Supplements: Is supplementation all just hype?

Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden
September 6, 2022

Supplements have been gaining popularity over the past couple of decades. Is it just another health fad, or is there real science behind it?


Is supplementation just a way for companies to get rich and to create expensive urine?

Society labels productivity as one of the most important aspects of life. Bigger, better, faster, more. Those words have come to dominate our thoughts. Unfortunately, the farming industry has suffered from that same thought process and subsequently, even organic farmers try to cultivate maximum yield from lands over and over.

This has caused severe mineral depletion in our soil. With fewer minerals to put into the plants that we grow. Yes, it looks like an orange, but the mineral content of an orange today is far less than one would have been twenty years ago. That is one of the biggest reasons why we need to include supplements in our daily regime.

Let’s look at vitamin D for another example. We spend most of our time indoors with little to no natural sunlight. A thousand people took part in a study. More than 80% of South Africans are deficient in vitamin D. We discuss vitamin D in greater detail in our Health Drops podcast.

In what dosages do I need supplements?

For food supplements to be truly effective, you need to take the recommended dosage.

When we look at food and packaging of supplements, the standard way of promotion is the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). What we oftentimes forget or do not know that RDA is a minimum value calculated to keep you from getting sick.

Why would we be happy with just not being sick? In integrative medicine, we look at Optimum Daily Intake. These amounts are our standard for optimum living, not just being “not-sick”.

Click here for an example of RDA vs ODI

Vitamin C is Vitamin C, right?

In order to make sure that we get the maximum benefit from our supplements, we need to ensure that we take the correct form of that supplement. Vitamin C, for instance, can be found as both a fat-soluble and water-soluble extract. Each has their own characteristics and therefore we tend to choose Vitamin C Ester, which contains both forms.

Can I take anything and everything?

It is an unfortunate reality that many people think that because something is “natural” it is safe. When embarking on a supplementation journey, it is a good idea to still do it with the guidance of an integrative practitioner.

There are herb-herb interactions, herb-drug interactions and drug-drug interactions that can have a negative influence on your health if not taken into account.

Curcumin may result in an increased risk of bleeding if taken with anticoagulants, for example. Another example would be Echinacea that may cause inflammation of the liver if used with methotrexate.

The key for me is to be pro-active in your supplementation regime. Do your homework. Don’t stand in front of an aisle of supplements and take the prettiest bottles with the best promises.

What do I look for in reputable supplements?

There are many companies out there creating supplements. Luckily legislation is being put in place to start making sure that supplements are regulated for quality and efficacy.

Here are 5 tips that I look out for when deciding about my supplement company:

  1. Are there fillers in the capsules?
    Fillers serve no function other than making a capsule look full
  2. Is there research behind the formulations of the supplements?
    How freely available is the information that backs the supplements? Who formulated these supplements? Do they have knowledge in the field?
  3. Are the supplements being produced in a safe, clean and accredited facility?
  4. Have the supplements been created in an environmentally aware way?
  5. Are the dosages of the supplements what I need?
    Remember the difference between RDA and ODI!

How can we change our situation?

If we can start returning to basics, we can start lowering the need for supplementation. I would like to challenge you to start growing your own medicine. Something small at first - tomatoes, for example. Know what you put into the soil. Know what you are feeding yourself.

Small starts will enable us to make healthy living a standard.

Your Wellbeing
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Your Wellbeing