Is Supplementation Needed If You Are Eating Healthily?

SupplementsSo if you follow all my tips on eating healthily in my ‘Healthy Eating For Rubbish Cooks‘ Series, does that mean you don’t need to take supplements, minerals or vitamins?

The answer is: use your common sense (which isn’t the same as ignoring it or over-worrying about it).  You don’t need every supplement, and health food shops are full to the brim of ideas for you to spend your money on.

If you follow my tips on healthy eating, weight loss and exercise and you are feeling in tip top condition, then no, I doubt you need a supplement.

But if you are exhausted and have tried all my tips to get more energy, are sleep deprived and generally feel rubbish, then yes, maybe it would be a good plan.  The sorts of things that can be helped are PMT, joint pains, digestive issues, skin problems, depression, I even saw them help Alopecia on ‘The Food Hospital’ on Channel 4.

My top tip on supplementation is to ASK someone who knows more than you and knows more than the internet.  Sometimes the people who work in health food shops can be really helpful.  Sometimes you might actually want to talk to a nutritionist, homeopath or medical herbalist.  You might even have a great doctor who is willing to do a test for you to check how you are doing, as general exhaustion can also be a sign of deeper problems.  If they won’t do a check on your body’s nutrients, then you will find that there are private professionals who will; but make sure that you use someone with loads of experience who has come well recommended to you.

I think that the biggest question is whether to take a multi-vitamin or not.  Some people claim that you can get all the vitamins that you need from a healthy balanced diet.  Some claim that unless you eat totally organic, the quality of our vegetables and meat is not good enough any more and you will need vitamins.  My answer is; does your body feel healthy and vital?  If not, what’s wrong with it?  Maybe consider a supplement or vitamin.

I do use supplements, so I’m going to list what I use here or have used.  For all of them there is a really obvious reason, I’m not just supplementing for no reason.  Plus I have asked professionals about the combination of them.

Bear in mind that I haven’t slept through the night in 6 yrs, I have 2 young children (6yo and 2yo), I co-sleep and am an extended breast-feeder, as well as working from home when you look at my list!

1) Floradix: A liquid mineral and iron supplement: This is magic in a bottle for me when I’m breast feeding, and it doesn’t constipate you like iron can.  Without it I was getting HUGE bruises, but within a couple of weeks of going back on it I had tonnes more energy and the bruises were gone.

2) Vitamins: I take the ones for breast-feeding women as those little tikes do tend to suck all the good bits out of our bodies.

3) Omega 3, 6 and 9: My brain works better with these, REALLY noticeably!

4) Vitamin C: My body really likes me taking vitamin C, despite the fact that I pretty much always hit my 5 a day.  Maybe it’s habit, but I don’t feel as good starting the day without it.

5) Probiotic: A proper ‘pill’ one, rather than a yogurt with sugar.  Mine come from Optibac who kindly sent me a couple of packs to try for free.  I’d been having stomach cramps and this totally fixed it.  I’m going to write a proper post all about what probiotics are in the next couple of weeks for you.

I was talking to a friend today about the fact that she reckoned that supplements had helped her depression.  I know of loads of people who swear by whatever it is that they take.  There is a possibility that it is a case of the vitamins being a placebo.  But then there is research to show that even operations can be placebos because of the power of the mind.  I don’t really care, what is most important is that the proof is in the pudding.  There will be times in your life when you need a little extra help.  If the help is there and available, then I think it’s well worth it.

BUT, I’ll say again; it’s wise to get advise because herbs, vitamins, minerals and supplements are actually a lot more powerful than you might think.  You can take the wrong things that might make the symptoms worse or disagree with something else you are taking.

One final word: If you are pregnant, then it’s crucial that you take a multi-vitamin that is tailored for your needs and includes folic acid.  If you are pregnant with twins, get professional advice about whether you need more.

What are your favourite supplements?

Or do you think that it should be possible to survive without them?


Exhaustion Tips – Always start with Physical

I’m pretty much a past master at dealing with exhaustion, having not slept through the night for 5 years.  However, it’s not really as bad as it sounds and only sometimes gets as bad as I described a couple of months ago.  In my situation, it isn’t a case of changing the kids, it’s more about dealing with it, and still enjoying my life.

I know when I’m exhausted because I want to shout at people/kids or cry.  That is the sign that it’s gone too far.  The emotional side to it can get thoroughly overwhelming, so I always recommend that we focus on supporting our bodies first of all.  If the body feels as good as it can, considering the lack of sleep, then it will help us to keep our emotions more balanced as well.

I was particularly reminded of this recently, because things had improved, and so rather cockily I had stopped taking the supplements I listed below.  Suddenly things got worse (Little Dimples at 15 months has decided to develop molars; Oh joy), and I was absolutely knackered, like someone had let all my energy down the drain.  I was thinking which of my exhaustion tips to publish this week, when I realised that I hadn’t yet published this one, and oh yes, had actually not been taking my magic potion (see point 1) for a couple of weeks because Ocado has stopped stocking it.  So I’m back on it, and perking up already.

(Please note, I am not a doctor, these are not meant to replace being sensible and going to the doctor.  If you have any medical issues, please check with your doctor before trying anything that you haven’t done before).

Things that keep the body going are:

  1. Floradix – this is a magical iron and mineral supplement, which makes a huge difference to me.  Pricey and for some reason it’s no longer available from sainsburies or Boots or Ocado.  But you can get it from a health food shop and other chemists (My local health food shop in Radlett sells it)
  2. Blueberries – seriously, I had a mate who visited once every couple of weeks, and I found that although we worked all day and I was tired, I seemed to be fine the next day.  Then I realised that she came with a big packet of blueberries, and I got the same results if I bought my own.
  3. Drinking water/squash – if your body doesn’t get it’s 8 glasses of water a day it thinks it’s in a desert: enough said!
  4. Bathing in Epsom Salts – you buy a huge bag from a health shop and pop 2 cup full’s in a bath.  It helps MASSIVELY with the sense of overwhelm.  It also helps to ensure that you get 1hr alone each week.
  5. Not too much chocolate – If I eat too much I get a headache and feel worse.  I’m not cutting it out, because it works for me right now, it’s just about limiting it daily, just as it is wise to limit caffienne and fizzy drinks.
  6. 15 min walk – I mentioned last week how fresh air always helps.  I’m not talking about running or anything strenuous that might tip your body over the edge, just a brisk walk every day.
  7. Massage/Reflexology – I’m a big proponent of massage or reflexology.  Even if you can only afford it once a month or less, you can do some yourself or find people in training you are cheaper.
  8. Omega 3,6 and 9 oils keep my brain more in order than it is without!
  9. Vitamins – as I’m still breastfeeding, I am taking pregnacare, because as much as I love Little Dimples, I know that she is basically a parasite sucking all the nutrients out of me.
  10. 5 fruit/veg a day – it takes a little effort, but is worth it, and I can feel the difference when I don’t manage it for a couple of days.

Not all of these things are cheap, but I suppose that being nearly 42 I’ve prioritised my health a bit higher up my list now, so it just means not doing something else.  Feel free to add your recommendations for people below, every little helps!

For more ideas …..

You might like to check out the rest of my tips on dealing with exhaustion.

UPDATE February 2012 – I’ve also just started a whole series on ‘Healthy Eating For Rubbish Cooks‘ which will take you through the most simple and basic nutrition that you need to know and some simple recipes.

For a whole life makeover, check out my book ‘The Mummy Whisperers Six Steps To A Sparkling You and Enjoying Being A Mum‘ – only 99p and you don’t have to have a kindle to read it.