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Do I Need Supplements?

This article is a follow-up to the recent seminar held in collaboration with the very knowledgeable and passionate Registered Dietitian, Phoebe Ko.  I was blown away by the number of guests who made it out and the level of engagement!  This is clearly a topic that many people are interested in learning more about.

I’ll keep this post short and sweet – hitting on just the key points discussed by Phoebe and myself.


Current State of Soil

“A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left…70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone.  Because of various farming methods that strip the soil of carbon and make it less robust as well as weaker in nutrients, soil is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished.”
– Professor John Crawford, University of Sydney

“Each year, about 75 billion tons of soil are eroded from the world’s terrestrial ecosystems. Most agricultural land in the world is losing soil at rates ranging from 13 tons/ha/year to 40 tons/ha/year. Because soil is formed very slowly, this means that soil is being lost 13–40 times faster than the rate of renewal and sustainability.”
– David Pimentel, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University

Basically, we humans have a tendency to over-consume (not to mention the fact that our population continues to explode).  This pushes suppliers to over-degrade land, and ultimately a vicious cycle of resource degradation follows.  This lack of sustainable agriculture fosters soil that is not as mineral rich as it once was.  The end result: produce that is no longer as mineral rich as it once was.

The remedy: support local farmers!  Take advantage of the nice weather and seek out local markets.  Local farmers running smaller operations are more likely to have more sustainable agriculture practices.  Plus, you can be assured that the agricultural practices are in alignment with local laws – where produce from Mexico or Chile may not.  Also, produce grown locally is allowed to stay on the vine/tree or in the dirt for longer where it’s able to soak up more nutrients versus coming from overseas.  Think of it this way, if I buy an apple from Chile, that apple had to be plucked from the tree well before it was ripe in order to have it be ripe (and not rotten) when it reaches my grocery store.  By buying a local apple, I know that it was on the tree for longer and was able to reap the benefits of that.

A lot of questions about organic vs non-organic came up during the talk.  That’s a topic unto itself, so I’ll dedicate the entire next post to that topic!  Stay tuned!


There are certain reasons why supplements can be valuable:

  • To correct nutrient deficiencies and/or make up for poor dietary choices
  • To replenish what is missing in your food
  • To provide your body with the nutrition necessary to combat today’s environmental stresses
  • To meet the higher nutritional needs of today’s lifestyle
  • To decrease your risk of chronic disease and reduce health care costs

As you can see, you can look at this in two ways: 1) those that require supplements to correct for a deficiency and 2) those who need support while they make the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent disease and promote optimal health.

When trying to figure out if you fit into either of these categories, you can consider the following questions:

  • Am I eating at least 5+ servings of veggies per day?
  • Am I varying the veggies I eat from week to week so that I’m getting a variety of nutrients?
  • Am I physically active for more than 30 minutes on most days of the week?
  • Do I sleep well/wake rested?
  • Do I have appropriate stress management techniques in place in my life?

I always emphasize that supplements are just that…supplements.  Not replacements.  Nothing can replace a balanced diet rich in a variety of local produce, hormone/antibiotic-free and free range animal products, healthy fats, moderate complex carbohydrates, and lots of water.  However, it is important to honestly assess your current eating habits, physical activity levels, stress management, sleep habits, etc., when deciding if, and what, supplements may be right for you.  If it ends up being the right approach to take supplements, it is vital that they don’t end up becoming a permanent crutch.  Effort should be made to implement the lifestyle changes that will ultimately allow you to reduce your need for these dietary aids.

It should be noted there are some supplements – e.g. Vitamin D –  that are more “required” than others:

“Unless you’re spending all your time at the beach, eating 30 ounces of wild salmon a day, or downing 10 tablespoons of cod liver oil a day, supplementing with vitamin D is essential. The exact amount needed to get your blood levels to the optimal range (100 to 160 nmol/L) will vary depending on your age, how far north you live, how much time you spend in the sun, and even the time of the year. But once you reach optimal levels, you’ll be amazed at the results.”
– Dr Mark Hyman, MD (“Vitamin D – Why You are Probably NOT Getting Enough”)

The world of supplements can be very overwhelming.  I highly recommend seeing a qualified health professional to discuss what are the best options for you.  At the recent seminar, I spoke specifically about how supplements can help with pain management, allergies, and digestive function.  If you’re interested in Naturopathic Care for these, or various other conditions, you can see me as a patient by CLICKING HERE for more information.


  • Crawford, John. “What If the World’s Soil Runs Out?” Time World. Time Inc., 12 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 May 2013.
  • Pimentel D, Kounang N. Ecology of soil erosion in ecosystems. Ecosystems. 1998;1(5):416-426.
  • Hyman, MD, Mark. “Vitamin D: Why You Are Probably NOT Getting Enough and How That Makes You Sick.” The Huffington Post., 22 May 2010. Web. 20 May 2013.