For the health-conscious among us, popping your vitamins in the morning is as second nature as brushing your teeth.
In fact, you’ve probably taken the same supplements, every day, for years.
But it turns out you could get more benefit from your health-boosting pills by not taking them.
Hear us out.
Your body is pretty smart and constantly adapts. When you take supplements every day, the body can develop a tolerance to them, reducing their effectiveness.
Instead, taking them in cycles with breaks in between – known as ‘supplement pulsing’ – could make them work better for you.
Clarissa Berry, is a nutritionist for DIRTEA, a range of powders and Super Blends made with functional mushrooms which naturally enhance your wellbeing. She explains: ‘Sometimes the body adapts in response to a supplement, in an attempt to keep the body in a state of balance, resulting in a dampening of the effect of the supplement.
‘Supplement pulsing essentially means taking supplements intermittently in order to prevent the body building up a tolerance, to reduce the chance of adverse effects, or to optimise the intended benefits.
‘It usually involves taking a supplement for a set period of time, for example three months, before taking an intentional break while you notice any changes.
‘During this rest period, an alternative supplement may be added, or ‘pulsed in’. Supplement pulsing can also help you turn into your body, to assess when you might benefit from a supplement, or when you can do without it.’
Supplement pulsing may also help to mitigate any adverse effects from what you’re taking.
‘Just like medications, supplements often have wide-reaching effects in the body, often beyond the purpose they’re being taken for,’ says Clarissa. ‘In some cases, certain supplements taken over prolonged periods can cause negative side effects.’
There is also an argument that supplement pulsing more closely mimics our natural rhythms. ‘It is rare that our bodies are exposed continually to any one nutrient or food,’ adds Clarissa.
‘Finally, there are many supplements that it is just not wise to take over extended periods of time, either because they interfere too powerfully with biological functions, for example supplements that affect hormone balance, or because they are intended to offer temporary support while underlying processes are restored.’
So how do you pulse your supplements? Well, it’s pretty straight forward – but it’s worth doing so with some professional help.
‘First you would need to define your cycle duration,’ explains Clarissa. ‘A short cycle might be a schedule of five days on, two days pause. A longer cycle might be three months on, one month off.
‘You would also need to determine your supplement dosage with the help of a professional. Always start just one supplement at a time so that you can identify the cause of any effects you may experience.
‘During both the on and off phases, notice how you feel, including any positive or negative changes. It can be helpful to keep a journal.’
Which supplements benefit from pulsing? Clarissa shares her thoughts:
- Stimulants, such as caffeine. Prolonged use of caffeine is known to lead to increased tolerance and even reliance. Pulsing can actually maintain its efficacy.
- Nootropics. These are supplements that enhance brain function. Natural nootropics, such as lion’s mane and bacopa monnieri, can be pulsed to maintain optimal benefits.
- Herbal supplements that affect hormone balance. These include chaste berry, black cohosh, fenugreek and tongkat ali. Pulsing can prevent the body from reducing its natural hormone production due to supplementation.
- Performance-enhancing supplements. These include creatine and beta alanine. While many athletes take these continuously, some choose to cycle or pulse them based on their training phases.
- Adaptogens, such as reishi, cordyceps, ginseng and ashwagandha. Adaptogens are supplements that improve stress resilience and help the body to reach a state of balance, which means that they are generally considered safe to take daily. However, some people choose to pulse them to prevent desensitisation or to align with stressful periods.
- Certain vitamins and minerals. Taken over prolonged periods of time some actually cause more harm than good. For instance, single nutrients like iron or zinc taken in isolation can actually interfere with the absorption of other nutrients and even risk accumulation and potential toxicity.
Clarissa notes that the decision to pulse any supplement should be made after thorough research and in consultation with a healthcare professional or nutritionist.
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