Most of us have understood the importance of taking a daily vitamin since childhood. Any Flintstone kids still growing out there? Taking some basic supplements on a daily, long-term basis makes sense.
Dr. Elizabeth Yurth of the Boulder Longevity Institute points out that Vitamin D, B-Complex vitamins, or general multivitamins are logical additions to your daily supplement routine. What about the more aggressive supplements like spermidine, NAD, or antioxidants?
Using a process of supplement cycling (time on – time off specific vitamins and supplements) can help the body reap the benefits without doing unintentional damage. Certain supplements can be overwhelming when taken regularly over long time periods.
The overwhelm can be physical, including burdening the liver as it works to filter the body of unwanted chemicals. There can be a financial toll associated with overconsuming supplements, as most of them would not be considered inexpensive. Finally, trying to keep up with supplement dosages, timing, and ingredient interactions can be downright stressful.
Human bodies are indescribably complex. The interaction of pathways, messengers, and metabolism can all be impacted by supplements. A short period of intake of certain supplements may not overwhelm these systems but over time could have negative impacts.
Dr. Yurth offers a couple of examples, of the hundreds she can think of, describing how supplements could have unintended consequences. She notes that many supplements are tested over short periods of time, leaving us in the dark of how they impact our bodies with extended intake.
We constantly hear about how oxidative stress is overwhelming our bodies. Social media has convinced us that throwing antioxidants at the supposed problem will tamp down the oxidative stress, and be beneficial in the long term. While many of us are inundated with this stress occurring in the body, the thought process that antioxidants are a cure all is problematic.
The problem with this approach is that not all oxidative stress is a bad thing. This stress can encourage mitochondria to respond appropriately, improving damaged cells on their own. This is a prime example of how the complicated systems in our bodies can be thrown off balance by what we think is best. Balance (homeostasis) is key.
5-HTP is another example of how less might be more. We know 5-HTP is a good supplement that positively impacts sleep, encourages true rest, and reduces stress through the increase in serotonin and melatonin it induces. What happens if we intake 5-HTP for extended periods?
Tryptophan finds another route and drives down the kynurenine pathway. This throws the appropriate system out of balance, possibly leading to neurological damage, depression, and a reduction in sleep. This is the opposite outcome we would be hoping for and is instigated by too much 5-HTP.
The loss of vital homeostasis is a real threat when taking certain supplements for long durations. This is how cycling helps. Taking breaks via these cycles allows the balance to remain in place. Your liver gets a break and the body is allowed to reset.
Dr. Yurth also points out how the body typically reacts to inputs like supplements or exercise. It adapts. Doing the same thing over and over leads to a plateau in results. Cycling supplements or changing exercise routines challenges the body to keep improving.
The assistance of someone like the specialists at Boulder Longevity Institute is certainly helpful. We have seen how challenging it can be to know what to take, how long, and how much. Getting the perspective of a professional is the best bet for those taking supplements other than the typical everyday vitamins.
For those seeking a DIY approach, take your basic supplements regularly. For more aggressive supplements, consider 12 weeks on and 12 weeks off cycles to allow your body to rest, recuperate, and react appropriately.
The body needs homeostasis. Cycling supplements can protect the cells and maintain balance over time. Balance is key.
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