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Supporting your health

Supporting Your Health

There are numerous reasons why many of us choose to take a daily supplement. Lifestyle and dietary influences may impact on our food choices, leading to concern for the nutrient content of our meals:

• Work and family commitments may impact on available time for food planning, shopping and cooking.
• Not all weight loss programmes will consider your micronutrient needs, with focus given to the macro nutrients of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
• Young children and teenagers may provide dietary challenges, with small or missed meals and a preference for snacks, processed convenience foods and the fast food outlets.
• Those caring for elderly relatives and those suffering from ill health will often find reduced appetites difficult to cater for.

There may be times and events in our lives which create an increased need for nutrients which cannot always be addressed by diet alone:

• Pregnancy and breastfeeding;
• Intensive exercise programmes;
• Lifestyle issues leading to elevated or chronic stress; and
• Acute or chronic health problems and postsurgical recovery.

Promoting and supporting good health may at times benefit from the addition of food supplements ensuring we meet our nutritional needs:

• Preconception is often a time for both prospective parents to ensure nutritional support for a healthy conception and pregnancy.
• Athletes’ training regimes drive an increased nutrient demand for maintenance, tissue repair and immune protection. Antioxidant requirements also increase post intensive training or competing.
• Maintaining healthy bones and the prevention of osteoporosis may require additional nutritional support.
• Vegetarian and vegan diets may require additional support for nutrients such as vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.


How can good nutrition promote health?

Starting with preconception, we know that poor eating habits, nutrient deficiencies and alcohol consumption can, for example, impact on sperm quality, successful conception, pregnancy and the health and weight of baby at birth. More recent research indicates that in the future we will view the nutritional status of mother and baby during pregnancy as relevant for the health of baby, not only at birth but also setting the basis for the lifelong health of the infant.

This early indication for the importance of diet and nutrition to our health is relevant throughout our years; often we consider aspects of ill health as an inevitable part of the aging process. Observational studies of various cultures, diets and lifestyles demonstrate that aging is possible without many of those diseases we consider an integral part of our maturing years in the Western World today.


Obesity: the hidden health implications

Poor dietary choices can lead to a number of nutritional deficiencies and increasing bodyweight with the accumulation of unhealthy levels of fat. The onset of obesity is now considered far more detrimental to our health than was initially forecast; early concerns for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes are now joined by an increased risk for liver disease and some cancers. Whilst total body fat and health concerns have been a concern for many years, we now understand that the distribution of fat is also important. The “pear” shape is considered an example of subcutaneous fat which is located under the skin, more frequently associated with fat deposited in the lower abdominal, hip and thigh areas, sometimes described as ‘fat you can pinch between your fingers’. Visceral fat is located centrally in the abdominal area and is responsible for the “apple” shaped abdomen; recent findings demonstrate that visceral fat is also located inside the abdominal cavity and around our organs. This hidden fat is considered a health concern for those evidencing excess weight and equally for many who maintain ideal bodyweight. Excess body fat is now known to be inflammatory with obesity representing a chronic low level of inflammation.



Inflammation has many potential causes; obesity linked inflammation should potentially be preventable or treatable with a healthy, balanced diet and exercise. Dietary choices and inflammation have additional relevance, with research indicating the typical Western diet may also be driving inflammation, with many diets devoid of natural protective nutrients provided by a healthy balanced and nutritious diet. Studies have demonstrated that a diet low in processed and refined foods is beneficial to the reduction of inflammatory markers: this includes the traditional Mediterranean style of eating, with dietary focus given to fruit, vegetables, healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish lower intakes of meat (particularly red meat.)

Inflammation and the inflammatory process has long been associated with conditions such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory bowel disease; medical science continues to advance and chronic inflammation is now considered central to the pathology of many disorders such as auto-immune conditions, diabetes, cancer and depression with conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease also evidencing neuro-inflammatory aspects. Inflammatory conditions, particularly those associated with pain and joints, are often treated with anti-inflammatory medication. Research has identified the natural anti-inflammatories in food such as the flavonoids found in fruit and vegetables, which provide the dietary potential to reduce inflammation.


The Immune System

Our immune function is comprised of two systems, the innate system (our first line of defence responding to protect the body from viral and bacterial infection), and the adaptive system (assisting in developing our immunity, learning from past infections and inoculations, developing our immunity and protection).

The adaptive system is that responsible for auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Errors of this system result in the body wrongly identifying tissue and attacking itself, ( or as in allergy, where an excessive response is initiated to allergens such as pollen or foods).

The innate system (for many of us) protects and keeps us healthy, destroying potentially harmful organisms; others, however are not so lucky with the innate immune system failing to protect.

So why does the innate immune system fail us?

Potential weakening factors would include stress, lifestyle, toxins, illness, drugs or a nutritionally inadequate diet. As with all systems of the body we require a balanced intake of nutrients in our diet, and many different micronutrients have been identified as vital for the correct functioning the innate immune system. Herbal products have also been identified as beneficial support for the immune system, including ginseng. More recently benefits have been established for the Beta Glucan 1-3,1-6 derived from the cell wall of baker’s yeast. This beta glucan plays a critical role in restoring healthy and correct function of our innate immune system, providing that important first line of defence.


Digestive Health

Thanks to the media and the availability of probiotic drinks and yoghurts, we are now much more aware of their importance in a healthy digestive tract. Promotions include the use of probiotics for reducing abdominal bloating, and aiding regularity of the bowel. Healthy gut bacteria have a much wider application in protecting our health, encouraging the colonising in sufficient quantity of healthy (friendly native) bacteria. This can, by the advantage of numbers, help to protect against sickness bugs caused by harmful and undesirable bacteria.

The digestive system is also an important factor in immune function where, for example, stress has been found to detrimentally change the balance of natural protective bacteria in the gut, leading to a dysregulation in the immune response.

Your digestive system will benefit from maintaining a healthy, balanced, bowel flora. It is of particular importance in the following situations:

• After the use of antibiotics, which beneficially destroy harmful bacteria but also kill natural protective bacteria.
• During or post periods of physical and/or emotional stress.
• Those with diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease may find a replenishment of friendly bacteria beneficial to their symptoms.

It is important to understand that our intestinal flora contains a wide range of protective bacteria: the more commonly known group of beneficial bacteria belong to the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium groups. It is always best to top-up your own commensal friendly bacteria with the same mixed strains in a probiotic product. Single species products (as often found in yoghurts) will provide limited protection.


Steps to promoting good health

To maintain good health, it is important to ensure an adequate and balanced intake of all nutrients that support growth, repair, energy and protection. Preventative health care and compromised health will also benefit from good nutrition with immune function, digestive health and the prevention and modulation of inflammation all importantly requiring the correct nutrition.

Nutritional supplements can play an important part in ensuring your optimum intake of nutrients.

However these should always support a healthy diet and not be used as a replacement for, or to address, poor dietary habits. It is essential to review your diet. Occasional poor food choices are unlikely to lead to be detrimental to health; however, if they feature frequently in your weekly diet then, over time, they will take their toll on your health and changes may be indicated.
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