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Are Dietary Supplements Really Necessary?

illustration of cat sun bathing

Sun Bathing by Jamie Shelman

Most of us eat too much, and many of us eat healthy, so… Why take extra anything?

I’m a country girl. I grew up in the Midwest surrounded by fields and farms. I spent my time outside playing in the dirt with whatever animal I could find. By age 10, I was driving a tractor and soon after that I was helping my mom can all kinds of vegetables to take us through the winter months. I was taught to respect the land and I admired my farming friends and family. But farming has changed dramatically since I was born more than 50 years ago.

Back then, farmers rotated crops in their fields between growing seasons to protect the soil. They didn’t spray over a billion pounds of pesticides on their land each year, and that fancy GMO science that causes crops to grow bigger and faster didn’t exist. Yes, back then farmers worked with Mother Nature, not against her. They knew that the quality of the crop was only as good as the quality of the soil it grew in.

Fast-forward to today and we find a completely different story—depleted soil producing nutrient-depleted food.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been concerned about the nutritive value of our food supply for quite some time. As a research journalist in the natural health field since 1992, I’ve had the honor of interviewing some incredibly smart doctors and researchers, so I’m quick to ask, “Is it possible to get all of the nutrients we need from diet alone?” While there may not be consensus in medical and research circles, I have heard a consistent chorus: Even those who eat the most pristine diet may still not be getting the nutrients they need.

A leading expert on this topic is Tieraona Low Dog, MD, who says, “It’s possible to get the nutrients you need from diet, but that’s not common.” Dr. Low Dog explains, “Living in modern times with the changes that have occurred with agricultural processes, food is less nutrient dense when it comes to important micronutrients. When we look at the hard, objective laboratory data, we find that many people have low levels of key nutrients that are essential for proper and optimal function of the human body.”

Dr. Low Dog says there is a hidden epidemic of nutrient deficiencies among Americans today. And most of her colleagues agree.

Alan Gaby, MD, literally wrote the book on this topic. His textbook, Nutritional Medicine, now in its second edition, is a must-have resource for health care professionals throughout the world. Here is Dr. Gaby’s take on this issue: “There is a great deal of evidence that many people can benefit from higher amounts of nutrients that cannot be obtained in a typical diet. For example, symptoms such as fatigue, poor stress tolerance, and anxiety often improve when people take supplements such as magnesium and B vitamins, even if their diet is relatively good.” Dr. Gaby also says that a wide range of health issues may improve with nutritional supplements in amounts higher than can be obtained from the diet.

While it’s tempting to sit back and rail on Monsanto—maker of the most prolific and toxic pesticide in use today—or fret about the chance that GMOs could soon become ubiquitous (some would argue that it’s too late for that conversation), it’s best to be positive and proactive about the choices we make with what’s presently available. So what’s a person to do?

There are three simple rules to remember:

  1. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods.
  2. Eat organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  3. Take dietary supplements to enhance the diet.

These simple guidelines have inspired this new department of S&H that will shed some light on important vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other nutrients that can give us the supplemental insurance we need. So join me right here each issue to learn how you can have a more enlightened diet.

Speaking of deficiencies…

It’s likely that your doctor has tested your vitamin D3 levels. If not, you may want to request it because several studies have shown that many of us are deficient.

We get vitamin D primarily from the sun. When our skin is exposed to the sun, it makes vitamin D—that’s why it’s been given the cute nickname “the sunshine vitamin.” But there’s nothing cute about vitamin D deficiency. When D levels are low, we are at increased risk of many illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and some autoimmune disorders. In addition, vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity, mental health issues like depression, and even dementia. Wow—it’s no wonder this little sunshine vitamin gets so much attention in the scientific literature.

And here’s the kicker: Even if you live in a sunny state like I do and spend a lot of time outdoors, you still may be deficient. I was. While controversies abound regarding the proper level and dosage, the bottom line is that you will probably benefit by adding some supplemental D3 to your diet.


Karolyn Gazella has been writing and publishing integrative health information since 1992. She is the author of several books and hundreds of articles published in both peer-reviewed medical journals and consumer magazines. She is also the co-creator and CEO of the iTHRIVE cancer survivorship plan. For more information visit www.iTHRIVEplan.com.


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Diet TipsHealthy ChoicesSupplementsVitaminsEnlightened Diet

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