Why should I take supplements?
Taking supplements is no longer optional, it is necessary. Let's examine the facts of why this is true. First, and foremost as we age, we have less building blocks to support our bodies. My favorite metaphor is the bridge. I know you are not surprised. ;) So here you are building a bridge, no matter what age you are. The bottom line is, it will most likely take you longer and it will probably be harder to build that bridge once you turn 50 or 60 than when you were 35. There are many reasons for this, including less muscle mass, fewer mitochondria causing you to have less energy, and an increase of breakdown to the cellular building going on, in all areas of the body. Hence, aging causes greater breakdown products in our body (clastic activity) and less building blocks for growth (blastic activity). This well described mechanism dictates we will need more growth factors for supporting and optimizing our health as we age. Taking supplements and hormones is one way to offset this inevitable imbalance.
You need more material to help form and strengthen building blocks (blastic activity) and you also need to reduce their breakdown (clastic activity).
Where do we get these building blocks? Not from the food sources at chain grocery stores where it has been sitting around for days losing vitamin content every hour it is on the self. Often fruit and vegetables have been trucked in days earlier, beginning the decline in nutrient loss. The antioxidant value and vitamin content are both related to how fresh your food is sourced and how long it took to your hometown grocery store. Look at the label or ask where did your food come from. Is it from New Zealand, Mexico, or a neighboring state? Just do the math in hours it took to get from ground to truck to plane, to store, to your grocery cart, and home. You are loosing out on essential vitamins and nutrients literally every step of the way. This is why it is important to buy local and organic and another reason why you most likely will need supplements to balance and optimize your health. Food is one of our building blocks. Food is medicine. We also need to make sure we are able to metabolize and convert these food sources to utilizable products for our body to use. Food, vitamins, supplements, and a health-conscious lifestyle h keep our brain-body machine fit and well-oiled for action.
The story of Vitamin B-12:
B-12 is a perfect example of how age shifts our body and changes its ability to produce and utilize vitamins. By the time we turn 50, our gastric mucosa (cells in our stomach lining), begin to thin and atrophy (die). This is important because our gastric mucosa cells supply our body with a unique substance called intrinsic factor (IF). IF is needed to absorb vitamin B12. With less IF your body, not because of anything you did, it is just a natural course of aging that this happens, your B12 often levels drop with age.
This is another interesting phenomena when it comes to talking about trophic support many friends say, I don't want to do something that isn't natural. Vitamin B12 is natural but the aging process removes its ability to be at adequate levels. We need B-12 for our brains and many bodily processes. This is important because as any physician will tell you, one of the basic blood tests ordered when someone presents with dementia or depression is a vitamin B-12 level. This is because low vitamin B-12 can actually cause dementia, depression, skin disorders, fatigue and many other problems. Vitamin B-12 and many of the B vitamins are important for the central nervous system (CNS) function and development. The B vitamins are so important for brain-body health they are always part of pre-natal vitamin regime to help a baby develop and avoid CNS abnormalities. Not everyone needs vitamin B-12 supplementation but the majority of people will as they age.
Why can't I take one vitamin for everything?
We are all unique living, breathing, human beings with individual biochemical interactions occurring every moment influenced by our inner and outer life. There is NO “One A Day” vitamin supplement to fit all people. The one size fits all idea no longer applies to our current understanding of health and disease. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest myths that many of us grew up with, which still causes us to look for 'the silver bullet' that alleviates disease in total. Matter of fact, we are still doing this with Alzheimer's disease, focusing exclusively on the amyloid theory of origin rather than multifactorial processes. Heath care is slow to shift but shifting we are, to the process of personalized and precision medicine based on your genes and your lifestyle factors that influence your genes, epigenetics.
What supplements should I take?
What supplements you take depend on many factors including age, health, genetics, and laboratory work. These tests provide guides pointing us as to what we can do to optimize your health. Further guidance comes from questions using the SLEDS+S acronym used to assess your Sleep, Learning, Exercise, Diet, Stress, and Socialization.
As we age, certain vitamins and minerals are found at deficient levels and should be supplemented if found to be low. For Brain Health Optimization they should be followed till they are optimized then checked at least annually. The ones most susceptible vitamins that require optimization are: Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Folate, Zinc, and Magnesium.
In my experience, most people will need some form of supplementation to optimize their brain health.
What about Inflammation?
Evaluating inflammation via your blood markers is important in your brain-body health assessment. Inflammation has been implicated in a variety of acute and chronic diseases. Acute inflammation is when you have an infection that has a rapid onset, often caused by bacteria or viruses. Once resolved, the inflammation returns to normal. Chronic inflammation is what we are most concerned about. It wrecks havoc on our body and brain. We now know that depression, schizophrenia, and other brain spectrum disorders such as bipolar disorder, have higher inflammation levels associated with these conditions. (1,2) This includes many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson's, and other dementia’s and also cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. Remember certain genes also make us more prone to inflammation, such as the APOE4. So it is important to know what your APOE4 status is. How your body metabolizes medicine may also contribute to inflammation, eg. general anesthesia in APOE4 + individuals has a greater chance of memory impairment, related to inflammation. Variations in genes involved in the breakdown of medicines in the liver can cause these medicines to accumulate and build up. Toxins in the environment are a major cause of inflammation. Excess sugar in the form of additive sugars, simple carbohydrates, and sodas, are contributing to insulin resistance which signals a cascade of inflammatory factors. Watch “That Sugar Film”, and see what sugar can do to your body.
How can I reduce inflammation in my body?
Many strategies exist to reduce inflammation in the body. Using blood levels, pain levels, mood tracking, sleep studies, allergy testing, and dietary habits etc., we can assess what is happening in the body that lies at the root cause of inflammation. We do not want to just treat the inflammation. We want to understand where it comes from. This is a change to a functional form of medicine that stresses the importance of understanding you, your body and the underlying causes of health challenges you are facing. Measuring inflammation and carrying out carefully designed experiments with lifestyle modifications, supplements, vitamins, allows you a birds-eye view into your unique chemistry and understanding of how to reduce inflammation.