Chances are, you’ve been reading and learning a lot about what makes up a healthy diet, and how important eating well is to your digestive health, immunity, energy and mood. You’ve learned about the importance of avoiding processed foods, the benefits of a diet rich in plants, and how eating a balanced, nutritious diet can help you live longer and feel better. You may have learned about inflammation, and how certain foods have anti-inflammatory benefits and how ALL chronic disease stems from inflammation.
As you try to put all you’ve learned into action and figure out how to eat a better diet that will help you feel healthier and energized, you may have run into confusing information about dietary supplements. Dietary supplementation is a big business, and it’s hard to figure out what’s good advice and what’s hype. If your diet is pretty good, do you really need to supplement at all? Or, does including a variety of vitamins, oils, and other supplements actually an important factor in achieving optimal health?
There’s a lot of talk about supplements out there, but not all of it is good information. Let’s walk through it together, and discover what’s really important, and what’s not.
If I’m eating a healthy diet, why do I need to take supplements at all?
First of all, high fives on striving to eat a healthy diet! In today’s world, that’s not always easy. We are surrounded by highly-processed foods that tempt us wherever we go. Chips, snacks, sweets, fast food and junk food are all around us. But if you’re reading this, you have probably recognized how unhealthy eating all that stuff can be. So if you are eating a healthy diet, or a pretty healthy diet, you’re doing great!
But here’s the thing: We set high goals for ourselves, but we don’t always achieve them. Let’s be honest: None of us eat a perfect diet all the time. Scratch the surface of the purest of health enthusiasts, and you’ll find a secret vice. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Being too obsessed with a “pure” diet can be just as dangerous as living on fast food. We’re all human; hopefully we enjoy food; and we try to eat healthy. Vitamins and other supplements can help us close the gap between the ideal and real life when it comes to how we eat.
The very best way for us to get the nutrients we need is through natural, whole foods. The body can absorb and use nutrients in our food much better than if those nutrients are extracted or created as a supplement. We don’t actually fully understand why this is, but micro-nutrients that work together, natural fiber and all the complexities of real food fulfill our needs better than any pill. That’s true – but we don’t always get everything our bodies needs in our diet. That’s where vitamins and supplements come in. They are supplements, not replacements, for real, whole food. Popping a handful of pills can never make up for a deficient diet.
OK; so supplements are a good idea. If some is good, then more must be better! Right?
Wrong! When it comes to supplements, super-sizing and overdoing isn’t the way to go! It can be outright dangerous to exceed recommended dosages of vitamins and/or combine the wrong ones (especially with prescription drugs). This is why it is important to work with a skilled healthcare practitioner to help you navigate this delicate terrain. Working with clients, I take into account their medical history, current health concerns, medications, and genetics when recommending supplements. In addition, I always cross-reference each and every supplement in the Natural Medicines database to check for interactions, effectiveness, potential nutrient depletions, and adverse effects.
So – real food is best, then add supplements, but not too much or the wrong ones. How can I supplement wisely?
Supplements and natural medicines can be beneficial for everything from thyroid and adrenal dysfunction to autoimmune conditions, anxiety and digestive problems. Although standard, commonly-available multi-vitamins are easy, they often provide too much of some vitamins and not enough of others. Also, each person has different nutritional needs, so what is best for one may not be right for another. One size does not fit all.
There are some key factors involved in smart supplementation. As I previously mentioned, it is best to work with a health care practitioner who understands the intricacies of proper supplementation. If using supplements on your own, be sure to choose high-quality, professional-grade supplements and follow dosing instructions on the label.
One of the most common questions I get asked in my practice is what are my favorite supplements. This is a hard one because it really depends on many factors- current health condition, genetics, medications, etc. For a general healthy person looking to improve digestive wellness, boost immunity and address common nutrient deficiencies, here are the five nutrients I recommend:
Pre + Probiotics are naturally occurring beneﬁcial “live” bacteria that live in your gut, aid in digestion, and support immune system function. This “good” bacteria helps make important nutrients while helping to get rid of unhealthy bacteria. Poor nutrition, stress, alcohol, and medication can destroy beneficial bacteria. Taking probiotics, as well as eating fermented foods, can help restore your good bacteria to healthy levels.
Prebiotics, the less talked about of the two, are non-digestible carbohydrate-based food ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneﬁcial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. They differ from probiotics in that they are not live organisms, but rather heat-resistant ﬁber-like substances. Prebiotics balance intestinal gut bacteria and aid in the absorption of calcium and magnesium. You will notice that I list quite a few recommended brands in my dispensary. This is for two reasons: 1)You want to include as many different strains of probiotics as you can. I recommend changing up brands every few months to expose your gut to all the good bacteria out there! 2) As more and more research is conducted on the health beneﬁts and gut-healing properties of probiotics, we are discovering that certain strains of bacteria, called targeted probiotics, can help speciﬁc issues or conditions. For example, giving a young child Lactobacillus GG decreases their chances of developing asthma, eczema, and allergies by 50%.
To see my recommended pre + probiotics, sign up for an account on Fullscript, my online dispensary.
Vitamin D is critical for good health, and lack of vitamin D can even lead to mood disorders like SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), sometimes known as the “winter blues.” We get vitamin D from both food and sunshine, but it’s extremely common to be vitamin D deficient. Most people should supplement with vitamin D. The correct dosage will vary from person to person; so, it’s important to test your levels, begin supplementation, and then re-test a few months later to determine the correct maintenance dose. To see my recommended brands of vitamin D, sign up for an account on Fullscript, my online dispensary.
Vitamin B’s are critical for many bodily functions including liver, brain, energy and stress support. The B vitamins promote efficient liver detoxification of heavy metals, chemicals, and bacterial toxins that could be at the root of your health issues. In addition, the B-complex vitamins have amazing mood-enhancing effects and are crucial for nerve function and nerve cell metabolism, which produce optimal neurotransmitter levels. To get my favorite B-Complex, sign up for an account on Fullscript, my online dispensary.
Magnesium is another compound which plays many key roles. Over 300 different enzymes need magnesium to function properly, and without magnesium, ions cannot easily cross the membranes of cells, meaning that your body can’t work right on a chemical level. Magnesium deficiency can have serious – even fatal – consequences. Insufficient levels of magnesium can lead to symptoms from unpleasant to life-threatening, including muscle cramps, heart arrhythmias, tremor, headaches, and acid reflux. It’s also associated with cardio-vascular disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, migraines, PMS, asthma, and hypothyroidism.
Magnesium is difficult to get from food in sufficient quantities, so most people should supplement. Chelated forms of magnesium are best, like glycinate and malate, because they’re better absorbed and tend to have fewer side effects. It’s a good idea to consult with your nutritionist to choose the right type and amount of magnesium to take. To get my favorite brands of magnesium, sign up for an account on Fullscript, my online dispensary.
Omega-3 Fish Oil is rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are crucial to good health. They support your body’s ability to prevent diseases, protect against inﬂammation, promote a stronger immune system, and beneﬁt brain health. Like Vitamin D, your body can’t make Omega-3 fatty acids, so you need to get them from an outside source. Here’s my #1 choice for Omega-3 Fish Oil.
Where should I get my supplements?
Glad you asked!
I have been stressing to you that not all supplements are alike. Many inexpensive, commonly-available supplements have fillers and additives added, things like carrageenan, gluten, corn, and other chemicals and possible allergens. Buying supplements online, like through Amazon, is even trickier. You often don’t really know what you’re getting. Vitamins and other supplements are not federally-regulated, and when studies have tested commercial vitamins, they have found that many do not contain the amount or quality of the vitamins they purport to have. Also, there are usually different compounds that can be used to provide the supplementation, and they are not all of equal quality when it comes to how the body absorbs and uses them.
As a nutritionist working closely with my clients, I am very concerned that they get the highest quality supplements. I searched and researched to find the best option for my clients, one that is convenient and still ensures high and consistent quality. I finally found a source that I trust and use! Fullscript, my online dispensary, not only offers easy ordering and delivery, but also follows the strict quality standards that I require. Using this portal, I can customize supplement protocols for each of my clients, creating a personalized program that’s safe, easy, and targeted for their specific needs. Whether you are an existing client, potential client, or self-starting wellness warrior, anyone can sign up for an account on my online dispensary. For the month of September, anyone who signs up for an account and places their first order on Fullscript, will receive a lifetime 10% discount off all supplements!
So, how can I find the right supplement program for me?
Well, first of all, strive for a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, stress management and a wholesome diet. Then you can use the information presented here to guide you to choose supplements to bridge the gap between what your diet provides and what your body needs for optimal health. If you’re a bit confused or have a more chronic, challenging health issue, you may want to work with a nutritionist, who can analyze your diet, your lifestyle, and your health, and help you develop a customized supplement program that’s right for you. I can help! My mission is to work with you to identify the underlying, root causes of your health issues. We assess your nutrition, lifestyle habits, genetic make-up, stress management, and your internal and external environments. I then create a carefully vetted action plan based on your individual needs and health concerns to help restore and maintain optimal health.