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Spring’s good time to think about why supplements can help – or not

Spring is big here in the Pacific Northwest!

Fresh dark dirt hides beneath the mat of last year’s weeds and this year’s fresh grass. Sagging fences require a lift. Eager gardeners get their seeds sprouting indoors.

All this spring activity and fresh growth makes this a good time to reboot one’s health. For me it is a time for fresh thoughts and new things to learn in the area of nutrition. My book and webinar list is ever growing!

As we launch into spring, I offer you some thoughts instead of tips, and reasons instead of recipes, all for you to mull over.

This topic includes the multitude of supplement companies and programs on the market – specifically the multilevel marketing supplement companies (MLM). I know lots of people personally who have significantly benefited from them. This column is neither an explicit dig nor an endorsement of them. I simply want to share some thoughts I have regarding them.

I’m treading with caution and a little trepidation. I treat this topic with respect. I ask for yours as well.

There are many MLM supplement companies that promise benefits of vibrant health, increased energy, weight loss, medication reduction and so much more. Some of the benefits begin to seem similar after a while and it really makes a person wonder just how these diverse supplements can help.

The question that comes up often in my mind is, “How do I interpret the success purported by the ads or evidenced by friends taking these supplements in the context of what I know about good science and common sense? ”

Both professionally and personally, I find myself being a mixture of a few things: a gentle critic, a hesitant supporter and one who requires reasonable evidence. Things that change us touch our emotions deeply.

I don’t expect someone’s life to improve with a supplement and them not to feel deeply moved by it. I am always open to new ideas but I am never willing to let go of that which has made sense to me up until that point. However, I also lean toward skepticism at what I consider over-emotional claims.

So how can all these companies be helpful? I want to offer three of the main areas addressed by MLM supplement companies that may actually help people improve their health: improving nutrient deficiencies, the microbiome and blood sugar levels.

Nutrient Deficiencies

This would seem rather obvious (supplements should prevent or correct nutrient deficiencies) but it ought not to be brushed off.

The truth is that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is one full of processed, food-like substances (at times I wonder how much of it can even be called “food” at all), which leave large gaps in a person’s diet. While calorie-rich, the SAD diet is nutrient-poor.

Not only that, but it can burden the body, taxing its reserves and creating inflammation. Energy can flag, sleep gets disturbed, moods can swing, blood sugar soars then crashes, chronic health issues begin to develop – you get the idea.

Needless to say, if you begin to replenish the nutrients the body so desperately wants (provided you can digest and absorb them properly), you will start feeling better. The upside-down symptoms of deficiencies will turn right-side up again. It will feel like a miracle.

Many supplement companies claim to have highly absorbable forms of nutrients. This is important, as most Americans’ digestion is less than optimal in some way. When diet-poor or chronically ill people improve their nutrient status with good quality supplements, they will feel better.

The microbiome

The microbiome is a big word that refers to the ecosystem of beneficial bacteria in the body. It is a hot topic now and for good reason.

We now know that there are more bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells in our body. Those bacteria are powerful. They communicate to the brain, endocrine glands, immune system and digestive tract.

The state of the microbiome in the gut will affect the whole body (mood, hormones, immune system, digestion, nutrient status, etc). Supplements that offer good quality probiotics, prebiotics, and gut support supplements can offer a whole-body benefit. Overall health can improve. It can feel like a miracle.

Blood Sugar Balance

I won’t boast about having a comprehensive understanding of the ways all the supplements on the market claim to help with blood sugar control. I also won’t delve into the mechanisms of whether they actually all work. Some that contain chromium, inositol and cinnamon can be truly helpful.

What is important to know is that it is crucial that blood sugars act civilly and behave themselves. This is important for everyone, not just those with diabetes.

Why? Because blood sugar regulation is a basic function that your brain, mood, weight, hormones (including reproductive function) depend on. If your blood sugars are “wacky,” expect to experience wackiness in many areas of your health. This is why supplements that assist with blood sugar management can boost mood, energy, focus, weight, and fertility. It can feel like a miracle.

These three (nutrient status, the microbiome, and blood sugar) are all tied together because, when out of whack, they produce inflammation in the body. Chronic, inflammatory assaults on the body create most of the main health disparities today.

Getting these three things right matters. As I said before, most Americans who eat the SAD diet are out of balance in one or more of these areas.

By no means do I intend to over-simplify any of what certain MLM supplement programs can offer. Due to the limitations of my own knowledge of the topic as well as the multiplicity of programs offered, the thoughts I have given here are not comprehensive.

However, I think it may be helpful to recognize the three points mentioned above so as to remove some of the mysticism surrounding the nutrients in the supplements.

The sheer basic biology of it might give balance to the over-emotionalism that is so easy to fall prey to. Sense can be made of why the powdered drinks or daily capsules you consume each morning work for you and another supplement your friend takes works for him/her.

Whatever supplement routine you choose (or don’t choose) to take, never forget the power and role of real, whole foods. Regardless of which diet you prefer (paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, undeclared, etc.), if you can improve your nutrient status, have a healthy microbiome and manage your blood sugars, you are on your way to helping and healing your body.

You will see improvements in your health and will likely prevent other issues from arising. Food is amazing. No amount of pretty packaging or glowing testimonials will change that.

– Cathryn Arndt is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owns a nutrition counseling business called The Pantry Lab LLC. She lives in the McDowell Creek area with her husband and baby daughter. To learn more about Cathryn, visit her Facebook page or You Tube Channel by searching under “Dietitian Cathryn.” Find her blog at thepantrylab.com