SLOW Principles for Supplements and Aging

Slow solutions are those that can be incorporated into our daily routine. Supplements as a way to support healthy aging are no exception. They are not for whenever we remember to take them, or for lining our bathroom cupboard. They are not for taking in one fad of enthusiasm and then stopping when the fashion changes. This may do more harm than good. For example, antioxidant supplements also stimulate pro-oxidant pathways to balance our systems. This isn’t a problem while the antioxidant remains around, but may be an issue if they are stopped. This may be one reason why the best successes are achieved by a diet high in antioxidants, as we are less likely to forget to eat than to take a pill. Sustainability must be a key goal when choosing supplements to support healthy aging especially when compared to dietary changes. One way to get the most of our supplement and aging plan is to establish a routine.

Supplementation as a positive experience
Supplements are not the bitter pill we had to swallow in order to ensure good health, or a punishment for the nutritionally wicked. We will never stay this kind of course. If we are going to embrace supplements, like any relationship, it helps to like what we are hugging.

    • Information is important. We need to know as much as we can about our supplement and how it will support a healthy aging process.
    • Nothing is without side effects in some individuals. This is especially the case if it actually works. Find out what they are. While we need to be conscious of unwanted effects, we also need to actively take steps to minimize them. This can be as simple as timing and optimizing the dosage, or shopping around for a formulation for healthy aging that sits right with you.
    • Introduce supplements one at a time and note any positive or negative changes over a week or two. Pay attention and keep a record. If you feel neutral or good, then introduce a new supplement until you are taking all of the supplements in your plan. If you don’t care how you feel, you have to ask why you are taking the supplements in the first place!
  • Track the benefits. Make note of any improvements or changes in your health and aging when taking supplements. While this is a subjective measure, it is also one of the best measures of personal health. If the supplement we are taking is for prevention, then we may not notice an obvious change in our own health outcomes. However, there may be changes in our biochemical tests. Ask your health care provider to go over these with you at appropriate intervals.

Don’t be exclusive
The best option is never contained in a single pill. Although supplements are often regarded as ‘alternative medicines’, they cannot be regarded as an alternative to a good diet, exercise, lifestyle or other healthy practices mentioned in this book. This includes cancer screening and lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In fact these activities are even more important to live long enough to make the most of our supplements. For this reason, it is better to consider supplements as synergistic or complementary therapies used in addition to, and to the advantage of other interventions that underpin healthy aging.

For example, starting any dietary supplements should also be accompanied by a review of our diet plan. We might find that substituting fresh broccoli for pasta is a cheaper and tastier alternative. Or we might identify that there is not enough B12 or iron in our current vegetarian diet that may be more readily corrected with supplements, so dietary changes can proceed at a slower pace or with a different focus (such as weight control).

Supplements can also help us get through periods when our health focus is elsewhere, like work/relationship stress, weight gain or disease. Rather than dropping one ball while trying to pick up another, supplements can give us the time and resilience for more holistic interventions.

Don’t go it alone
Don’t go it alone when tackling the choice of using (or not) supplements. You will need help learning about the options first.

There are almost too many options available – certainly too many to be covered in any one web site! One place to start is to ask for a little help. There are many professionals out there to offer advice and make practical suggestions. A growing number of doctors and health care professionals are able to offer useful advice about the role supplements can have in our aims for aging well.

If one doctor doesn’t understand, find one that does or consider a provider who is knowledgeable in this area. Look to find someone who will be a guide or a coach, rather than one who says you must only do something their way. Shop around. Assess their credentials. Gather information from a variety of sources and evaluate the information carefully. If you know someone who’s gone there, ask them about their experiences. Call the provider to request an interview.

It’s about you, Goldilocks
No matter what we read on the Internet, everybody is different. So find out about yourself, and listen to the feedback. Follow progress as we go and set new goals as we are doing it. It is important to follow our successes and failures. Keep a log or a journal to follow how we are performing. Use testing to establish your areas of focus and choose supplements at the right dose that will meet that need. Not everything will work. Some of us will not tolerate some of the very concentrated products on the market. Some will not work at the doses we can get in some supplements. Others will fit like a glove. Following Goldilocks, and test what best works for you.

Check out the Fast living, Slow ageing book for a comprehensive list of supplements.