Getting the vast majority of nutrients you need from the foods that you eat is a smart nutritional strategy.
However, it’s also important to recognize that supplements can be an effective way to fill in any possible missing gaps in your nutritional regimen.
But what supplements should you take?
What follows are specific supplement ideas for you to consider and to discuss with your doctor at your next annual physical.
Article by Dane Findley and Jim Harris.
Dane earned a masters degree in Counseling Depth Psychology from Pacific Graduate Institute. His past professional adventures include being a Therapist and Discharge Planner at a Dual-Diagnosis Hospital Inpatient Treatment Program, Digital Marketing Director for a real estate brokerage and decades spent as a professional fitness and Pilates trainer. Today, Dane is a Healthy-Lifestyle Advocate and curates the Quality of Life Newsletter – a weekly update for creative types who want to increase their daily joy.
Jim is a U.S. Naturopath and Nutritional Consultant and before that was a medical doctor and oral surgeon in Canada. Jim recognizes that our bodies have the innate capacity for self-healing – especially when the correct information is supplied in combination with the correct food, supplements, and herbs.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are like an insurance policy.
You take them to make certain that there are no trace nutrients in which you might be deficient – because, in the longterm, small nutritional deficiencies might create big problems.
For example, last week I received the blood lab results from my annual physical.
I was grateful when my medical doctor told me that I had among the best nutritional profiles that he had ever seen.
The only nutrient that I would perhaps benefit from having more of, he reported, was CoQ10.
My blood work revealed I was in the low-normal range for that particular nutrient.
CoQ10 is a nutrient that acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from damage caused by harmful molecules.
It helps with cell growth and maintenance, and may be beneficial in protecting the heart and reducing the risk of cancer.
CoQ10 is high in all the foods I don’t normally eat – organ meats, beef, sardines, mackerel, soy oil, and peanuts. Until my next physical, I’ll be taking a CoQ10 supplement three times a week.
“Should I Take Vitamins?”
You may be wondering whether you should take vitamins, or what kind and what amounts of each nutrient you may need to supplement.
This is an essential discussion to have with your own medical doctor, naturopath and/or nutritionist. Here are some important considerations:
- there’s no law that says you have to take a supplement every single day (there are many supplements that I only take every-other day; also, some supplements I cycle 8-weeks-on and 4-weeks-off)
- food-based supplements are generally believed to be better than synthetic ones
- taking too many supps can be as bad (or worse) as not taking enough – after all, our livers have enough to deal with
- it’s a good idea to have some sort of a system for your supplementation (instead of just “winging-it” or remembering-when-you-remember)
As you get more advanced with your supplementation, you’ll discover that some supps are better on an empty stomach while others are better with food.
Additionally, some supplements are better as a pill that you swallow while others are better in liquid form or sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets.
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Do Your Own Research on Supplement Quality
It makes a difference what supplement brands you choose.
Here are some resources that I have found helpful (more sources are listed at bottom of article):
- Examine.com: an independent, unbiased organization that does not sell any supplements – they focus on the actual scientific evidence of what works and what doesn’t.
- LabDoor.com: they purchase supplements at the store, send them to the best labs for testing, then rank them for quality, efficacy, and value.
- FoundMyFitness.com: Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a scientist who conducts her own lab research on nutrients that enhance fitness (see her infographic below).
Dane’s Current Supplementation Regimen
Here are the supplements that I am taking currently, based on my own unique needs (keep in mind that what I need and what you need are probably two different things):
- food-based calcium and magnesium (taken at night to help me sleep)
- rock-based calcium – taken with my freshly made morning green smoothie, to bond with the oxalates in the raw vegetables.
- vitamin D drops (I’m careful about my dosage – important not to have too little or too much – see below)
- pancreatic enzymes for digesting fat
- food-based B-complex (I exercise a lot, and my body just pees out what it doesn’t need)
- krill oil or cod liver oil capsules, taken with food-based E (see more on omega-3 below)
- I also periodically supplement with iodine and resveratrol, especially before traveling (see below).
Dane’s Current Favorite Supplement Brands
I don’t sell supplements, nor am I affiliated with any of these companies. These are my favorite supplement brands currently.
- Standard Process
- Food Research
For me, personally, I tailor my supplementation individually, day to day, based on how I feel and what kind of workout I have planned.
However, for most people, logistical constraints make that unrealistic.
Therefore, many people will benefit from having a once-a-week prep day, where they sort all of their supplements for the week ahead in one fell swoop.
Tip: one of the best, and fastest, ways to do your once-a-week supplement organizing is to use cupcake trays to quickly sort pills. Then when you’re finished, you can simply take the pills from each tin and store into an individual snack baggie… and you’re good-to-go!
Action Step: today, take a fresh look at your supplementation regimen. Look at it closely, and ask, “how can it be improved?”
Too busy to read the rest of this article now? Pin it for later.
State of Our Health Today
We seem to understand as a culture that our health needs improving, but individually we are in denial:
- Almost everyone thinks they’re healthier than their neighbor, despite the fact that only 3% of Americans are living a healthy lifestyle.
- Parents of obese children list their children as “very healthy” on survey forms, despite the fact that the epidemic of childhood obesity is being openly discussed in the media every day.
Reality Check: most health challenges occur initially because of our faulty beliefs, poor nutrition and exercise habits.
Reality Check: any goal of improving health should begin with improving sleep, nutrition and exercise – and positive thinking.
Ideally, one receives all needed nutrients from foods eaten.
But we don’t live in an ideal world.
We are indoors too much and too sedentary.
The state of our food (indeed, the state of our oceans, soil, air, and water) is different now than it was three hundred years ago.
Sometimes, another person will give us advice but we can’t really “hear” it with our whole being.
Our intellect may understand the advice, but the rest of our psyche needs more time and life-experience before we can fully appreciate it.
This is what medical doctors, nutritionists, therapists, and naturopaths have to contend with in their daily work:
- how much do they reveal to their patients?
- is the patient ready to hear it, or will hearing it only increase their resistance?
To thrive in our daily lives, we need air, water, food, shelter and love. After those 5 fundamental needs, things start to get a bit …optional.
If there’s something that we can’t imagine living without, that often is a sign that we might be addicted to it.
When the Doctor Says, “Change, or Else.”
Just because we can’t imagine ourselves living without something (coffee, pasta, hamburgers, cookies) doesn’t mean we couldn’t live and be happy without it, it’s just that we can’t imagine it because that particular thing has become so habitual within our weekly lives.
It has become a dependable comfort.
I’m intrigued by the timing of the intervention: when is the best time to tell someone that their very life may depend on changing a particular habit?
We can explore the possibilities of what gradual changes can be made to our daily menu choices so that those healthy choices don’t feel like a “quit-cold-turkey” diet or a fast.
I’ve found that when people are asked to radically change their diets overnight, they’re less likely to be able to sustain the healthy changes (than when they make changes more gradually).
Of course, all of this depends on one’s current health challenges and the medical advice of one’s doctor. Please do consult your doctor.
What most experts seem to agree on is that the current research indicates it’s a very good idea to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
But even here, there is a bit of wiggle room based on our unique body chemistry.
For a particular food that might not be inflammatory for me, may be for you – and the opposite could also be true.
Maybe there is a compromise.
Perhaps we can make improvements and changes to our daily lifestyle habits that are a bit faster than what is completely “comfortable,” but still gradual enough that we won’t go into psychological shock and undermine our own efforts.
Doctors Recommend Anti-Aging Protocols
Two of our modern culture’s most famous and forward-thinking medical doctors share their latest tips to help you feel better and look better.
The founder of modern holistic medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil, visited the set of the Doctor Oz television talk show this week to share his latanti-agingeing secrets for excellent health – easy tips that might help people to look and feel their best.
The two doctors discussed natural ways to lose body fat and how to make anti-cancer super meals.
Dr. Oz revealed simple tips to improve the brain, the heart, the digestive system, immunity, and how to live life in better balance.
4 Quick Tips to Tune-Up Your Body’s Systems
The Brain ~ Huperzine A & Phosphatidyl are compounds that can help improve memory (consult you doctor first — Huperzine A can arguably be classified as a drug as opposed to a supplement).
The Heart ~ Red Yeast Rice Extract and Niacin are helpful with cholesterol. Niacin is a smart supplement to start out with (it’s akin to B3, but significantly higher than a vitamin dose). This can be much healthier for the muscles and liver than the pharmaceutical alternatives. Use under your doctor’s direction (not everyone has high cholesterol).
Digestion ~ Having great digestion can really help you to feel better. Diet is the best way to get your fiber, but Dr. Weil suggests a whopping 40 grams/day. So you can supplement your high-fiber diet with Psyllium Husk fiber if necessary (mix with plenty of water).
Immunity ~ Dr. Weil recommends Vitamin A (mixed carotenoids), Vitamin C (low dosage), Vitamin E, Selenium, and CQ10.
Here’s the thing. You shouldn’t have to take a hundred pills a day. Many food-based multivitamins can help you feel better over the longterm as they contain the majority of the nutrients you need – check the ingredients to be sure.
Better still, you can receive your nutrients from your actual food, if you know what foods to eat.
For example, freshly made green smoothies are among the most effective ways I know to easily increase vegetable and fiber intake.
Vitamin D Might Play Key Role in Cancer Prevention
Health and longevity are more directly impacted by Vitamin D than many realize.
Though it has long been established that Vitamin D can be helpful in the reduction of inflammation and pain, it now appears that this might be only the tip of the iceberg with respect to Vitamin D.
In fact, many experts believe that Vitamin D is among the most important nutrients to supplement in your daily diet.
Dr. Cedric F. Garland, a cancer prevention specialist, conducted a study and was able to estimate that 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented each year worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D3.
…for the first time, we are saying that 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer could be prevented each year worldwide, including nearly 150,000 in the United States alone.” – Dr. Cedric Garland
The amount of new research on the benefits of Vitamin D makes it easy for me to say that almost everyone should be on a daily dose of Vitamin D. This research shows that low blood levels of Vitamin D can be associated with:
- migraine headaches
- gum disease
- heart disease
This list is just the beginning, because I can add:
- seasonal affective disorder
- rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
Vitamin D has been shown to:
- improve survival with lung cancer
- increase athletic performance
- increase cognitive performance in adults
The dried version of shitake mushrooms are high in Vitamin D.
Vitamin D should be part of any pain treatment protocol.
How is it that Vitamin D can have such far reaching effects?
All of your body organs and cells have receptor sites for Vitamin D.
This means that Vitamin D communicates throughout your body.
The vast majority of people in US who are feeling suboptimal also have an over acidic body chemistry – which is a potential breeding ground for disease/illness.
Our body chemistry does not function properly even if we are only mildly acidic.
On the other hand, being too alkaline presents its own problems.
The challenge is to find the pH “sweet spot.”
Calcium is a major buffer in our body to reduce acidity and Vitamin D consumption causes increased calcium absorption to supply a reservoir of buffering agent for the acidic body. Better health comes with better body chemistry.
My experience is that not all Vitamin D supplements are equal.
I generally recommend to my clients a specific Vitamin D that has nano-sized particles in an oil emulsion which is absorbed directly into the lymph system.
A safe dose is 2000IU for children and 4000IU for adults. You should evaluate your Vitamin D dosage with a yearly blood test for 25 (hydroxyl) Vitamin D. Your goal should be for a reading of at least 50 ng/ml.
How Much Iodine Should I Take?
Iodine is one of the most misunderstood, and most deficient, of all nutrients. Here’s the best way to get the iodine your body needs.
Iodine is found in each cell in your body – without it life is not possible.
David Browstein M.D. explains in his book Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It that of all the elements known so far to be essential for human health, iodine is the most misunderstood and the most feared.
Yet iodine is the safest of all the essential trace elements — provided it is in the inorganic nonradioactive form. In the correct form, it can be taken daily and for long periods of time, according to Dr. Brownstein.
How to Nourish the Cells of Your Body with Iodine
Over 80% of people tested in the Midwest are iodine-deficient (the Midwest is considered the goiter belt of America due to this deficiency) making it one of the most deficient nutrients!
Iodine is essential to life and as such is responsible for the production of all the hormones of the body.
Proper immune function requires adequate levels of iodine for warding off parasites, bacteria, viruses and maybe even cancer.
Iodine helps to alkalize the body PH (it’s a known fact that acidic body chemistry is a factor in many diseases).
It is essential to the health of every cell in the body:
- women might find it helpful to know that high concentrations of iodine can be found in healthy thyroid glands, healthy ovaries, and healthy breast tissue.
- men might find it helpful to know that high testosterone levels depend on ample amounts of iodine.
How Much Iodine Does a Healthy Human Body Need?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 mcg. per day for disease prevention. So that’s probably a good place to start, to make sure you’re getting at least that in your daily diet via food sources (preferably) or supplementation.
Interestingly, Dr. Brownstein believes 150 mcg is still too low and points out that:
- the Japanese on average ingest 86 times more than the suggested RDA amount of iodine.
- the U.S. has the highest incidence of breast cancer while Japan’s is the lowest in the world.
- life expectancy for Americans is 48th of 226 counties while Japan ranks 6th.
- Japan’s infant mortality rate is the lowest in the world at 3.5 per 1000 births while America is double that, at 7 per 1000.
- when Japanese immigrate to America they quickly join the U.S. statistics (there is more to this than just iodine, but it should make you stop and think about your daily intake of this essential nutrient!)
Don’t Interfere with my Iodine
There is more to the lack of iodine than just not ingesting enough. Let’s look at a little chemistry and the periodic table of elements.
The elements at the top of the table will displace elements that are below them on the table.
Reading from the top of the table to the bottom with the halogen family of elements we have fluorine at the top, then chlorine, then bromine and finally at the very bottom and most easily displaced is iodine:
- Fluorine will then displace iodine and can be found in municipal drinking water.
- Fluorine is also found in pharmaceutical drugs like Cipro, Lipitor, Prozac, Paxil and Effexor.
- Fluorine is an ingredient in the sweetener Splenda.
Chlorine will also displace iodine, and it is also found in our drinking water as well and in drugs such as Zoloft and Wellbutrin.
Bromine also displaces it, and since the 1980s bromine has replaced iodine as the anti-caking agent used in baked goods in America.
Therefore, the iodine we ingest can be displaced by these other, more aggressive elements – which are easily ingested on a daily basis by many Americans.
Enzymes Can Extend Life Expectancy
New research suggests that resveratrol is a nutrient that can increase life expectancy in humans. But which kind should you take, and at what dosage?
One of the ultimate fables of human history concerns the desire to extend life expectancy.
The myth has been an oral tradition in many cultures throughout the world, and tells the tale of someone enthusiastically in search of a remote and mysterious location, where there will exist waters that have such miraculous curative powers, that any person who bathes in them will regain his or her youth.
The odds of you discovering the fountain of youth are unlikely.
Would you settle for a longer-than-average life expectancy, with quality in those added years?
Scientists today believe we have the ability to modify the aging process by extending life expectancy – providing a higher quality of life by reducing the diseases that people typically get when they age.
There is a class of enzymes called sirtuins that exhibit anti-aging properties.
The sirtuins enzymes are universal regulators of aging and life expectancy in all living organisms.
Sirtuins play a role in gene repair, increased cell survival, increased energy metabolism, and the body’s positive response to stress.
Undoubtedly the pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to find a patentable drug that will enhance sirtuin function.
Fortunately, there is a natural substance that will increase sirtuin activity and that substance is resveratrol.
So far, results from the research are astounding:
- yeast treated with resveratrol survive 60% longer than untreated yeast
- resveratrol increased the lifespan of worms and flies by nearly 30%
- the lifespan of resveratrol treated fish increased by almost 60%
- mice fed a high caloric diet and resveratrol have less damage to their livers
- resveratrol treated mice can run twice as far as those with no resveratrol
Research has given us plenty of data on the clinical benefits of resveratrol:
- reduction of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
- inhibits plaque formation in the arteries
- aids in blood clot prevention
- normalizes blood pressure
- regulates blood sugar
- enhances the body’s antioxidant pool
Resveratrol, as many of you will know, is naturally occurring in red wine.
To put this into perspective, one bottle of high quality Pinot Noir contains about 5 mg. of resveratrol.
I take a 250 mg. capsule of resveratrol each day which would be the equivalent of drinking 25 bottles of Pinot Noir per day. So if you plan on getting your total resveratrol from red wine you should reconsider your choices.
Before you rush out to purchase resveratrol you need to understand that not all forms of resveratrol are biologically active. This puts you at the mercy of the manufacturer and their suppliers.
As a consumer, you must determine that your source of resveratrol is well-tested and documented to be biologically active.
By keeping a watchful eye on our potential accidental intake of fluoride and chlorine, and ingesting good natural sources of iodine such as sushi, California rolls (the outer seaweed wrap is a good source) and marinated seaweed salad (see top photo), our health could be well-served.
I encourage you to ask your naturopath and nutritionist about excellent supplemental sources of this essential trace element – but do consult your holistically minded health professional, as the quality of nutritional supplements vary greatly.
Good Fats and Omega 3 Supplements Help Skin Look Younger
When I consulted with my naturopath for the first time, I told him that I was having an issue with my skin.
My skin had seemed overly sensitive and often looked blotchy and dull.
He replied, “Skin problems often are related to the quality of fats in your diet. You might need more good fats.”
While fried foods are an example of unhealthy fats, it was explained to me that other fats could be beneficial.
One of the supplements I began taking intermittently was Omega-3 fatty acids. I also replaced some of the carbohydrates I was eating (from flour) with foods that contain healthy fats, such as coconut oil and raw, organic, pasture-raised butter from a favorite local farm. Definitely, my skin has improved.
How can a busy person manage to fit omega 3 into their typical daily diet?
Omega 3 has been a popular supplement in the health food community for some time now. Walk down the isle of even conventional grocery stores, and you’ll see it listed front-and-center on the labels of fish, eggs, flax seed, chia seed meal, walnuts, and capsules.
I now try to get my omegas from a variety of sources.
Health Magazine reports that Omega 3 has within it properties that “greatly benefits the skin by regulating oil production to boost hydration and prevent acne, and by delaying the skin’s aging process to stave off wrinkles. A 2005 study in the Journal of Lipid Research discovered that EPA can help block the release of the UV-induced enzymes that eat away at our collagen, causing lines and sagging skin. Because EPA is both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent, it can protect against sun damage and help repair it.”
In my morning smoothie, I have for several years been adding a teaspoon of flax seed meal (make sure you get the meal, not the whole seeds – unless you want to grind it yourself in your coffee bean grinder).
Next, I started adding krill oil capsules to my regimen. Whales live on krill in the ocean. My understanding is that krill cannot be over-farmed, which is good from an ecology standpoint.
I still take cold water fish oil capsules or krill capsules as needed, to augment my diet (krill oil smells a bit funky – like low tide – so you don’t want to take a deep inhalation right after you open the bottle). But now I try to get the bulk of my omega from the foods that I eat.
Essential Fatty Acids Are Good for Men’s Health, Too
Omega 3 in a man’s diet can help with:
- and prostate health
Furthermore, though its benefits to a man’s cardiovascular health date back to research done in the 1970s, new studies have shown that Omega-3’s are not only good for his heart but also good for a man’s head.
DHA and EPA (two specific kinds of omega 3’s) contribute importantly to brain structure and function, in fact, they make up nearly 8% of the human brain.
Doctors are now employing DHA and EPA in therapies for brain related issues from depression to Alzheimer’s.
Our body’s neurological pathways require Omega 3 to function optimally.
Today’s studies have also shown that these vital fatty acids increase brain volume and stop or even reverse age-related brain shrinkage and nerve cell death.
Though DHA and EPA are absolutely critical to maintaining a healthy mind, our bodies cannot synthesize, or build them, from other substances, they must be obtained in their complete forms from the foods we eat.
They are in a sense, the basic building blocks our body uses to construct the neurological pathways in our brains and throughout our bodies! So, omega 3 can help to sharpen your mind and keep your brain youthful.
Omega-3’s are an important component of a nutritious diet, and designing a balanced diet to promote a vital and extended existence is right at the core of the longevity lifestyle.
What Foods Contain Omega-3?
Ultra Marathoner Rich Roll has extolled the virtues of a health-improving diet:
…PlantPower is not fat-free. Nor, in my opinion, should it be. Fat associated with the typical American diet is your enemy. But PlantPower fat, in modest amounts, is your friend. There’s this confusing business of EFAs — the essential fatty acids which must be obtained from food and are crucial to a wide array of bodily functions. And yet many people suffer from a deficiency caused by an imbalance of these crucial fats, which leads to unhealthy skin conditions. Reduce your omega-6 and increase your omega-3 intake.” – Rich Roll, Finding Ultra
A well-rounded diet includes plant-based foods that are high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Here is a list of some of the food sources I consume to get my Omega-3s:
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
- raw, sprouted pumpkin seeds
- winter squash
- organic butter from pasture-raised cows
- organic, free-range eggs
If you really want to know if you’re getting enough omegas, and in the optimal ratios, you can ask your own medical doctor. They have blood tests available now that can determine the success of your omega supplementation, offering a complete breakdown of fatty acids by weight, including the AA/EPA ratio and the Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio.
What Supplements Are Proven to Help – http://examine.com/
Supplements that Actually Contain What The Manufacturers Say They Contain – https://labdoor.com/rankings
Nutrient Deficiencies and Cancer Fact Sheet – http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/vitamin-D
Eating Your Vitamin D Naturally – http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/10-foods-containing-vitamin-d/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_mushroom
Connection Between Brain Volume and Omega-3 Intake – http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2010/aug2010_Omega-3-Fatty-Acids-Increase-Brain-Volume_01.htm
Therapies Using DHA and EPA – http://www.dhaomega3.org/
About Iodine and Its Importance – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iodine
Biotics Highly Regarded Resveratrol Supplements – http://www.bioticsresearch.com/node/1605
Too Many Modern Humans Deficient in Iodine – http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=14524
Latest Scientific Research on What Is Known About Human Nutrient Needs – http://www.foundmyfitness.com/vitamin-d