Supplements, are they a fact or a fad? Does natural mean better or safer? Why isn’t my body absorbing ingredients?
It feels like every week there is talk of a new active ingredient that’s going to change our lives. From fad diets to miracle products, it’s hard to decipher what we should be putting in or on our bodies. To clear up some of the confusion, we talked to Valerie Marin, founder of Your Vitality Store in Singapore, to get the lowdown on supplements, holistic health and the perplexing world of products.
Valerie started Your Vitality Store in 2014 after a personal illness caused her to look for a natural remedy. She was confronted with a confusing array of supplements and ended up taking one that made her feel worse, not better. Valerie realized that misleading marketing was making it hard for people to find the right option for their own individual needs. As a result, she set out to create a platform that would educate people about holistic health and provide safe and ethical products.
Your platform provides natural wellness products such as herbal supplements. What started you off on this journey?
I started using supplements to solve my own health issues, and the more I learn, the more I believe that supplementation can be an important and beneficial part of a holistic health approach for everyone. We focus so much on food and drink, but we rarely think about the other things that we put into our body that affect us from the inside out.
Do you think that we should all be taking supplements? What role do you believe they should play in our daily lives?
We are all unique, so need to take individual approaches instead of jumping on the latest fad. For some people, supplements can improve conditions that are impacting their lives. I like to approach the body as a group of organic systems, with individual functions but all interconnected. For example, if you have a digestive problem, it’s not just about taking vitamins that specifically target that issue, it’s about supporting the whole of the digestive function with products and plants that support absorption. Other factors may be affecting it too such as the amount of sleep you’re getting.
Supplements can also be used to maintain a healthy body. Most of us live in heavily-polluted environments – from the air we breathe to the toxins in food – our bodies are less able to counterbalance the effects of these things. Supplements can be a way of supporting the body’s autoregulation and bolstering its response when you’re a little weaker than normal.
It sounds like there are a lot of different considerations to bear in mind. What principles do you follow when deciding what sits on your virtual shelves?
The most important thing for me is that I trust the products and that they are safe to use. Health supplements are often marketed with a focus on their active ingredients but don’t consider how the ingredients interact together and with the rest of the body. Products can solve one problem but create another problem elsewhere. I found this out myself when the supplements I was recommended for my condition had a damaging effect on my adrenals.
As an industry, I don’t think we police this enough. It’s so important that whatever you are putting into your body has been tested to ensure it will not have adverse side effects, which is why I’m pleased that I’m able to work with brands that take such an ethical stance and put safety above all else.
You talk a lot about ‘biocompatibility’ and ‘bioavailability’ – what’s the difference between the two and why are they so important?
The first thing to consider is biocompatibility – whether the product is going to work for you or create a disturbance in other parts of your body. We’re all unique individuals, so what works for one person may not work for another. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is often led by trends and forgets this bio-individuality. I tried kefir water a few years back when it started to become popular. But after a week I felt bloated and decided to stop. We need to be more accepting of what our bodies are telling us and appreciate that our body is a complex organism with a delicate physiologic balance that can be disrupted.
Bioavailability considers how much of the ingredient your body is able to use – and if it can use it at all. A 1000 MG vitamin C capsule may seem like great value for money, but if your body only absorbs 10% of it, then you are not being efficient.
Sometimes your body may not be able to use an ingredient properly. Take turmeric – a very powerful anti-inflammatory. The body is not very good at absorbing it, so to get the benefits you’d have to be ingesting a very high level. However, if you use a specific extraction process, it becomes more easily available to the body and much easier to process and absorb. Choosing bio-available products is therefore critical to getting the balance right.
So just because something is ‘natural’, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better or safer?
The problem with the term natural is that people assume it must be automatically good for the body. But as we’ve discussed, there are so many other factors that affect whether it is going to work for you as an individual. It’s important to check that your formulation isn’t hiding behind its label and has been evaluated and proven to fulfill its purpose.
My goal for Your Vitality Store is to get rid of some of this confusion – to educate people about the benefits of living a holistic life and to provide a platform that promotes ethically – formulated supplements.
But whatever you decide to try, ask yourself – do I really need this? If you decide to start taking a new supplement or to follow a new regime, make sure you listen to your body. Do you feel better? Is this working for you?
- Don’t follow fads: ask yourself whether it works for you
- Support ethical brands that test products properly
- Reuse as much as possible
Visit Valerie Marin Your Vitality Store online or in Singapore at 65 Ubi Road 1, Oxley Bizhub1 #02-73, Singapore 408729.
Photo via Harvard Medical School