Supplements not a one-size fits all

A  good, balanced plan filled with fruits and vegetables, lots of pure, filtered water and herbal teas, healthy oils, good, clean proteins, and whole grains should do the trick.

Still, many older adults have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet.

There could be many reasons for this – compromised gut and bowel; lack of appetite; trouble chewing or not chewing enough; fixed budget; trouble finding or purchasing quality, pesticide-free foods.

Add in that your body doesn’t work quite as well as it used to, and climbing Mount Nutrition can be tough!

Supplements might be an option. They can do just what their name says – fill in the gaps in your diet – but they aren’t always the answer.

Take Vitamin A for example: Important for healthy eyes, skin, and immune system.  Too much of it can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms.

Older people are more likely to have those when they take too much because their bodies can’t deal with the vitamin as well.

Talk to your naturopath and if you decide you need a particular vitamin, get a high quality, highly bio-available supplement, one that provides 100 per cent of the recommended amount of vitamins and/or minerals that your body will be able to process and utilize.

Vitamins are important because they help your body work the way it should. Among other things, they boost your immune system, keep your nerves healthy, and help turn the food you eat into energy.

Older adults have different needs when it comes to vitamins and minerals. For example, the right amount of the right type of calcium can help fend off osteoporosis in women.

Vitamin D, which helps your body take in and use calcium, also helps prevent bone loss and fractures in older adults.

It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what you need.

Before you head to the store, though, it’s important to know the term “supplements” includes not only vitamins and minerals, but also herbs and other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, probiotics and fish oils.

Before you take anything, talk to your naturopath and read labels.

Calcium is found in dairy products like milk and certain yogurts, but milk and dairy products are inflammatory, acid and mucous-producing for the human body.  Better sources include lemon zest, egg yolks, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, tahini, sardines, cabbage, spinach, fresh basil, parsley and chives.

Vitamin D is made by the body from sunshine, helps you take in calcium and phosphorus, so it’s key for healthy bones and teeth. Older adults don’t make it as well, so supplements can help make you less likely to have bone loss and fractures.

Vitamin B12 is important for keeping blood cells and nerve cells healthy. Ageing affects how well you take in and use B12 from foods, so if you’re over 50, it’s probably best to get your B12 from supplements to ensure you are getting enough.  Nutritional Yeast is a great source of vegetarian/vegan B12.

Folate helps prevent anemia. It’s in spinach, beans, peas and oranges.

B6 helps your metabolism and immune system. You can get it from chicken, salmon, silver beet, eggplant, sunflower seeds and pistachio nuts.

Vitamin C may help protect you from cataracts, help wound healing, and possibly lower your odds of having certain kinds of cancers.

Magnesium helps keep your blood pressure and blood sugar levels steady. It’s also good for your bones. You can get it in spinach, red meat, chicken, nuts (almond/brazil/cashew/pecan/pine/pistachio/walnut), sesame seeds, tahini, dark chocolate, passionfruit, bananas, blackberries, shallots and parsley.

Probiotics are really important for seniors because digestive functions start to slow down as we age. 

Gut health is also very important for your immune system. Some studies show that probiotics help prevent some types of diarrohea, acute and recurring infections, gut health, immune system, allergies, eczema, inflammation, bloating and ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. 

Remember with probiotics, certain strains and species achieve different results so talk to your naturopath about which one is the right one for you before buying a general over-the-counter brand.

  Trudy Kither is a registered naturopath and owner of Nature’s Temple Natural Medicine Clinic