Supplements and Herbs

With over 90% of the American public unable to meet their recommended nutritional guidelines, Jay can safely guide you towards the supplements that can have the greatest impact on your overall health.

Why use dietary supplements? Shouldn’t we be getting all of our nutrients from food?

At first glance it would appear odd that we need to take dietary supplements. We have survived and oftentimes thrived on this planet and for a really longtime through food and drink alone. Why do we suddenly need to be purchasing “naturally” derived or synthetic nutrients in capsules to be healthy? Especially when we live in an era now where modern civilizations are struggling with chronic disease of dietary excess. The unfortunate truth is that despite our ease of access to cheap and abundant calories, the USDA estimates that over 90% of the American public is unable to meet their recommended nutritional guidelines. This is significant when you consider these are the minimal standards to prevent actual disease as opposed to promoting robust health.

There are many reasons why most of us are unable to meet our needs through diet alone:

Whole Foods Diets - Traditional societies, ranging from predominately plant based to mostly animal, ate a nutritionally rich whole food diet. When we ate our fruits and vegetables, we eat them fresh and whole with their natural occurring sugars, starches, fibers, enzymes, and nutrients largely intact. Our cereal grains were ground fresh and mostly eaten whole. Although animal consumption varied considerably a “head to tail” approach was preferred including nutritionally dense organ meats (“our original multivitamin”), animal fats containing vital nutrients and essential fatty acids, bones used for broth, along with the “lean” muscle meats. Contrast with modern day preference for highly refined and pasteurized plant-based foods, and tendency to waste the bulk of our animal foods in favor of “nutritionally lean” muscle meats.

Nutrient Density – Even if we kept traditional eating habits our modern food choices lack the same nutritional density. Our plant-based food choices, organic and conventional, are often mostly grown in nutritionally depleted top soils. Produce is bred for its commercial utility and picked before its peak nutritionally ripeness. Cereal grains lose their nutrition from being ground early and stored for extended periods time. Our animals are mostly raised in captivity, raised in unnatural and unsanitary conditions, and fed a nutritionally inappropriate diet. As the old adage goes “you are what you eat” and unfortunately nutritionally deficient plants and animals will ultimately produce nutritionally inadequate foods.

Twenty First Century Health Challenges – Living in the “modern world” often poses unique challenges for which our evolutionary biology has yet to adapt. We are exposed to thousands of chemicals, often inadequately tested, along with heavy metals, and other toxins released into our environment. Our fast paced and busy lifestyles take away time needed to rest, reflect, and spent time with our friends, family, and communities. Chronic unrelenting stress, coming from all directions, when combined with dietary imbalances, and minor variations in genetics has created an epidemic for chronic and degenerative diseases rare in past generations. All of which necessitates a need for nutrition hard to find even in the most perfect of situations.

Supplement Quality

As the adage goes you often get “what you pay for” and this often holds true for dietary supplements. The cheaper brands often cut corners by providing nutrients in a form that is poorly absorbed by the human body. Some products, including popularly prescribed multivitamins, contain hydrogenated oils, problematic food colorings and preservatives. Delicate long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are particularly prone to rancidity when companies cut corners. On the other hand higher prices don’t always necessitate a superior product. Even if you found a “perfectly” formulated product there is always the question if you actually need everything in the bottle? For example do you need to be taking high dosages of calcium when your diet is already rich in dairy product? Are the expensive fish oils really worthwhile when you are eating wild caught salmon and oily fish throughout the week? A qualified professional can be helpful you choose the product that will provide you with the greatest value.

Supplement and Herbal Safety

Although supplements are generally safer than pharmaceutical medications, every active substance has the potential to cause harm. Just because dietary supplements and herbs appear to be more “natural” doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for you. Even drinking water at high enough dosages has the potential to be harmful. The “theory” that more is better doesn’t apply for herbs and supplements. If you are unsure of the appropriate dosages connect with a qualified practitioner who can guide you for dosage for your unique situation. To learn more about herbal quality and safety consider exploring the resources available at the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the American Herbal Products Association.

How do herbs work? Why work with an herbal practitioner?

David Winston, RH (AHG) who taught my first herbalist training program emphasized to us on the first day and throughout our program “that a good herbalist treats the person, and not the disease!” At first glance you might think that this is cleverly worded language to keep oneself out of trouble with the health authorities. It is well known that only licensed physicians can legally “diagnose and treat disease.” My teacher was well aware of the laws and politics of modern medicine but saw it from a deeper lens. When you study advanced and ancient herbal systems, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda (Indian Medicine), Unnani Tibb (Greco-Arabic Medicine), and the Cherokee you find a pattern of practitioners crafting synergetic herbal formulations to suit the unique needs of the individual. This is in sharp contrast to the modern approach of “matching the herb to suit the disease.” For example using saw palmetto as the “prostate herb,” chase tree as the “menopause herb” or “feverfew” as the “migraine herb”. Although these herbs “might” be good for the way that the individual is experiencing the condition, there could be better choices, and sometimes the “right” herbs work better when combined appropriately.

Herbs are thought to work by enhancing tissue and organ function. Through supporting the body’s health, they can help the body find its natural balance and rhythm. Especially when combined with the appropriate dietary, lifestyle, mind-body, and necessary medical interventions. A qualified herbal professional will give you more than a simple “herbal fix-it,” rather they will look at you as a whole and craft a larger program that addresses the root of the challenge.

Does Insurance Cover Herbal Consultations?

Insurance companies credential nutritionist and dietitians to provide “medical nutrition therapy.” Although practitioners are expected to have a basic understanding of dietary and herbal supplements, any nuanced discussion is supposed to be directed to the appropriate physician. Clients requiring comprehensive support beyond diet may need to book a non-reimbursable session. Please speak with Jay for more details