Are you taking too many supplements?

I had a woman come into my clinic last week carrying a rucksack. When I asked her if she took any vitamin supplements she proceeded in a Ready Steady Cook kind of way to empty the rucksack on my desk – in it were over 35 pots of supplements.!!To say my eyebrows raised was an understatement!

On further investigation she said that she had picked them up as she had gone along. Some had been recommended by friends, some she had read about in magazines or on the internet to be good for certain conditions she thought she had.

As a nutritionist I am qualified to prescribe vitamin, mineral supplements and some herbs. These are used to aid in medical conditions and are usually used for a short period of time until the problem is resolved. My concern is that people are self diagnosing problems that they may not have and taking way too many vitamins.

It is not so much a concern with the water soluble vitamins ie Vitamin C and B, which are excreted through the urine. However, the fat soluble vitamins E, D, A etc are a different matter as they are stored in the liver. There is also the drug inter-reaction problem. Last year one of my patients had put himself on high levels of fish oil, even though he was on warfarin. As fish oils thin the blood they should not be taken in conjunction with any blood thinners and that goes for many other supplements as well.

Its obvious that people have the very best intentions but need to tread cautiously and get expert advice before starting on a supplement programme.

After the awful flu and viruses we have had you might be tempted to dose yourself to build your immune system. Please refrain! Instead here are my top tips to boost your immune system after a virus.

TOP TIPS TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

– If possible get extra sleep. Try to aim for at least 6-8 hours daily and more if you need it. If you can catch up at the weekend, do so.

– Take time to recover, if you are on a fixed exercise regime – do take it really easy for a while!

– Eat something (naturally!) blue/ red/yellow every day.

– Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

– Don’t eat foods that you are intolerant/allergic to and try and reduce your allergic load.

– This is still the time to eat comforting food like chicken soup, casseroles and broths which are particularly good for the immune system.

– Avoid fried foods, barbequed food and smoked/cured meats.

– Avoid processed, refined foods and white sugar.

– Do not forget to eat enough protein – try to eat a little at each meal.

– Take a daily probiotic to help assist the immunity in the gut.

– Do not eat hydrogenated fat and keep saturated fat to a minimum.

– Try to keep your stress levels as low as you can.

– If you feel lethargic and unusually tired try a vitamin b-50 complex for a few weeks and a daily antioxidant formula with extra zinc (at least 10mg) and selenium.

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