How I Discovered the Nutrient Gaps in My Diet and Used Supplements to Bridge the Gaps
It had been probably 5 years since I’d been to a primary doctor. Pre-kids I would do my annual duty of setting up my physical appointment, it was free through insurance after all. But, once I was pregnant with my first child, I had so many doctor appointments before and after the baby arrived that I kind of just forgot about my overall health. So when we talked to a naturopathic doctor on the podcast, I was intrigued by their comprehensive and preventative approach, and was reminded that it was probably time to do a deep dive on my whole self.
While technically naturopathic doctors are not regulated in the state I live in (Illinois), I will say that my first experience with a naturopath was more thorough than any exam I have ever received in a standard primary physician setting. I sat down to discuss my overall health with the practitioner for over 60 minutes, which included a physical examination and lab testing review. The lab testing was six pages and was the start for me of my supplement journey.
Testing & Supplements
The definition of a supplement, according to the U.S Department of Health is “a product that is intended to supplement the diet.” This was the first thing that stood out to me as I reviewed my lab results with my naturopathic doctor. It is easy to get caught feeling like you should be taking pills to live a healthy lifestyle, but the reality is that if you’re able to eat a variety of healthy meals that provide all of the necessary nutrients for your body to perform optimally, a pill isn’t actually necessary. Now, that is not always possible to accomplish, especially given over-farming practices can deplete the nutrients in the soil making foods less nutrient dense. However, the approach of reviewing your current health and what gaps might exist in your diet through lab testing really spoke to me. For example, my iodine levels were on the lower side, so my doctor recommended I start eating seaweed, as it is rich in iodine. I would much rather have some Japanese food regularly than take a pill every day! In stark contrast though, my vitamin D levels were very low. Given it was winter in the Midwest when I received my results, it was not feasible for me to eat enough food or get enough sunlight to increase my levels without supplementing. Therefore, I was able to hone in on the places where I needed support through supplements, vs. the ones where I could work on the gaps through other means.
While I am not an expert in supplements, I learned through our conversation with health coach and supplement creator Courtney Bursich that it is important that you do some research before making any supplement purchases. Supplements on the market have little regulation and a wide variety of quality, so some important things to consider when doing your research include:
Check into the company itself – what are their values? Their vetting processes for ingredients and quality standards?
Does the company share the product’s certificates of analysis (COAs)?
Does the company test above and beyond the COA and follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)?
The biggest thing that I have learned through assessing what supplements are right for me, is that it is completely individual to the person. You can certainly go by whatever you feel is right, and trial and error. However, I have found the most success with pinpointing the gaps through lab testing. Once you are able to get a complete picture of where things stand for you, it takes away a lot of the overwhelm and pressure of the researching portion of finding the right supplement.
Want to learn more?
Check out our episode with Courtney Bursich - Episode 67: A No B.S. Starter Guide to Supplements.