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Nutritional supplementation

Dr Damien Downing on Nutritional Supplementation and tests

Some problems you can’t fix without supplements – i.e. pills.

Scientists talk about two groups of nutrients;

  • Macronutrients, of which our bodies contain, and need to take in, large amounts; these you won’t fix without food. A good example is lipids; see under Dietary therapies and Lipid Therapy for more on this.
  • Micronutrients, of which we contain much less; these you may not be able to fix without nutritional supplements. For instance the mineral zinc, of which some people are born needing more (I am one of those), and of which we all use more when making new tissues – growing and healing.


For 30 years now I have been sourcing and importing high-quality nutritional supplements – high dose, high purity, not least because we see a lot of people with allergies/intolerances/sensitivities which mean they can’t tolerate the additives or impurities in many “vitamin pills”. We still do, via our associates, but you may not need them, and we are happy to advise you on this.


We use laboratory tests to identify deficiencies and monitor progress of treatment.

Delivery methods include;

  • diet and the correction of digestive problems
  • oral supplements
  • intravenous and intramuscular injection
  • subcutaneous
  • for some persistent deficiencies, a combination of routes, including inhalation (nebuliser) and transdermal (baths or creams) can help. Magnesium is an example of a nutrient for which multiple supplement forms are often helpful.

Should you keep taking the supplements for ever?

No – with some exceptions. A long time ago we thought it was sensible insurance to just take a multivitamin every day for ever, but I can see several reasons why not;

  • supplements can’t remove the need for a good diet; that would be like the icing without the cake  (I know, but I can’t think of a good food version of that comparison)
  • sometimes the body just seems to adapt over time, to get used to having lots of a nutrient available, and ends up functioning no better than when it was in short supply
  • we always understood that micronutrients could be co-factors for our enzymes and other biochemical reactions – simply helping our chemistry to work smoothly. Now with the new science of genomics we have come to realise that many of them are also epigenetic factors that switch genes on and off. And in general you don’t need to take them for longer than a few weeks to get the intended epigenetic effect, in fact this is one case where the body really does adapt over time.


A good example of this is the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils; Donald Rudin, author of Omega-3 Oils: A Practical Guide, was a Harvard professor, a physician, and a mathematician. He was one of the first to experiment with a high omega-3 intake (from flax oil), and he found that it could improve the symptoms of eczema, psoriasis, many bowel disorders, and a list of other inflammatory problems. But the benefit only lasted for around three months, after which the symptoms returned. If his patients then stopped taking the flax oil, they got better again. Months later, the symptoms usually returned, so he restarted them on the flax oil diet and they improved again, for a while.

There’s only one reasonable explanation for this two-way response—you need a balance. Too much or too little of either omega-3s or omega-6s is bad, while the right ratio of the two is good.


The exceptions to this? I nominate vitamins C and D

C because it is so short-lived in the body, yet you need it all the time, in good health and even more in poor health. It helps you fight off infections, heart disease, cancer…

D because you are deficient in it, unless you just returned from a sunshine holiday. We all need much more than the official recommendations to help prevent cancers, autoimmune diseases, depression…


Stephanie, Teddington

We came to see Dr Downing when our son Matthew was seriously unwell aged 10 with an unspecified post viral fatigue syndrome. Our GP had not been able to reassure us or provide us with anything other than advice to rest and it would pass. We were desperate when Matthew was unable to get out of bed and seemed to be going downhill. Dr Downing reacted immediately with a series of blood tests and vitamin infusions . It took two sessions but Matthew stabilised and started to eat and drink. Over the next two months, his condition improved and he was able to go back to school. It has been nearly three years since those dark months and Matthew has grown into a very tall, handsome 14 year old who has not been ill once - not even a cold!.