Supplements – do you need them


Walk into any health food shop, supermarket or pharmacy and the shelves will be bursting with bottles and boxes that contain tablets, capsules and liquid drops that will (according to the blurb) have you feeling better, fitter and healthier.


But the big question is do we need to take these vitamin supplements or is there another alternative? 

There are certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are essential for keeping the body functioning and healthy, including 13 vitamins – A, C, D, E, K and the eight B vitamins. The body only needs them in minute amounts. Most of us can get enough of these by eating a healthy balanced diet and, in the case of vitamin D, from getting enough sunlight. However, certain vitamin supplements may be beneficial to some groups of people, such as the elderly, pregnant women and children between six months and five years old. Or if you have a restricted diet i.e. being vegan

healthy eating

To decide whether or not you need to take supplements I would always recommend you visit your GP and have some blood tests.

If you don’t want to do that or your GP is unwilling to do some tests, there are lots of companies out there who will, but unfortunately they have to charge.  One such company is Medichecks a UK based organisation that I have personally met and spoken to.  If you have any questions they are only too happy to help and their staff are all medically trained doctors or nurses.  There is an added bonus of a 20% discount if you use this code


Once you have your results you can then book a nutrition session (or series of sessions) with me and I can help support you to make any necessary changes


Your lifestyle can affect your nutrient uptake

Stress – produces cortisol, which can affect your metabolism and loss of essential nutrients like magnesium (needed for sleep and stress relief), calcium (bones, heart rhythm)

Obesity – often as a result of poor portion control or a less varied/more processed diet that lacks nutrients – sugary foods hinder the uptake of magnesium

Tiredness and poor sleep – not allowing time for the body to repair and renew

Processed foods, ready meals and takeaways – These foods can be high in fat, salt, sugar and calories.  And may lead to digestive issues, increased weight, reduced fibre intake and lack of nutrients

Lack of activity – can lead to weaker bones and a potential surplus of calories

Smoking – destroys lots of beneficial gut bacteria

Alcohol – can affect the gut bacteria

last week I spoke to Mark Dennison on his BBC Nottingham breakfast show about whether we should or should not supplement our diets


Each nutrient has a specific role to play:


Vital nutrient What it does High in
Vitamin A Needed for good for eyesight and healthy skin Yellow, red & green (leafy) veg, sweet potatoes, red peppers, yellow fruit (mango, apricots, Sharon fruit) dairy, eggs, oily fish, liver
Vitamin B group Helps the body to breakdown release energy from food, maintain a healthy nervous system, make healthy red blood cells Peas, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, soya beans, chickpeas, peanuts, fresh and dried fruit, rice, oats, wholegrains, fortified breakfast cereal, eggs, liver, milk, fish, cheese
Vitamin C Helps to keep cells healthy Oranges, berries, kiwi, broccoli, potatoes
Vitamin D Helps to regulate calcium and is essential for strong bones and teeth, The sunshine, mushrooms, oily fish, egg yolks, fortified foods, red meat, liver
Vitamin E Needed to maintain cell structure. Plant oils (olive, soya, rapeseed), nuts and seeds, wheatgerm, avocados
Vitamin K Needed for blood clotting to help wound heal Green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, cereal grains
Zinc Helps make new cells, breakdown food and wound healing Wheatgerm, cereal, bread, dairy, meat and shellfish
Turmeric (active ingredient circumin) Linked to reducing cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis (TOO EARLY TO SAY) Take with black pepper. Check with GP about existing medications
Pro and prebiotic Prebiotics feed the good bacteria that live in the gutProbiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health Prebiotics – onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, green leafy veg, over the counter yoghurt drinksProbiotics – live yoghurt (dairy and non dairy), kefir (fermented dairy and non dairy), kombucha (fermented black and green tea), tempeh (fermented soya beans), kimchi (fermented vegetables and spice) sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). Miso (soya bean paste), Pickles, soft cheeses, sourdough bread


With a few exceptions (niacin and vitamin D), our bodies cannot make these substances, meaning we need to obtain them from other sources such as food. If you have low levels of certain vitamins, you may develop 
a deficiency disease. Too little vitamin D, for example, could lead to rickets in children, not enough Iron could lead to anaemia.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that vitamin C and B vitamins are water-soluble and are used rapidly by the body; any excess is excreted out when you go to the loo. So you could be literally flushing money down the drain

Whereas fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body,  when taken in excess they could damage cells and organs particularly vitamin A and the liver


Zinc There is evidence that taking zinc within a day of developing symptoms
 of a cold reduces the duration of the 
cold by about a day and that regular supplementation (for at least five months) protects people against catching colds.

fruit-and-vegYou will have realised that fruits, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains are littered throughout the above table, so my advice to you is make sure these nutritious and delicious foods are regularly and consistently incorporated in to your diet.

But if you do have concerns about your health then please visit your GP, and then come and see me and I will help support you to make any changes.

Attending my vegan cooking class might be a good place to start

vegan classes gen


Vitamin D – should we take supplements?

Vitamin D – should we take supplements?

Its been widely reported in the press that we are recommended to take vitamin D supplements, after studies showed this “sunshine’ vitamin could protect against colds and flu.

Vitamin D

So before you go rushing off to your nearest health food shop I would suggest you first of all have your vitamin D level checked by your GP

Some of the common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are:

A true deficiency can only be confirmed by a blood test. But according to the NHS website, symptoms that may show you need a blood test are:

  • Aching bones
  • Having a low mood – vitamin D appears to have an effect on serotonin levels (feel good hormone
  • Being over 50 – the body makes less vitamin D as we age
  • Being overweight or obese – the higher your levels of body fat the more vitamin D is diluted (as it’s a fat soluble vitamin)
  • Having darker skin – it absorbs less of the suns rays
  • Gut troubles – coeliacs, Crohns or IBS can all affect the way the body absorbs fat soluble vitamins
  • People who cover up for cultural or religious reasons
  • Those who spend a lot of time indoors – the elderly and infirm for instance

How important is Vitamin D – What does it do?

The main job of vitamin D is to keep the right amount of calcium and phosphorus in our blood? These 2 nutrients work together to make our bones strong, so they don’t become brittle and break easily. If we don’t have vitamin D in our bodies, only a small amount of the calcium from our diet can be absorbed and only a little more than half of phosphorus is absorbed.

Vitamin D may also be linked to muscle strength, but this link is very recent and more trials and evidence needs to be gathered

Why is Vitamin deficiency so common in the UK?  We don’t absorb enough of the sun rays (overuse of sunblock) and spend a lot of time indoors 

A 2007 survey estimated that around 50% of all adults have some degree of vitamin D deficiency.  The rates of rickets is children has risen fourfold in the last 15 years

Gem news



Gem 106 radio contacted me this week for my opinion about vitamin D supplements.  Here’s an extract of that interview




Vitamin D supplements, should we take them? 1 minute 30


How can we increase our intake of vitamin D?

sunshineFirst and foremost expose your skin to 10-20 minutes of sun a day. – 90% of our vitamin D comes from this source. This has to be without sunscreen, so don’t do this when the sun is at its strongest and be sensible.

Certain foods are also high in vitamin D, including oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), eggs, milk/non dairy milk, orange juice. In the UK, infant formula and fat spreads are fortified with vitamin D. It is also added to other foods such as breakfast cereals, non dairy milks.

If your GP has confirmed you have below average levels of vitamin D, then some simple changes to your diet could be sufficient.  Why not contact me and book a free short consultation and we can get you back on track

07946 301338

Here’s another extract of the GEM106 radio interview, where we discuss food- its only 19 seconds long


How soon would we see the benefit?

It can take up to 3 months, depending on how low your levels were


Can you have too much?

Yes,  according to the NHS website there is a vitamin D toxicity, which may cause high levels of calcium in the blood and can lead to kidney stones. It can affect some Vitamin D supplements plus lots of sun and lots of fortified food, but it is rare.

symptoms (of hypercalcaemia) include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness or drowsiness

Always check with GP/pharmacist if you want to take supplements as some medical conditions can make you more sensitive to Vitamin D (liver/kidney disease)