One way to beat the rising cost of healthcare, especially with an economy in recession, is to invest in your health to prevent illness.
With some chilly months still ahead of us, we’re not clear of colds-and-flu season yet, and you need to keep your immune system operating optimally.
A trend towards better healthcare as a preventive measure is reflected in South Africa’s burgeoning vitamins and supplements market, which grew at a compound annual rate of 13.5% from 2014 to 2016, during a time when the country’s economy was limping along at a GDP growth rate of just 1-2%.
“This shows that South Africans are serious about their health,” says Bruce Dennison, president of the Health Products Association of South Africa (HPASA), which champions quality standards in an industry that was worth R3,8 billion last year.
Launched in 1976, the HPASA has long been at the forefront of the natural health products, nutritional dietary supplements and complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) industries, and represents a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and practitioners.
“The HPASA plays a crucial role in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the market and works to provide a fertile environment for industry growth,” says Dennison. “This ensures that all members have sound knowledge at their fingertips and can provide the best-quality products to the consumer.”
Deal with deficiencies
Andrea du Plessis, nutritional expert at Vital Health Foods, says that your first focus should be on your diet, to work out if you’re ingesting enough of any specific vitamin or mineral. “Many South Africans follow diets that lack vitamin A, zinc and iron,” she says. “Vitamin A, which is found in carrots, sweet potatoes and beef liver, is crucial for maintaining eye health and vision, for healthy embryonic development, and for the maintenance of the immune system. Zinc and iron, which are needed for essential bodily functions, are often deficient in the diets of many South Africans. Zinc plays a vital role in immune support, helping the body to fight infections and is found in foods such as oysters, mussels and pumpkin seeds. Iron is responsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s tissues and is found mostly in red meat and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach.”
“Stress, lack of sleep, drinking alcohol and smoking all contribute to the depletion of nutrients in the body. The use of any medicines, ranging from pain killers, to oral contraceptives, antidepressants, cholesterol and blood pressure medication, anti-inflammatories and cold and flu medicines further deplete nutrients through reduced nutrient absorption and increased excretion,” Du Plessis adds.
If your diet is lacking in any vital nutrients, you may consider supplementing it with additional vitamins or minerals. Faced with a wide choice, deciding what supplements you should be taking to best protect your health can be a daunting task, however. “Always check the nutritional information on the packaging to ensure you’re buying a product that will meet your personal requirements,” Dennison advises. A good multivitamin should have all the vitamins and minerals you need to help your body perform at its optimum.
It is important to be mindful and follow the dosage recommendation when taking supplements. In the case of water-soluble nutrients, such as the B vitamins, the body will only absorb what is needed, and excrete the rest. However, excessive intake of fat-soluble nutrients such as Vitamin A could be harmful, as they are not easily dispelled from the body.
Please be aware that taking a supplement will not solve major health issues. You need to visit your local general practitioner if you suffer from any serious symptoms.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.