I am often asked, as an Integrative Health Coach and a cancer survivor, how I make personal choices for my body. It has been a journey of over two and a half decades to make these discernments for myself. One thing I’ve discovered about myself is I have only a couple steadfast rules. And these personal promises happen to coincide with some of the top inquiries I get with folks. The most commonly asked question is how do I decide what I will intake to nourish my body?
Food rule # 1: Step away from preservatives and foods with labels listing ingredients longer than I can read in a long deep breath or can pronounce without having to dissect the word. I like to know with some certainty what I am ingesting.
Food rule #2: My first choice is always organic. I have read the debates about labeling, etc. I have done the taste test, which always amazes me. If I am living somewhere I can grow some of my own foods I do. I figure I am getting enough pesticides and toxins elsewhere without any say. This choice gives me a peace of mind.
Food rule #3: One way I discern what is healthy for me food-wise is to listen to my body after I eat. Sometimes even as I am ingesting food, I get clear messages about how I am likely to feel afterwards. [I have my clients do the same as part of their initial nutrition intake with them.] So…. when I choose to have a little dairy I know I better take my digestive enzymes to help with the process.
This inability to digest dairy without major intestinal distress is quite interesting to me since I grew up in America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin. I remember heading downtown to a large department store, now deserted, to gather our farmer surplus blocks of cheese. My Granny Grace would cut up the massive blocks of cheddar, put them into freezer bags and wedge them into her second freezer in the hallway. We were never without cheese. Maybe I overdosed and this is my body’s way of saying ‘no mas.’ Seems to me I would have built up an immunity to dairy, don’t ya think?
Food rule #4-9: All the other choices I make with food are all the things everyone has heard a million times – balance between veggies, fruits, carbs, proteins. Drink water and so on, it is really not rocket science. I have several ways I assist my clients in doing this. It is just a matter of determining what they are willing to do.
For many years I did not take nutritional supplements thinking if I ate well I would be fine. However, I came to realize after reading studies and books like Silent Spring and other agro-politic-consciousness-raising books that our soil truly is depleted (unless fortified by a really good farmer/gardener – usually organic farmers). Our food supply in general no longer possess the vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients we need. So I went on a quest to find the best in a massive market of supplements. I worked in the vitamin departments of Whole Foods and other smaller health food stores for over a decade. I tested every brand I could on myself, and tried all the new products as they came on the market. Over the two decades I did this I watched an alarming shift as the government tried to step in and regulate this whole multi-million dollar industry. Companies started putting out the hottest mixes to be the latest and greatest. Top this with no real regulation of what is contained within the supplement and well it felt like a crapshoot.
A term coined in the industry ‘good manufacturing practices’ basically means, “what we say is in there, is in there.” It became a good buzz word (in my mind). This meant a company was known and proven to take the time to do the right thing with their products.
These do-the-right-things were the basis of most of the questions folks asked me as I stood in those aisles lined with little bottles for every ailment. Here are the top two I think are important to be aware of when you choose a supplement.
1st.) How do I know I am not peeing these out? Vitamins have different levels of bioavailablity. This means how quickly do they break down in the body (bio) to be available for ingestion into the system. The highest level, or best absorption rate is under 45 minutes. This is based on United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) standards. When you ingest food or supplements they are ingested into the system at different rates and the longer they take the more taxiing it is on the system. Some believe this also impacts the absorption rate of the nutrients within in the supplement. [http://www.7systems.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/MultivitaminGuideU7.pdf (p.3)]
2nd.) Most often asked question is how do I know what is really in this little bottle? I discovered NutriSearch online. This is a third party certification company in Canada that checks for a variety of different levels of quality and potency in supplements. Each year they put out a publication listing their findings, The Nutritional Comparative Guide.
Stay Tuned for Part II of Picking Quality