Starting with Supplements

Dietary changes are inherently hard to wrangle. It's kind of like herding cats.

If you stick to a strict calorie count, you can't really make just one change to your diet. If you remove one thing, you will be replacing it with something else. If you add one thing, you will be displacing something else.

So when you make dietary changes, you are making a minimum of two changes: The thing you added and also the thing you subtracted from your diet.

But that's only the tip of the iceberg because most things you eat are quite complex. So you substitute, say, an apple for an orange and there are myriad nutritional differences between the two. You can't just increase your vitamin C intake by swapping out an apple for an orange.

So if you are trying to address a health issue using diet, you really need to do some much more basic stuff before you can confidently tweak your diet to good effect. You need to spend some time taking supplements as a much more controlled means to figure out how your body is impacted by various nutrients.

Once you isolate that, then you can start making the more complicated decisions involving actually dietary choices.

Isolating Nutritional Variables
In order to isolate a variable, you need to use individual supplements, not multivitamins. Ideally, you want to try to leave everything else in your life as stable as possible.

Make only one change at a time and stick with it for a minimum of a week before changing anything else so you can get some idea of what it is doing to your body. If you aren't sure, then stick with it for two or more weeks before making any other changes.

Finding Good Supplements
Not only do you want to take, say Vitamin A by itself instead of as part of a mulitvitamin, you also will need to find a form that is easily absorbed and that you tolerate well. These are two different issues.

You can search for information on "bioavailable" forms of the nutrient you are interested in trying. Keep in mind that opinions change and you will run into a lot of conflicting information out there.

It can help to find a good discussion group online full of knowledgeable people. If you do that, learn to ask questions carefully. No matter how great the group, people can be overly nosy and health groups are very prone to drama because people are sick and they are very worried you are doing something that might permanently maim or kill you, etc etc etc.

So learn what kinds of information you are allowed to discuss according to the group norms of the group in question and learn to phrase things in a way that won't turn into drama. I've been thrown off of multiple lists/forums or simply left because it wasn't productive.

So mind your manners and don't expect other people to be rational, respectful, etc. Many, many people are simply not going to be either of those things.

It's a good idea to seek out quality resources from .edu and .gov sites or similarly well-reputed sources. But don't read abstracts. Get the study or skip it. Abstracts are not reliable sources of information and frequently say something different from the actual study. (This tip came to me from a man with a PhD in Chemistry: Read the actual study or skip the information.)

Tolerance is a separate issue from bioavailability. Short version: If you are allergic to an ingredient, find a different supplement that doesn't contain that ingredient.

What Supplements Should You Start With?

If you are on any drugs or regularly take certain medications, look up nutrient depletions for the drugs in question. For example, ibuprofen depletes a specific B vitamin. My need for B vitamin supplements went way down after I got off ibuprofen.

Alternately, start looking up any symptoms you have. If you are prone to nosebleeds or lung bleeds, you may be calcium deficient. Calcium plays a critical role in the clotting process.

If you suffer from tinnitus, light sensitivity or noise sensitivity, the odds are good that you are magnesium deficiency. (Tinnitus and magnesium.)

If you are reading my writing because you or a loved one has a diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis, I highly recommend that you start with Celtic Sea Salt. Yes, as a supplement. I added it to a glass of water and drank it for some months before I began learning how to cook with it. (And you do have to learn to cook with sea salt because it comes in clumps and doesn't work like table salt.)

For a number of years, I took a lot of supplements. I was spending about $300/month on supplements for some period of time.

I eventually got healthier and also ran up a bunch of debt due to divorce and health costs and I could just no longer afford to keep doing that. Happily, I also no longer needed to do it.

Unlike a lot of drug-based approaches, a nutritional approach has the power to eventually heal your body so you need less intervention. It's a moving target and you will need to mentally adjust to the fact that it doesn't work like drugs and surgeries. It's a different model.


See also this comment I wrote elsewhere.

Page originally posted elsewhere on 10/06/19.