed because of the pain of gall stones. I’m not dismissing this pain at all but have you considered what caused the formation of these gall stones in the first place? It’s usually sluggish bile flow which can be caused by too much cholesterol in the bile. There can be other reasons but the point is that removing the gall bladder didn’t address the root cause – which is something not functioning efficiently in the liver. And that should not be ignored.
Everyone needs more vitamin D. For those of us living far from the equator or using a lot of sunscreen, please supplement with a good quality multivitamin. And if you’ve had your gall bladder removed, take bile salts and insist that your GP monitors your liver function.
If you have some questions about your health, book a free 20-min consultation with me.