Understand How to Use Supplements and Herbal Remedies
Purpose: Supplements and herbal remedies may provide vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that the body is deficient in. When used properly, supplements and herbal remedies may improve psychological stress, immune function, detoxification, and more.
The regulation of dietary supplements in the United States began in 1994 with the passage of the Dietary Supplement and Education Act of 1994. Today, supplements are still less regulated than pharmaceuticals and food. A proper understanding of the ingredients, sourcing, dosage, safety and efficacy of each supplement should precede any purchase. Consulting with a medical professional who has nutritional training or with an experienced herbalist can help with the selection. Measuring biomarkers in the blood, undergoing diagnostic tests, and sharing a comprehensive history of symptoms with a medical professional can serve as a valuable guide in the selection of dietary supplements. Well-regarded psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD attempts to use supplements instead of medication whenever possible because on average, supplements are less toxic, have fewer side effects, and may be as effective as some medication.
The practice of using plants as medicine has existed for thousands of years. There is a growing body of clinical research to support the efficacy of various herbal remedies. The Practice section below contains information about some of the most researched herbal remedies that are used for psychological stress, immune support, and detoxification.
Well-regarded functional medicine doctors: Steven Gundry, MD, Mark Hyman, MD, Terry Wahls, MD, and psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD recommend, at the bare minimum, a multivitamin to all of their patients (see the Resources section below for their websites). This is primarily due to the average diet becoming less nutrient dense over the past several decades as conventional farming practices deplete soil and crops of their vitamin and mineral concentration. Furthermore, food that contains pesticides or has a high concentration of lectins may cause inflammation in the digestive system, leading to diminished nutrient absorption. Please review the WavyFields topic “Reduce Inflammation by Eliminating Inflammatory Food” for more information about creating a healthy digestive system.
Supplements and herbal remedies have also become more necessary in the past decade as the increasing toxicity of the environment puts additional pressure on the body’s detoxification systems. When toxins enter the body, they produce free radicals, which are then neutralized by naturally occurring antioxidants. Supplementing with an antioxidant such as glutathione may help with neutralizing some of the free radicals and toxins. Glutathione is naturally made by the body and is found in the liver's detoxification pathways. Eating a diet that contains the building blocks of antioxidants is an alternative approach to supplementation. A major building block of glutathione is sulfur which can be obtained through foods such as fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, arugula, kale, and radishes. Improving the microbiome can also help with detoxification as the bacteria living in the digestive system can digest toxins and transform them into beneficial molecules such as fatty acids. Please refer to the WavyFields topic “Improve Digestion by Creating a Thriving Microbiome” for more information about how to create a healthy microbiome.
Any supplement or herbal remedy that is ingested will be broken down in the digestive system by acid, enzymes, bacteria, and the detoxification pathways of the liver. Bioavailability is a term that is used to describe how much of an ingested substance will end up being used by the body. Feedback inhibitory mechanisms allow the body to sense how much of a substance exists and is needed. If too much of a substance is ingested, such as glutathione or another supplement, then the body will have to work harder to neutralize the excess quantities.
Before any supplement is purchased, the ingredients, sourcing, dosage, safety and efficacy of the supplement should be analyzed. By law, ingredients are listed on the label in order of their weight per dominance. If a consumer is looking for a high quality protein, then that protein ingredient should be listed first or second on the label. The source of the ingredient(s) used in the supplement should be similar to the source of the ingredients(s) used in the clinical trials. Some companies (this sometimes occurs in proprietary blends) will adjust the dosage of the ingredients to a ratio that is different from what was used in the clinical trials. Doing a literature search in the U.S. National Library of Medicine can help the consumer find the sourcing and dosage of the ingredient(s) that were clinically shown to produce a health outcome. Checking the label for a seal that indicates third party testing will also ensure that the ingredients and dosage listed on the label match what is inside of the supplement.
Practice: This practice may help someone to understand how to use supplements and herbal remedies.
This Practice section covers the steps that may be taken when researching supplements or herbal remedies and gives a brief overview of common supplements and herbal remedies that are clinically shown to produce health outcomes.
A first step in deciding whether supplements or herbal remedies may be beneficial is speaking with a medical professional or herbalist that has nutritional training and knowledge about supplements and herbal remedies. Measuring biomarkers in the blood, undergoing diagnostic tests, and sharing a comprehensive history of symptoms will then help the medical professional or herbalist select appropriate supplements or herbal remedies. The ingredients, sourcing, dosage, safety and efficacy of the supplement and herbal remedy should be analyzed to ensure that they are the same as those used in clinical trials and can produce the desired health outcome. A plan should then be created for when to take the supplements or herbal remedies and journal entries about any noticeable effects should be kept. If any adverse reactions occur, the medical professional or herbalist should be contacted immediately.
The following are six of the most common supplements that have been clinically shown to produce health outcomes:
Multivitamin: A multivitamin may contain the daily recommended amount of important vitamins and minerals. If diet alone is not providing a sufficient level of vitamins and minerals, then a multivitamin may be beneficial.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D levels over 30ng/mL are considered to be adequate for maintaining health. Adequate vitamin D levels may improve mood, the immune system, digestive health, and decrease symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
Omega 3 fatty acid: Omega 3 fatty acids may improve brain health and mood.
Magnesium: A chelated form of magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate may improve muscle relaxation.
Methylated B12: More than half of people in the world have a mutation in the MTHFR gene and cannot efficiently transform B12 into its usable form. B12 is primarily found in animal products. Vegans are especially recommended to take methylated B12 to avoid a B12 deficiency.
Protein: Well-regarded functional medicine doctor Steven Gundry, MD and world-renown longevity researcher Valter Longo, PhD recommend for people under the age of 65 to consume between 0.31 and 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. After age 65, protein intake can be increased.
The following are six of the most common herbal remedies that have been clinically shown to produce health outcomes:
Astragalus: Astragulus may improve the immune system.
Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha may decrease psychological stress.
Reishi mushrooms: Reishi mushrooms may improve the immune system and decrease psychological stress.
Ginseng: Ginseng may improve the immune system.
Oregano oil: Oregano oil may have antiviral and antibacterial properties and may improve immune function.
Spirulina and chlorella: Both spirulina and chlorella are marine algae that may improve detoxification by binding to toxins within the body and increasing the speed of their removal. Spirulina and chlorella may also be good sources of protein and iron.
Resources: Below are additional resources that may help someone understand how to use supplements and herbal remedies.
The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone by Steven Gundry, MD
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel Amen, MD
Ancient Remedies: Secrets to Healing with Herbs, Essential Oils, CBD, and the Most Powerful Natural Medicine in History by Josh Axe, DC
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