Ep 8 Supplement to Support

First in step 6 of my “Get Your Shit Together” program, I want to make sure that you’re not trying to out-supplement a nutrient poor diet.  Supplements are a great tool, but they are not a replacement for properly prepared, well sourced, balanced whole foods.

Now, what are some of the reasons why people may take supplements:

  1. To substitute for something that’s missing or low, or to compensate for a missing organ
  2. Stimulation of a specific system, gland, or organ
  3. Support for things like cognitive function, hormone production, adrenal function

How do you know if the supplements you’re taking are high quality or not?  They’re not regulated by the FDA.  We have recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals but those are mostly to prevent diseases like scurvy, not necessarily looking for ideal function.  There are some 3rd party organizations that deal with their own measurements and certifications.

Next, what form of the actual vitamins are they using and how is the delivery method going to ensure that your body can actually use them?  Is there a fat or oil included with the fat-soluble vitamins? Taking that a step further, if you’re following an anti-inflammatory diet double check that the oils included fit into your protocol and that you’re not allergic to them.

There’s a lot of information in this episode about the most absorbable forms of vitamins and how to look for them.  

Now that you have a bit more knowledge about how to know that your supplements are higher quality or not, next you need to understand why you’re taking these supplements in the first place.

  1. How long is this protocol supposed to be?
  2. Is it addressing the root cause or is it a band-aid?
  3. Will taking this cause any imbalances? 
  4. How will I know if the intention of this supplement has been fulfilled?  This is where testing comes in.

Regularly re-evaluate your protocol with your healthcare team, about every 3-6 months to make sure that you’re making progress towards your goals.

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Music credit: “New Way Forward” by Young Presidents

A Podcast Launch Bestie production

Welcome to Science and Shit, the podcast where I show you how a healthy gut leads to a happier life. I’m your host, Michelle Casey. I’m a functional health coach who specializes in all things digestion, from heartburn to IBS to auto immune inflammatory bowel disease. I’ve seen it all. I’ve spent the last eight years in private practice helping people with chronic illness, reverse their symptoms and live their best lives. In this podcast, you will get empowered about what you can do to impact your health naturally. I’ll help you sort through the information overwhelm to figure out what’s relevant to you. If you want a holistic scientific approach, you’ve come to the right place! 

All right, first things first, if we’re going to talk about holistic health, we need to first acknowledge that white supremacy and colonization has wiped out much indigenous wisdom all over the world. And has led to gross disparities in equity and health care access. The ʻāina (land) on which I live and work is located in the ahupuaʻa (subdivision) of Kaloko, in the moku (district) of Kona, on the mokopuni (island) of Hawai’i, in the paeʻāina (nation) of Hawai’i. I recognize that Her Majesty Queen Liliʻuokalani yielded the Hawaiian Kingdom and these territories under duress and protest to the United States to avoid the bloodshed of her people. I also want to acknowledge that the Hawai’i that we enjoy today was very much shaped in a holistic and sustainable way by many generations of indigenous Hawaiians, Polynesian people. For these people, and for this work, I express my deep reverence and gratitude. Mahalo nui loa. 

It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the history of the land that we live on. Even though you or I may not be directly responsible for the harms done to native peoples. All of us non natives who live in the United States directly benefit from this harm. If you want to learn more about the land you’re on, you can start by entering your ZIP code at the native land website at Native-land.ca. 

Now let’s jump into today’s episode. Let’s get this party started.

Hello, welcome back. This is a very exciting episode. I hope this is going to answer a lot of questions for you about supplementation. Basically, if this is the first episode that you’re listening to, welcome to the podcast, you probably want to go back to at least episode two, and download the worksheet and go through the whole Get Your Shit Together system. We are rating ourselves in each of these different steps. And today we’re talking about step six, which is called Supplement to Support. And the three areas that you want to rate yourself in are number one, do you understand how to tell the difference between high quality supplements and crappy ones? Number two, do you know why you’re taking each of the supplements that you’re taking, if you are taking supplements? And number three, Do you regularly reevaluate your supplement protocol? And this is about every three to six months, ideally with your health care team, with your practitioner who recommended the supplements in the first place.

Okay, so the first thing that I want to acknowledge is that we really want to make sure that we’re not attempting to out supplement a nutrient poor diet. Supplements are amazing. They can really speed up recovery. I mean, you can self treat certain illnesses with them at home. You can really rebalance your gut with supplements. You can support all kinds of different systems in your body. But if you’re not eating a nutrient dense diet, you’re kind of spinning your wheels. And it’s going to be more expensive and a much harder process to try to get those results that you want, if you’re not eating whole foods properly prepared, well sourced, in a balanced way that works for your body. So that’s why step number one of the Get Your Shit Together system is prioritize nutrient density, right? And that’s literally from your food from your diet. I actually don’t even recommend supplements for brand new clients until maybe the third session sometimes. Because I really want to see how much we can do with just dietary changes first. The exception to this is when people come to me and they’re taking a bunch of supplies. And we’ll go through some of these questions that I’m about to ask you here and just make sure that they’re actually there for a reason. 

We’re going to talk a lot about the four tendencies next season. But if you are an Upholder, if you’re someone who’s a rule follower, and you tend to just follow the plan without questioning it, that can be a real pitfall with supplements, because sometimes people will start taking things, and then they never stop. A lot of times with Upholders, part of my job is to go through their often very beautiful spreadsheet of all the supplements that they’re taking and pare it down. We’ll go through some of that in a bit. 

First, let’s address the reasons why we might supplement. Why do people take supplements? And why maybe should you or shouldn’t you? Number one, the first function would be a substitution or a compensation. For example, if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, your liver is still producing bile, but it may not be released with the timing, and quantity and frequency that it needs to for your digestive system to work optimally, and for you to absorb fat soluble vitamins from your food. So a lot of times people who don’t have a gallbladder end up with fat soluble vitamin deficiencies. So they may take something like a fat soluble vitamin supplement. And/or they may also take supplemental Ox Bile or something called Tudca, which is a synthetic bear bile, it’s a little more compatible with a human bile. And/or something like digestive enzymes, if you’re not producing enough digestive enzymes, things like that. So to substitute for something that’s literally just missing or low, or to compensate for something like a missing organ, or sometimes people have had part of their bowel removed, things like that. 

The second reason why we would take supplements is stimulation. So this is the reason why most people take vitamins, certain minerals, or herbs, even. For example, B vitamins provide stimulation to the liver. Echinacea stimulates the immune system. Chromium stimulates the pancreas, things like that. So stimulation of a specific system or a specific organ or gland is reason number two. 

Reason number three, we would call support. So a lot of people are taking adrenal support formulas or adrenal support supplements. Or there’s a whole new class of supplements and drugs, even, called nootropics, which support brain and cognitive function. You can take hormonal support, things like that. So those are kind of the reasons why we would take supplements in the first place. And again, you’ll notice that none of those reasons are because you don’t like vegetables. Because you eat a lot of junk food. You cannot out supplement a crappy diet. We really have to focus on that nutrient density. Okay, so not to you know, put too fine a point on it, but I think you get where I stand.

Let’s talk about supplement quality. Because that’s the first thing that I really want you to understand if you are taking supplements, how to know if they are high quality or not. As you may already know, supplements are not regulated by the FDA like drugs and pharmaceuticals are. Now, I don’t necessarily think the FDA is the highest integrity organization or that they should be regulated by the FDA. But it does make it difficult to understand what the quality is. There’s no standardization for dosages for a lot of these different nutrients. Vitamins and minerals, yes, we have some recommended daily allowances, but those are generally just to prevent diseases like scurvy or rickets. They’re not necessarily looking at ideal function for most people, and/or they’re not customized based on your genetics, your lifestyle, your workout regimen. Some people may need more specific vitamins or minerals or nutrients than others. In theory, the FDA does require supplement manufacturers to adhere to Current Good Manufacturing Practices, or CGMP, for safety and quality, but there’s very little if any enforcement of this. Some companies, and this is completely voluntary on their part, they actually open their doors to third party certification. And these third parties come in and inspect and check their batches and check for certain levels of what they actually say on the label is that what’s in there, and they determine if the supplements meet certain standards. They provide a certificate of analysis. And those third parties that do the inspections will be displayed on the supplement label. That includes NSF, USP, Consumer Labs, and BSCG. Now, if you are an athlete that gets drug tested for your sport, you will want to ensure that any supplement formulas that you’re taking are NSF Certified for Sport, or BCSG banned substances control group certified. 

Science and Shit with Michelle Casey is brought to you by The Good Poopers Club. If you want to find out how you can use a research backed gut healing diet to reverse your symptoms and reset your relationship with food, head on over to goodpoopersclub.com to get the scoop.

So that kind of is the CliffsNotes about quality and safety and manufacturing. But we also need to talk about another aspect of quality, which is what form of the actual vitamins are they using in these formulas? And what is the delivery method? Is this delivery method going to actually get the vitamin into your body? That’s a really helpful question. 

As a general rule, for multivitamins, for water soluble vitamins, for minerals, and for herbs, I prefer a capsule over a tablet. I find that they are better absorbed. Tablets, especially the ones that look like they have a hard candy coating on them can be much harder for our digestive system to break down, especially if we’re already dealing with digestive issues. We just can’t trust that what’s on the label of those vitamins are actually going to get into our bodies, they can just kind of go straight through and exit the digestive system in the same form they arrived in, which is not helpful. It’s just a waste of money. 

For fat soluble vitamins, that’s vitamins A, D, E, and K. I look to see if there is a fat or oil included to aid absorption. The ideal delivery method there is a gel cap or liquid. And same with essential fatty acids like your omegas, three, six and nines. If you’re following an anti-inflammatory diet, you want to make sure that the fats and oils that are included fit with your protocol. For instance, there’s a local company here on the Big Island that makes an Astaxanthin supplement that is an algae extract that they market for joint health. And Astaxanthin is a wonderful supplement. I use it for sunburn protection, actually, because I’m a white person that lives in the tropics. But this particular company adds sunflower oil to their capsules, which is an omega six, little inflammatory in my opinion. It negates some of the benefits of the Astaxanthin. And I have not found that that Astaxanthin formula actually makes the difference that some of the other ones that I have access to, as a practitioner do, that don’t have those Omega six seed oils in them. Another example, if you’re taking a vitamin D formula that’s a liquid you want to check and make sure that you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients like sesame oil, for instance, is a common carrier oil and a fairly common allergen. 

Speaking of allergens, getting familiar with the hidden names of gluten, wheat and corn, and reading your labels to make sure that you’re not inadvertently triggering your food intolerances, that’s going to be a really good idea. If you’re someone that has food allergies, or food sensitivities. I would also check labels for any artificial colorings, those are just not necessary and some people have bad reactions to them. 

Quick note on gummy vitamins, I have not seen a good quality gummy vitamin out there in stores or even the practitioner lines that I recommend. If this seems like the only way to get your family to take vitamins, there are a ton of recipes out there for gummies that you can make at home. They’re super cute little molds you can get online, they have different shapes and sizes. You can get a powdered multivitamin or a liquid and just use some gelatin, some high quality grass fed gelatin, some 100% pure fruit juice, and DIY it. If that is the only way you can get your kids to take vitamins, I totally get it, but there’s just not a good one out there that I really can recommend. Okay, so that’s the delivery methods. 

On to the actual form of the vitamins themselves. One of the things that has come to light recently with all the new genetic testing in the last decade or a little longer, is the difference between folic acid which is synthetic, and folate, which is a food derived natural vitamin. They are both considered to be vitamin B9, which is super important for cell replication. Super important for fertility, if you’re trying to conceive you need certain levels of folate in your blood to prevent birth defects. Both genetic parents do by the way, not just the person that’s carrying the child. But a third or so maybe more of the general population, definitely more about half of Latinos, have a genetic polymorphism that makes it difficult to utilize synthetic folic acid. Now, I personally just don’t recommend any folic acid, any supplements containing it to any of my clients. I have noticed that the supplement companies and formulas that include one of the activated forms or the food sourced forms of folate, they tend to have better overall quality anyway. 

That being said, for some of us with a specific little nice combo of genetic polymorphisms just flooding your system with the most active forms of folate and even B12, some of these more stimulating B vitamins. The methylated forms, methylfolate and methylcobalamin respectively, can cause extreme anxiety. Ask me how I know. Especially if you’ve been deficient for a while. If my client has any history of anxiety, or I know that their specific genetics might predisposition them to this, I may recommend an intermediary form of folate and of B12, specifically. Like calcium folinate is a really nice kind of intermediate, the body still needs to do a little conversion to convert it to methyl folate, which is the form that we use, but it’s not going to flood the system, it’s not going to ramp up their anxiety. Or for B12 I would use something like a hydroxycobalamin or an adenosylcobalamin, which will help them get their levels up but not in a super fast way that will make their anxiety worse. 

Some other suggestions regarding the different forms of vitamins that are going to be the most absorbable and give you the most bang for your buck. The active form of vitamin B6 is pyridoxal 5’ phosphate, and that’s often abbreviated as P5P. For vitamin C, this could probably be a whole other podcast episode, but I generally recommend that people take a whole food form like straight dried Acerola Cherries, Camu Camu, or Rose Hips, instead of taking a lot of ascorbic acid, it’s not a complete vitamin C molecule. The cholecalciferol form of vitamin D is known as vitamin D3. That’s the form that you should look for in your supplements. For vitamin E, you want to look for either mixed tocopherols or alpha tocopheryl, that’s going to be the form that your body can use. And for vitamin K, which again is one of those fat soluble vitamins, so it should be in a formula that contains fat. You want to look for vitamin K2, which you should never take vitamin K1 that’s going to mess with your blood clotting. But vitamin K2, specifically the MK7 form over the MK4 form is going to be the one that your body can actually use.

Alright, last piece on quality here, sourcing matters, storage matters. There have been multiple instances of supplement fraud on Amazon sellers, changing expiration dates, or selling old formulas, or just selling a different supplement than what the bottle says. Something you may not know for the practitioner grade supplements, those really high quality pharmaceutical grade supplements that I recommend to my clients, most of which are third party tested. We practitioners have to sign a contract with the supplement company saying that we won’t sell them on Amazon in order for us to be allowed to carry those lines. So if you see any of the supplements that your naturopath or that I carry on Amazon, you can bet that that seller is not operating with integrity. So I would question are they even selling what they say they are. I personally like using FullScript, which is an online dispensary. Given that my practice is now totally virtual, I don’t stock any supplements in my home office for clients anymore. That way, I know that the supplements have been stored properly. There’s one step from the manufacturer to FullScripts warehouse. And that makes me trust that the client is going to get the result that I want them to get from their protocol. I don’t want to sell them something that’s been sitting in my office and expired. 

Okay, so that part was long. That was part one. But now you can at least check that box, you have a little more info on how to understand the difference between high quality supplements and crappy ones, you know what to look for on the label. If there’s anything that I missed any questions that you still have, please hit us up on social and let me know. 

The second part of this step of supplementing to support, is ensuring that you know why you’re taking each of the supplements that you’re taking, very important. And the third, is to regularly reevaluate your supplement protocol every three to six months. Most therapeutic protocols. And by that I mean the protocols that are designed to stimulate a particular response that were supporting a specific organ or system. Or if we’re trying to correct an imbalance. Most of those protocols are anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Especially when we’re talking about gut health. 

So, again, some supplements may be taken longer, if you don’t have a gallbladder, you may need something like bile support long term. But the questions that you want to ask, little checklist for you. How long was this protocol supposed to be to begin with? Is this addressing the root cause? Or is it a band aid? That’s nothing wrong with band aiding and kind of doing some symptom relief along the way. But are we also addressing the root cause? Another important question, will taking this nutrient or herb cause any imbalances if I take it long term? Specifically, like fat soluble vitamins, minerals, things like that, they all work together in this intricate ballet. And if you take one piece and you just have one player, one dancer dancing for years, you’re gonna end up with some imbalances in your company. You’re gonna end up with potential deficiencies and other vitamins and nutrients and it can just kind of throw things out of whack. I see this a lot with vitamin D and calcium like this is one of the few supplements that even medical doctors will recommend especially for women over a certain age. Vitamin D and calcium is good for your bones that data. But the consequences of taking a single nutrient long term without ensuring that those other nutrients are in balance, those can be really problematic and they can actually cause some of the problems you’re trying to prevent. So will this nutrient or herb cause any imbalances if I take it long term?

The other thing about herbs and specifically things like adrenal support, some of them are meant to stimulate a certain response in your adrenals. And what can sometimes happen, not just with adrenals, this can happen with other hormones as well, is that you can disrupt your body’s negative feedback loops. So the supplement ends up compensating too much and your body will stop producing whatever the hormone is, or not produce as much of it. So you just want to make sure that especially things like real stimulating adaptogenic herbs like ginseng, Eleuthero, any glandular supplements, you just want to take breaks from them. This is also true with nootropic blends that support brain health and cognition. You just want to take breaks from them and just make sure that you’re not relying on them. Again, is it a band aid or is it dealing with the root cause? 

Okay, next question, how will I know if the intention of this supplement or this protocol has been fulfilled? So we talked about testing. That’s really critical for understanding if our protocols are working. We’re also going to talk in the next episode about measuring what matters. Super, super important for making sure that we’re actually tracking the symptoms that this protocol is supposed to address. 

And then the last question, especially once someone has gone through and done some kind of a rebalancing protocol with me. The thing that I always like to ask is, is there a combo kind of formula like a B complex, like something with all the fat soluble vitamins, maybe a multivitamin multi mineral. Is there a formula that can substitute so that I’m not taking so many individual pills. Because that can get really fatiguing for a lot of people. 

Okay, that is a lot. And obviously, there’s so much more to cover. And we may talk more about specific things about supplements in future episodes. But that is all we have time for today. Reminder, your three areas to assess are number one, understand the difference between high quality supplements and crappy ones. Number two, know why you’re taking each of the supplements that you’re taking. And number three, regularly reevaluate your protocol every three to six months, ideally with your health care team. I hope this was helpful for you. Please leave any comments or questions on our social media. And that’s all for today. Bye. 

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Science and Shit with Michelle Casey. If you want to stay in touch head on over to michellecaseynutrition.com/podcast to get in on all goodness. I know you have a lot of things you could be doing with your time and I really appreciate you choosing to spend it with me. If this episode was valuable for you, please subscribe, follow, and share it with your friends and family and or leave a review as an offering to the algorithm gods. Until next time, be excellent to each other!