I am a frequent passenger on the wellness trend bandwagon. I’m always eagerly the first to board, and the one waving my friends to join. Turmeric? It’s a cool color, so sure. Adaptogenic powders? Sounds magical. Kombucha? There’s some weird stuff floating in there, but if it’s good enough for Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s good enough for me. I’m the not-so-proud owner of many random products in pretty packaging that are claiming to make some part of me feel better. And while you’d think that I would be talking about a new trendy wellness trend, one of these pretty-packaging products I’m mentioning is vitamins.
In the last few years, vitamins have transitioned from being sold in basic, boring containers found in a corner supermarket aisle, to colorful pills and gummies with sleek, fun branding featured on Instagram and beauty blogs. Not only are they visually appealing, but these vitamins and supplements also promise incredible results — radiant skin, shiny hair, toxin removal, stress relief, bloating elimination, and improved energy — right on the label. As a sufferer of random stomach aches, chronic daytime fatigue — and if we’re getting real here — constipation and annoying bloating, you can say that I was sold.
I thought that I would be cured and have glowy skin and amazing hair. Except it never happened. Months went by of me religiously taking trendy vitamins (and spending my hard earned $$$), with no apparent change whatsoever to anything.When I confided in a friend about my frustration with my health concerns and lack of results, she suggested I see a nutritionist.
Nutritionists are nothing new, but it had never crossed my mind to visit one. I had almost become comfortable with my body never feeling 100 percent and had gradually developed a self-medicating lifestyle based on what was working for everyone else.
I ended up talking with Dr. Adria Rothfeld, a Certified Nutritionist Specialist at the Nutrition Wellness Center. After some blood work and a very awkward stool-testing experience, I had answers. In general, I was deficient in basically every single vitamin/mineral examined, and I had Candida (yeast) overgrowth in my gut. The fun vitamins I was taking hadn’t helped me AND the kombucha I was chugging daily was feeding the Candida, making my symptoms worse. I also was not eating a balanced diet, and my calorie intake was low (lower is not better!). To top it off, my “healthy” granola bars and mid-afternoon apple snacks were depleting my energy.
According to Dr. Rothfeld, “Snacks serve a larger purpose, which is to stabilize blood sugar between meals. The problem is that most of the time, even well-intentioned people will consume a mostly carb snack, which doesn’t accomplish this. If instead, you add some protein (a hard boiled egg, a few slices of turkey, salmon/chicken salad) and/or healthy fats (avocado, nuts, shredded coconut), you will feel more balanced energy and mood.”
In order to reset my body, I was put on a plan that changed my eating habits. Gluten, dairy, and sugar were significantly reduced to combat gut inflammation. I started keeping track of what I was eating, had meals balanced around protein, vegetables, and healthy fats, ate something every four hours, stopped eating fruit by itself, and drank half my body weight in ounces of water per day. This new lifestyle was a struggle for a girl who normally skips breakfast, loves bread, and hates to meal prep. Even with all these new changes, I was still assigned a variety of specific vitamins/supplements, such as D, B12, probiotics, and magnesium. Even though Dr. Rothfeld encourages her patients to get most of their nutrition from a diet, she states that “there are some vitamins/minerals that are commonly deficient, such as vitamin D and magnesium, as well as the omega 3 fatty acids, that even with balanced eating, often require supplementation. In addition, taking certain medications, such as antacids (i.e. Tums), can deplete levels of key vitamins.”
Six months into being on an individualized plan, I am happy to report that I have hopped off the bandwagon and onto the wellness cruise ship. I traded my random supplements for the ones my body needs, I pay more attention to what I’m eating, and I swapped out my kombucha for matcha and lemon water. I have stopped falling asleep at work, my skin gets compliments, constipation is a vague memory, and I’m even a bit more disciplined. So yea, as much as we all wish vitamins were magical pills to instant results, they’re just not and will never be. However, if you know what you’re doing, and you include them as part of an individualized* and comprehensive approach to taking care of your body as a whole, they can work in your favor.
Sounds familiar? Here are a few signs you might not be getting all the nutrients you need:
1. Your Hair is Falling Out: Is your hair brittle and falling out more than usual? It could mean you need more vitamin C, iron, healthy fats, vitamin A, and protein in your diet.
2. You’re Always Tired: Even when you think you’re doing everything right, if you still find yourself wanting to take a nap in the middle of the day, it might be a sign that you’re deficient in iron and magnesium.
3. Premature Graying: If you find that your hair is looking older than you are, it might be because you’re not getting enough copper and vitamin D in your diet. Almonds and hazelnuts are filled with copper and go outside or include more dairy products for that extra vitamin D.
4. Mental Fog: Although you’re getting enough sleep at night, you still feel like you can’t think straight after just a few hours of work. While stress could be a factor, it could also mean that your B12 levels are low.
*If you have health concerns and are feeling just as confused as I once was, a good place to start is by reaching out to your doctor.
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[Editor’s Note: Since we’re not know-it-alls, always make sure to consult with a doctor before trying anything new. We’re here to guide and provide information that could potentially help, but each person is different so do what’s right for you!]