When you think of someone who takes supplements, you might not think of yourself. You may think of the elderly next door neighbor who takes bone and joint supplements or your sister-in-law who takes prenatal supplements or your co-worker who takes every vitamin on the market. But what about you? Do you need that extra nutritional support?
Chances are, you are not perfectly nourished. Even if you eat a healthy diet. At every age and in every situation in life, you have specific nutritional needs. Here are a few main times of life where nutritional support is extremely important.
Most people over the age of 65 are malnourished (not eating enough) or overnourished (eating too much of the wrong thing). According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition in the elderly does not just stem from a poor diet but from other physical and psychological issues as well. These include, but are not limited to
Health problems. Due to the natural aging process, problems such as osteoporosis, dementia, dental problems, and arthritis. Such conditions can drain nutrition and cause nutrient deficiencies.
Lack of social interaction. When eating alone, elderly adults can lose the desire to eat full meals and tend to eat less often.
Limited income and access to food. Often due to inability to work, some elderly adults may not be able to afford sufficient groceries. There also might be limited access to food since driving becomes limited in older age.
Depression and other mental concerns. Declining health and loneliness can cause poor or loss of appetite.
Alcoholism. If alcohol is substituted for meals or consumed in large quantities can interfere with nutrient absorption.
Lack of appetite. Sometimes with aging comes a loss of appetite, which inevitably causes deficiencies.
With so many different potential problems that cause malnutrition, it can be difficult to know what steps to take. First, it is important to recognize the signs of malnutrition. Second, additional nutritional care is necessary at this stage in life.
Here are some things to watch out for (applicable either for you or for a loved one):
Weight loss. Keep track of weight loss and pay attention to how clothing fits. Weight loss is a sign that not only are you not getting enough to eat but that you aren’t getting the nutrition and fuel you need.
Change in medication. Different medications have different effects. For example, some drugs can affect nutrient absorption, appetite, and digestion.
Fatigue and weakness. Low on energy? This can be a sign of malnutrition. Watch out for signs of weakness, faintness, and dizziness.
Change in habits. Make sure that you/your loved ones eating habits remain as consistent as possible. If meals are cut out or certain food groups go missing, additional supplementation will likely be necessary.
Malnutrition or undernutrition has many effects on the body, especially the elderly. When the body does not get the specific nutrition it needs, problems arise.
Below are problems caused by elderly malnutrition:
- Suffer symptoms of age-related conditions and diseases
- Strain on bones and joints
- Lowered brain health and function
- Increased need for procedures, such as replacement surgeries
- Increased discomforts of the natural aging process
These issues can be devastating to a previously comfortable life. However, quality nutrition can help create a healthy, enjoyable lifestyle.
Proper nutrition can
- Ease the symptoms of age-related conditions and diseases
- Reduce strain on your bones and joints
- Keep your brain healthy and high functioning
- Sustain an active, happy lifestyle
- Improve energy levels and overall wellness
Which nutrients are specifically beneficial?
Omega 3s: For healthy brain function, you need omega 3s like DHA. Omega 3s can also improve eye health, reduce risk of heart disease, and fight joint inflammation.
Vitamin C: many elderly adults are deficient in vitamin C. This can result in weak immunity, infection, and sickness.
Calcium: as we age, our bones become brittle and weak. Calcium strengthens our bones a protects against fracture and injury.
Glucosamine/chondroitin: These two nutrients are critical components of healthy cartilage. Supplementation with these nutrients will be essential to maintain flexible joints.
Since malnutrition is so common among the elderly population—with many different causes—supplementation can be beneficial, even life-changing. With problems like lack of appetite, it can be hard to receive enough nutrition. Additional supplementation is key.
Anyone can get hurt. You can break your leg by tripping down the stairs or playing football. You can strain a muscle by getting a car accident or running a marathon. An injury puts a mental, physical, nutritional strain on the body.
When you are injured, your body undergoes a great deal of stress. Say you sustain a wound. From the moment the skin is broken, your body begins to fight the perceived threat (the wound). Your body uses all its resources to focus on the injury. This is known as the stress response. When reacting to stressors, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. When excessive cortisol is released, it can cause negative effects such as:
- Decreased immunity,
- Higher blood pressure,
- Increased blood sugar,
- Slower wound healing, and
- Lowered bone density.
Since this stress response uses up a lot of your body’s resources, you are left nutritionally depleted. You can’t anticipate an injury. But you can have a nutritional defense ready when they occur.
Nutritional problems during recovery
Non-union (Bone injuries)
Each year, an average of six million people in the United States will break a bone. Bone injuries are common among children and athletes. They are also common in those with osteoporosis. But, a fracture can happen to anyone. The five most common fracture are a clavicle, wrist, hip, ankle, and stress fracture.
The approach to fracture healing is usually time. It will heal with time. Unfortunately, around 10% of fractures have delayed healing and non-union. Multi-nutrient supplementation with amino acids, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, and others can help prevent complications during bone recovery.
Infection and poor scarring (flesh wounds)
If you have suffered a cut or other flesh wound, you can run into a few problems. The biggest issue is the risk of infection. Another problem can be poor scarring and bruising. When recovering from a wound, you need to make sure your body is nutritionally prepared to create new cells and heal your tissue and skin. Supplementation with antioxidants like vitamin C will help reduce infection and nutrients like bromelain can help reduce bruising.
Amino acid deficiencies
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. And protein is the major structural component of all cells in the body. Without amino acids, your body will struggle to renew and recover. In order to repair muscle and rebuild tissue, you will need these building blocks. Without them, your body will not have the energy to create new cells and recover damage. Taking an amino acid supplement will be critical when recovering from injury.
After an injury, especially a serious one, you may find yourself low on energy and motivation. Underneath the surface, your nutritional stores may also be depleted (thanks to the stress response mentioned above). It is necessary that while you recover, you pay special attention to your diet—making sure you are getting sufficient vitamins, minerals, protein, etc.
How supplementation can help
Everyone has nutritional gaps in their diet. But those gaps become more expansive during injury. Supplementation can fill those gaps and complement a healthy diet. It is important to look for supplements that are targeted toward injury recovery and not just a cheap drugstore option. You will have a lot to worry about when recovering—supplements can help take away some of the stress.
Here are some things that happen during recovery:
- Damaged bone, muscle, and tissue
- Slow injury recovery speed and completeness
- Unhealthy inflammation and unnecessary swelling
- Delayed healing
- Increased risk of infection and sickness
- Struggles with immobility, loss of range of motion, and risk of further injury.
You don’t want any of these to happen during recovery. Here is how quality nutrition can help:
- Rebuild damaged bone, muscle, and tissue
- Reduce pain and discomfort
- Improve recovery speed and completeness
- Prevent fatigue & weakness
- Reduce complications such as infection
- Support healthy inflammation and prevent unnecessary swelling
Which specific nutrients do you need to achieve these results?
Antioxidants. There are organisms in our body called free radicals. And they can do a lot of cell damage. Antioxidants like vitamin C help reduce the damage of free radicals and prevent infection.
Amino acids. Your body will need its basic building blocks in order to have the energy and components to properly heal.
Calcium and vitamin D. Vital when recovering from a bone injury. Around 99% of calcium is found in the bones and teeth—making it obviously necessary for bone healing. Vitamin D protects your bones from damage, so also important during recovery.
Bromelain. This nutrient is derived from a pineapple enzyme. Bromelain is a great nutritional tool to have as it can reduce bruising.
You’re not old. You’re not injured. Sure, maybe you don’t eat enough fruits and veggies but it’s not like you get fast food every meal. No harm there, right? The truth is, even the healthiest of eaters have nutrient deficiencies.
Even if you don’t care to be the healthiest, strongest person on your block. If your goal is to simply live a good life, you will need quality nutrition to do so. For those of us who aren’t injured and we aren’t elderly (yet), there are still ways we can become undernourished. And there are times when we need additional nutritional support.
Allergies & extreme diets
Up to 25% of vegetarians suffer from malnutrition. This does not go to say stop being a vegetarian. But strict diets can cause nutrient deficiencies, specifically in iron, protein, and vitamin B12. Vegans are at an even more increased risk, also suffering from deficiencies in nutrients like calcium and zinc. Other extreme diets, such as ketogenic, that leave out key food groups cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Allergies also pose some risks. If you are lactose intolerant, you miss out on calcium, iodine, potassium, and B vitamins. If you have an allergy to eggs, you can miss out on choline and DHA. Or, if you are allergic to fish, you may not get enough omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin D, zinc, and calcium.
Desk jobs & sedentary lifestyles
Sitting is the new smoking. It is bad for you and can cause so many health problems. Sitting at a desk all day or having any other form of sedentary lifestyle causes your joints to go into dormant mode. This can cause cartilage breakdown, stiffness, and loss of flexibility. If you find this describes your lifestyle, you need to get moving more often during the day. But you will also need quality nutrition; like DHA to lubricate your joints, antioxidants to reduce swelling, and glucosamine to support cartilage. A joint supplement will be a great tool.
90% of Americans get too much sodium in their diet. And we are deficient in many key nutrients: omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, and others. Sadly, most Americans do not get the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. No, you cannot eat an unhealthy diet and cure that with supplements. But, supplements will help fill the gaps as you work toward a well-rounded diet.
Prepare for emergencies
Even if you feel healthy and eat a relatively healthy diet, you never know what might be just around the corner. You could become ill. You could become injured. Maybe you will need surgery or perhaps you will become pregnant. You want your body to be prepared for whatever lies ahead. Here are a few ways nutrition can help during these times:
When you are sick, you want to do all you can to boost your immune system. Which means you will need nutrients like zinc, vitamin C, folate, vitamin D, and even pre and probiotics. Making sure you get these in your diet (with the help of supplements), you can battle the sickness that comes your way.
Even the best of athletes don’t see an injury coming. But athlete or not, you can prepare your body just in case. During an injury, you will need vital nutrition made up of vitamin D and calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, amino acids, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin C and other antioxidants. These nutrients will help you recover more completely and give your body the tools it needs for healing.
When you have surgery, your nutritional stores are depleted. Before and after surgery, you need to arm your body with powerful nutrition—to prepare for depletion and restore and replenish during recovery. Nutrients like vitamin C, iron, amino acids, bromelain (a pineapple enzyme), zinc, pre and probiotics (for your gut health), calcium, vitamin D, and so many others will help you have a strong recovery.
You are literally growing another human. Which means at least double the nutrition (though not double the calories). While pregnant, you need a prenatal supplement that has you and your baby covered for every nutritional need. You will need folate, iron, choline, DHA/EPA, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins—all to keep your baby growing and your body functioning. A prenatal supplement can help prevent birth defects and complications. And supplementation after birth is necessary while breastfeeding.
Whatever stage of life you are in or what you are dealing with, supplements can help you out. Make sure you choose supplements that are high-quality and backed by real science.