Vitamin Supplementation 101

I’m going to make this short and sweet – and get right to the point.

Just because there are high-dose, high-octane vitamins on the market doesn’t mean you need them or should be taking them.  You need to know your body, listen to your body, and become well-versed in what your body is telling you.  

When you take a given supplement, how does it make you feel?  If you don’t notice anything (and if you do), and suspect you may have a nutritional deficiency, I recommend you get some blood tests done to see where your important nutrient levels are at.  The big ones for most people are vitamin D (25-OH), magnesium (RBC Mg), iron (ferritin), copper (ceruloplasmin), and vitamin B12 (plus homocysteine and methylmalonic acid to know if your B12 stores are adequate).

With respect to dosing, everyone is a little different.  This is because we all have different nutritional needs.  If you’re exposed to chemicals and toxins in your food and environment, which many people are – that’s going to increase your need for important protective and detoxifying nutrients such as vitamins C, E, B-complex, magnesium, zinc, selenium, chromium, and sulfur amino acids (whey protein is an excellent source).

What it really comes down to is individual differences in biochemistry and individual nutritional needs.  You need to “listen” and “feel” what your body is trying to tell you.  How do you feel after taking a given supplement?  That really says it all.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

If you feel great taking a given supplement then your body is giving you positive feedback that that particular nutrient is likely something your body is missing (or a little low in), and adding a little extra can help get some important metabolic systems back online.  For example, one of the first symptoms of vitamin C deficiency is fatigue.  You might find that when you take some extra vitamin C that it gives you a little energy boost – you’re not imagining it!  Your brain and adrenal glands have a very high vitamin C requirement, and there are a number of enzyme systems that require adequate vitamin C for neurotransmitter biosynthesis and energy production, so if you’re running a little low in this vital nutrient, you’re simply not going to feel or function your best.  “The proof truly is in the pudding”, as they say.

START AT A LOWER DOSE (OR TAKE A LOW-DOSE MULTI-NUTRIENT SUPPLEMENT)

As a good rule of thumb, I always recommend starting with a lower dose – otherwise known as “the lowest effective dose” (in nutritional biochemistry or pharmacology) – which I frequently utilize in my work as a nutritional biochemist and holistic neurospecialist, and slowly work your way up to the desired effect.

If you’re new to nutritional supplementation – or are a well-versed pro – I recommend starting with a well-balanced, multi-nutrient supplement that uses doses on the lower end of the spectrum, and focuses on nutrient synergy rather than mega-doses such as the HempMag line of high-performance brain supplements:

For improved mood (HempMag MOOD)

Greater calmness and relaxation (HempMag CALM)

Improved focus, alertness, and concentration (HempMag FOCUS)

And greater immune system and inflammatory balance (HempMag COOLDOWN).

Starting at a lower dose is especially important with regard to the following nutrients: methylfolate, alpha-lipoic acid, boron, and iodine.  More is not necessarily better, and oftentimes, the body prefers smaller doses for certain nutrients.  Some of this is simply trial and error to see what works best for your particular biochemistry.  I’ve learned this from my personal response to various supplements and working with clients, who have lower metabolic requirements for these and other nutrients, and simply do better with lower doses.

For example, say you read an article that spoke of the anti-inflammatory, skin benefits of vitamin E and its companion nutrient, selenium, and you’re a little on the thin side (i.e. low body fat).  Well, vitamin E is fat-soluble, and if you take fat-soluble vitamins they’re first taken up and sequestered by the liver and fatty tissues, and then find their way to the brain, which is a sponge for vitamin E and other fat-soluble (lipophilic) molecules.  The reason the brain has such a high-affinity for lipophilic (fat-loving) substances such as vitamin E is because the brain is one of the fattiest organs in the human body consisting of approximately 60% fat.  If you have low body fat (or low body weight), you’re going to need LESS fat-soluble vitamins than someone who has higher body fat (or body weight).  This is important to keep in mind when it comes to more PRECISE and ACCURATE dosing – and to get the greatest benefit from the nutrients you’re taking.

NEED TO FACTOR IN BODY FAT (AND BODY WEIGHT)

If you find that you’re more sensitive to certain supplements or supplements in general, it could be because you have low fat stores, or have a low body weight such that the doses you’re taking are simply too high for your system.  Starting at half the recommended dose is a good idea for those who fall into this category of metabolic systems.  Other factors also come into play such as if you’re a “fast or slow metabolizer”, or “fast or slow methylator”.  If you’re interested in finding out more about this, I recommend consulting with a functional or integrative medicine doctor, who can recommend specific tests to determine these traits.

If you have low fat reserves (7-12% for example) – your brain will absorb more of the fat-soluble nutrients you’re taking – in this case, vitamin E – which has a number of effects in the body aside from protecting your skin and muscle tissues from oxidative stress.  Vitamin E also thins your blood, dilates your blood vessels, and has effects on the body’s hormonal systems.  The take home message here is when it comes to nutrient dosing it’s always according to a person’s body weight coupled with their unique biochemistry (e.g. fast-metabolizer, etc).  If you have low body weight (or low-fat stores), you’re going to need lower doses of fat-soluble vitamins or any bioactive, fat-soluble molecules.

So, in most cases, it’s best to start low and work your way up to the desired effect.  For example, if you’re taking a supplement to boost your mood and to reduce stress, it’s always a good idea to see how your body will like half the recommended dose, and then increase up to the full dose, as desired.  Some people are more or less sensitive than others to what they consume and interact with in the environment, so what it really comes down to is the old Greek adage that Socrates bestowed upon us many centuries ago – it’s important to “know thyself”.