I often get asked if supplements are necessary or if we can get everything we need to support our bodies through food. The answer is both yes and no.
While it is possible to get nearly everything you need from food, it would take an inordinate amount of dedication to eat “perfectly clean” in order to fill in nutritional deficiencies.
It would also require that we live our lives with a minimal amount of stress so we do not leach our bodies of precious minerals and B vitamins.
Due to a myriad of factors mostly out of our control, I find that high-quality supplements are very important to advance one’s health and fill in the nutritional gaps and protect your body against these factors. These factors can include the following:
Multivitamins, fish oil, probiotics, and greens are the four most basic supplements worth considering starting a supplementation protocol for the first time. I will also list some additional super-star supplements that can be beneficial to add for specific conditions or ailments.
As always, check with your doctor or other healthcare professional before starting any new supplement protocol.
If you are not being individually guided by a healthcare practitioner, then a food-based, high-quality multivitamin is highly recommended. This will ensure that all of your bases are being covered. Even when the body is short of only one nutrient, it will not function optimally and other systems can be compromised.
Some of our favorites for quality are Alpha Base Capsules without iron (not everyone needs iron so it’s always good to test your ferritin on your bi-annual blood work) and Pure Genomics Multivitamin that does have iron. There are many great food-based multi’s in the health food store as well.
The body cannot produce its own omega-3 fatty acids, therefore, we must consume them via diet. If you are not eating wild fatty fish 3 times a week, then we recommend supplementing. Omega-3s are needed for maintaining blood pressure (they thin the blood), regulating cholesterol, assisting with nerve transmission and weight loss, and for proper prostaglandin function (which regulates inflammation, pain and swelling). Sufficient omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to play a role in maintaining good cardiovascular health and are essential for healthy egg implantation, prevention of miscarriage, and for fetus development. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked with mitigating arthritis, depression, and intestinal inflammation.
The right multivitamin will contain all the basic vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that getting the optimal doses usually requires 2 to 6 capsules or tablets a day. Some people may have unique requirements for much higher doses that need to be prescribed by a trained nutritional or functional medicine physician.
Note that B complex vitamins are especially important for those with diabesity, as they help protect against diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, and improve metabolism and mitochondrial function. Antioxidants such as vitamin E, C, and selenium are also important as they may help reduce oxidative stress, which is a significant cause of diabesity.
My current favorite is:
(note: brands change quality all the time, so we are always researching and checking)
Probiotics are essential to maintaining good digestive health and immune function. We recommend taking them only a few times a year for 4-12 weeks at a time (when working to improve your gut and immune health) and then maintaining them with fermented foods after that. They restore order and balance of good bacteria in the gut and crowd out the bad bacteria.
Probiotics have the power to improve our moods as well. It’s been found we actually produce more serotonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for our sense of well-being and satisfaction) in our guts than we do in our brains. This is the reason why many people who have digestive problems are also depressed. Taking a multi-strain probiotic, and not just acidophilus is important to combat this.
We love Pure Encapsulations Probiotic 50B.
Greens are your supplement for daily cellular cleansing and clean-up; plus they supply a litany of micronutrients your body needs to function optimally.
Greens supplements provide the type of greens that oxygenate your blood, but that you wouldn’t normally eat, such as spirulina, chlorella, barley grass, and wheatgrass.
They also contain a high dose of food-based antioxidants to clean up environmental damage and toxins (free radicals). Greens will work synergistically with the rest of your supplement plan and will help shift your biochemistry faster, so you actually start craving the good stuff.
Our current favorite is PaleoGreens because they are high-quality greens that aim to be hypoallergenic for today’s wide array of food sensitivities.
It is not recommended to take any more than 5-7 different kinds of supplements at any given time. Otherwise, they can start to overwhelm your body. The more you heal through diet and lifestyle, the less supplements you should need.
Over 80% of the population is deficient in vitamin D, so make sure you get yourself tested at least twice annually. This is one vitamin you definitely want to keep balanced (not too low and not too high). A perfect functional range number for your vitamin D is 60 (not the 30 that your doctor might tell you is sufficient).
If you want to learn more about Vitamin D, watch our show “How to Overcome Low Vitamin D and Depression” with holistic psychiatrist Dr. Sara Van Anrooy.
There are several important things to keep in mind when taking vitamin D:
The reason we are so deficient is simple: Many of us eat a diet that contains practically no magnesium — a highly-processed, refined diet that is based mostly on white flour, meat, and dairy (all of which have no magnesium).
Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or an even a mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency.
This critical mineral is actually responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues — but mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain. You must have it for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax.
People with kidney disease or severe heart disease should take magnesium only under a doctor’s supervision.
Diarrhea is often a sign that you are getting too much magnesium. If this occurs, just back off on the dose, and avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, or oxide. They are the cheapest and most common forms found in supplements but are poorly absorbed. Switch to magnesium glycinate. If you tend to be constipated, use magnesium citrate.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant and mitochondrial booster shown to reduce blood sugar and heal a toxic liver. It may also be useful in preventing diabetic nerve damage and neuropathy. It can improve the clearance of glucose from the blood by 50 percent.
Chromium and Biotin
Chromium is very important for proper sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and can help you make more insulin receptors. Biotin has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, reduce expression of cholesterol-producing genes, and improve glucose metabolism.
A number of herbs, including cinnamon and catechins from green tea, are helpful in controlling blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity. Green tea can even increase fat burning and metabolism. The best products provide combinations of herbs in one supplement.
PGX is a very viscous fiber from a Japanese tuber or root combined with seaweeds into a super fiber. PGX reduces the absorption of sugars and fats into your bloodstream and helps control appetite, weight loss, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
When taken before meals with a glass of water, it can be a critical component to overcoming diabesity. It can lower your insulin response after a meal by 50 percent, while lowering LDL cholesterol by 20 percent and blood sugar by 23 percent. Adding this super fiber can help you lose weight more efficiently.
Enzymes help us digest our food faster and easier, allowing us to extract more nutrients from our food with less energy, which means we get to use that extra energy throughout our day.
They are helpful to tonify the intestines, for poor absorption; and to decrease gas, bloating, and constipation. However, consider them a band-aid to use for the short-term (not longer than 60 days) while you are figuring out and/or healing the root cause of the digestive upset (yeast, mold, parasites, leaky gut, or food sensitivities). You can find more details on enzymes in our blog “DoDigestive Enzymes Help or Hurt”.
You ultimately want your body to be able to produce these enzymes on its own. Our favorites are full spectrum enzymes like Digestzymes. If you prefer an enzyme without betaine/HCL, then Digestive Enzymes Ultra are a great, effective choice.
Tips: take 1-2 with each meal, only take for up to 60 days
For safe, gentle constipation relief, we love Triphala. Far and away, this is my most favorite supplement I’ve ever worked with to help clients with constipation. Triphala is a combination of three different Indian fruits which work to moisten and nourish the lining of the intestines, while gently detoxifying old matter. It is safe enough to keep taking for 2-3 months for slow cleansing. The traditional dose is 1-4 capsules prior to bed.
Millions of Americans take over-the-counter painkillers like Advil or Aleve for any random ache, pain, or cold symptom, without a second thought. What most don’t know is that those drugs — called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) – have side effects your doctor may not be telling you about. NSAIDs can damage your gut lining, causing a condition responsible for a whole range of ailments, from allergies to autoimmune disease. It’s called leaky gut. There are other healthier alternatives to getting pain relief and lowering inflammation.
We consider Inflammatone to be “Nature’s Ibuprofen”. It helps control swelling, aches, and pains, and we love how it contains boswellia. Boswellia (Indian frankincense) is a natural medicine that has been used for centuries to relieve pain and inflammation from diseases, like arthritis, as well as injuries.
Please note that this supplement list is just a guide and is not acting in the capacity of a healthcare practitioner, so do please check with your doctor prior to adding any new supplements to your regimen.
Softgel Fish Oil
Soy & Dairy free probiotic
PGX, which promotes a feeling of fullness and reduces cravings, is combined with mulberry leaf extract, an excellent source of fiber, to help balance blood sugar and normalize glucose levels, which helps promote healthy weight loss.
Organic powdered greens
Digestive relief, take w/ meals
Digestive Enzymes, no betaine/HC
Gentle constipation relief
For healthy bones & cardiovascular/cellular support