Is taking supplements really necessary? In a perfect world, the answer to this question would be "no." In the world that most of us inhabit, I think the answer is often "yes." This may seem inconsistent with the Paleo approach. After all, our ancestors weren't taking pills to stay healthy, so why should we?
Our modern environment is profoundly different from that of our ancestors. In fact, a fundamental tenet of the ancestral health movement is the recognition that we are "out of sync" with our current environment in numerous ways, and it is that mismatch that is responsible for the modern epidemic of disease.
· A decrease in the diversity and quality of the soil (and the consequent decrease in the nutrient density of foods).
· Decrease in the diversity of consumed plant species.
· Increased exposure to food and environmental toxins.
· Overuse of antibiotics, contraceptives, and other medications (damaging the intestine and liver).
· Increase in chronic stress.
· Decrease in the quality and duration of sleep.
· Reduced connection with nature and less time outdoors.
· Removal from the tight-knit social groups that were the norm for humans until very recently (and the resulting effect on our nervous systems)
· Increase in the number of hours we spend sitting.
Maintenance vs taking supplements
Humans are adapted to obtain nutrients from food, and food contains many cofactors and enzymes necessary to absorb those nutrients.
However, certain nutrients are difficult to obtain even in the context of a healthy diet (such as vitamin D and magnesium), and may need to be supplemented indefinitely.
We can call this "maintenance supplementation." Other nutrients that can fall into this category, depending on your diet and health needs, include vitamin A, vitamin K2, selenium, iodine, and vitamin C.
Vitamin A is only available in significant amounts in organ meats and fish liver oils. While it is certainly possible (and desirable) to eat organ meat, many people have a strong dislike of it. That makes cod liver oil, a food-based supplement, the next best option.
Therapeutic supplementation involves taking specific nutrients for a specific purpose over a specific period of time.
Diet is always the starting point, but it is often not enough on its own to solve long-term chronic health problems. In these cases, smart therapeutic supplementation is often the catalyst that leads chronically ill people to optimal health.
Probiotics, probiotics, enzymes, everything to restore the integrity of the intestinal barrier, restore a healthy intestinal microbiota and address other persistent problems is a good start towards recovering our health, because without a good, healthy intestine and without imbalances, it is not possible to achieve results if you seek relief.
If you are supplementing, does that mean your diet is not working?
If we lived in a perfect world where it was possible to get all the nutrients we need in sufficient quantities from food, where everyone would be willing to eat the foods that contain those nutrients, and where modern influences such as depletion of soil, the environment and there were no dietary toxins, chronic stress, etc., so yes, we could agree with that statement.
After years of poor nutrition (either too many food toxins or not enough nutrients, or both) and exposure to other harmful aspects of the modern lifestyle, your body may need to do some recovery or "rehab" before it can. make the most of an ancestral diet high in nutrients. For example:
· No matter how nutrient-dense your diet is, if you have low stomach acid or impaired enzyme production, you won't be able to absorb those nutrients efficiently.
· If your sugar cravings are out of control because you can't metabolize fat properly, you won't be able to eat a healthy diet.
· If your detoxification mechanisms are compromised by nutrient deficiencies and too many toxins, you won't feel your best.
None of these problems, if they occur, means that a good, nutrient-dense diet is not a good option for you. They just mean that you need a little extra help, which will be temporary, in the vast majority of cases. (You may also need to modify your diet a bit to better suit your needs.)
Dogma is the enemy of good medicine. Anything that works and causes the least amount of damage should be welcome. Much of the time it will be dieting. Sometimes it will be a supplement. And yes, from time to time, it will be traditional medicine. Clean ancestral nutrient-dense diets like Paleo are a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Why not use whatever other means we can to achieve our goal of optimal health? Most people would agree that modern innovations such as emergency medical care are welcome. We should not abandon them because they are not "100% natural", we use them because they improve our lives.
Supplements also fall into this category, as long as we use them wisely and in the context of a nutrient-dense, whole food diet.
Your cells use glucose, a kind of sugar, for energy. The hormone insulin helps get the glucose from digested food into your cells. People with fatty liver disease often have a condition called insulin resistance. That means your body makes insulin but can’t use it well. Glucose builds up in your blood, and your liver turns it into fat. Certain fats in your diet can help your body use insulin better. That means your cells can take in glucose and your liver doesn't need to make and store fat.