There are so many supplements on the market these days. Not to mention a host of holistic doctors coming out with their own “miracle cure” branded supplements for everything under the sun, but primarily weight loss and “anti-aging”.
Since my clients frequently ask me “what supplements do you take?” I thought I would share a little about the supplements I take and why.
However, the biggest thing to keep in mind is the concept of bio-individuality. Every BODY is different. So just because I take a supplement for a particular reason, doesn’t mean you necessarily need it or would benefit from it, and vice versa.
Also, while I offer professional quality supplements to my clients and readers, and I do take some supplements myself, I am a BIG proponent of getting all the nutrients you can from your food FIRST. Before you supplement. Food is medicine.
We’re All Likely Nutrient Deficient
Studies show that 92%(1) of Americans are deficient in at least one important vitamin or mineral. So unless you’re one of the lucky 8%, you most likely have at least one vitamin or mineral deficiency, and possibly more.
There are several reasons most people are nutrient deficient. One reason is due to poor farming practices which have depleted the soils of many of the nutrients they used to contain. These nutrients used to be up-taken in produce as it grew. And we would then get the nutrients via our diet. Today the soils are mostly devoid of minerals.
Shockingly, a head of broccoli today actually contains up to 80% fewer nutrients than it contained in the 1970s.(2) And that’s in MY lifetime!
Do You Eat Enough Veggies and Fruit?
Another reason people are nutrient deficient is that most of us don’t eat enough veggies and fruit to get the nutrients our body needs. (News Flash, 18 half-cup servings of veggies and fruits are now recommended in order to get your daily nutrients.)
And while that same head of broccoli mentioned above may contain 10 different vitamins and minerals, it also contains hundreds of phytonutrients—many of which have not yet been isolated or studied in the way some vitamins and minerals have. But studies indicate that eating whole foods is more beneficial than supplementing individual nutrients. So in theory those phytonutrients work in conjunction with the vitamins and minerals to give the body what it needs. And this is one reason I recommend eating whole foods first, then supplementing when you need to.
Do You Have Enough Stomach Acid (HCl)?
A third reason why many people are nutrient deficient has to do with insufficient stomach acid. While you may have been told too much stomach acid is at the root of your heartburn, that’s highly unlikely. If you’ve read my article on Natural Acid Reflux Relief then you’ll know it’s a myth that too much stomach acid causes acid reflux/heartburn. In fact, having too much stomach acid is a condition that is so rare, it only happens in about 3 in a million people. In reality, 50% of people over age 50 and 80% of people over age 80 have too little stomach acid to actually digest their food enough to get the nutrients out of it.
There are several reasons for that, including stress (which can shut down HCl production by 90%), PPI medications (which purposely shut off stomach acid production and break digestion), and a pesky little bacteria called H. pylori, that likes to overgrow in the stomach and deplete HCl. So even if you are eating enough good healthy food to in theory get all your nutrients from your diet, your low stomach acid may be preventing this from happening. And without these vital nutrients, your body cannot absorb them and make new strong healthy cells.
This is why one of the very first things I do with new clients is to address any low stomach acid issues, to ensure that they are properly digesting and absorbing all the food and supplements they intake.
What to Know Before You Supplement
So how do you know what supplements you may actually need? Before I recommend supplements to my clients, I like to look at their blood lab markers to see what they may actually need.
Maybe you have seen an ad, an infomercial, or a webinar about some new supplement that looks fantastic? Or a friend is raving about a supplement they are taking to lose weight, and you think, “That supplement looks great! I’m going to buy that and start taking it!” You’re not alone, I have done this myself in the past!
I would be wealthy if I had a dollar for every client who has asked me “I just watched this webinar, what do you think about me taking this supplement?” Or “I just learned about this new supplement and it says it’s backed by science, do you think this can help me lose weight?”
If you know anything about statistics, you know that scientific research data can be skewed in any direction to support whatever the marketers are trying to sell.
Do You Really Need That Supplement?
Here are some questions to ask yourself before taking a new supplement, especially one you’ve seen advertised:
- Do you really need that supplement?
- Are you actually deficient in those particular nutrients?
- And if so WHY are you deficient in those particular nutrients?
- And if you’re not deficient, how will taking more of something you don’t need affect your body?
- How will this supplement interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking?
- How will you know if you are getting benefits from the supplement?
- What is the best time of day to take the supplement?
- Is this something you will take short term or long term, and why?
Supplement Regulation – What is Really in Your Supplements?
Unfortunately today there is no governing body that regulates supplement quality. Or even what is actually in the supplement, versus what it claims on the label. Many supplements have been tested and don’t contain what they say on the label, whether that’s an ingredient or an amount of ingredient. And many supplements are made in China, so who knows what is actually in them?
Studies have also shown that a wide range of supplements available on Amazon are counterfeit, so you may not be getting what you think you are. And it’s also very common for grocery store and drugstore supplements to contain inferior versions of vitamins and minerals, along with lots of fillers and binders. This can make these supplements hard to digest and absorb, and also make for very expensive pee and poop as you eliminate what you don’t absorb.
Just like top-shelf alcohol vs bottom-shelf, when it comes to supplements you generally get what you pay for. These low-end big box store supplements with low-quality ingredients are cheaper to produce and are also not as well absorbed by the body. In fact, Costco (which I love in general) has very poor-quality supplements. And anything in tablet form will typically be harder to digest and absorb than capsules.
Quality is the main reason I offer professional brands of supplements to my clients and readers. These top-tier brands have third-party certifications verifying that the ingredients listed on the bottle, are what they actually contain. These companies also use more highly bioavailable ingredients and few to no binders and fillers, meaning your body should be able to more easily absorb the nutrients from these supplements. When it comes to supplements, you generally get what you pay for.
Test Don’t Guess
In my functional medicine studies, I have learned the concept of “test don’t guess”. And I also strongly recommend everyone get a complete blood count (CBC), and a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) including hemoglobin A1C, if it is not included in your CMP, every year.
These basic blood labs should be covered by insurance once per year, although you may have to ask your doctor for them. I get my annual physical and blood labs done every year on my birthday. That is my birthday present to me, to help keep my body healthy, and a great reminder of when to do it too.
These two basic blood lab tests (CMP and CBC) contain many markers that can tell you a lot about your vitamin and mineral intake and absorption. Most allopathic doctors do not read them in this way. However, when you learn how to look at groups of lab markers from a functional medicine perspective they can be very enlightening to your nutrient needs.
Vitamin D Tests
It’s also a great idea to test your vitamin D levels. While the vitamin D markers may not always be covered by insurance, they are an important key to your overall health and I recommend getting your Vitamin D levels tested every year too.
How To Prep for Your Blood Labs
It’s important to keep in mind that any time you get CMP and CBC blood labs drawn, you should be fasting for at least 8-12 hours prior for best results. This means nothing but water beforehand, not even coffee or tea. You also want to make sure you are well hydrated, by drinking plenty of water for a day or two before your lab draw.
And it’s important to remember that these labs are just a snapshot of that second in time that they were drawn. Any stress, whether from traffic on your way to the lab, having to wait an inordinate amount of time at the lab, or fear of needles, can skew your lab numbers significantly. White coat syndrome is real.
So here’s what I recommend to my clients. Get to the lab testing site about 20 minutes before your appointment. Then sit in the car and do some deep breathing exercises or meditate. That way you won’t be late for your appointment, and if you had any stressful traffic on the way, you can shake it off. Deep breathing will also return your body to a state of parasympathetic nervous system. And you will have the best chance of getting optimal lab results.
So now you know some reasons why supplementation may be necessary, let’s look at a few of the supplements I take myself and/or recommend to clients.
What Supplements Do I Take?
As I mentioned above, clients frequently ask me this question. However, we must remember bio-individuality. What I take may not be what you need to take. And with your own blood labs in hand, and working with a holistic or functional wellness practitioner, you can determine what supplements are best for you. (Book a free discovery call today if you have questions.)
So here’s a look at what supplements I take and why. Full disclosure: I make a small commission through my links which helps support this free blog. I also vet everything I offer to ensure top quality and efficacy. And you’ll save 20% on all supplements ordered through my professional brand dispensary links.
My particular body does not methylate well, does yours? Methylation is a biochemical process in the body that helps regulate genes. Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.(3) So taking B12 helps my body with this methylation process. Taking B12 as a lozenge (or a liquid form) helps to ensure it’s more readily absorbed. There are other nutrients involved in the methylation process that I am not deficient in, so I don’t take those. I currently take Seeking Health Hydroxo B12. It’s important to take B vitamins in the morning as they can be energizing and may interfere with sleep if taken at night.
Vitamin K2-7 is a very important vitamin that is not well-known, and many people are deficient in this nutrient.(4) Vitamin K2-7, along with magnesium, and vitamin D are critical components of getting calcium into the bones and teeth. Without adequate levels of vitamin K2-7, magnesium, and vitamin D, any calcium in-taken through food or supplements can end up in the soft tissues instead of in the bones. This can cause calcification of the soft tissues including hardening of the arteries, calcification deposits in the breast tissue, pineal gland, adrenal glands, and other soft tissues. If you want to learn more about this amazing vitamin, here’s a great video on Vitamin K2-7. I take Microbiome Labs MegaQuinone.
As I mentioned above, most soils are devoid of minerals and this includes magnesium. In fact, as much as 75% of the population may be deficient in magnesium.(5) Magnesium is a critical nutrient involved in over 300 different biochemical processes in the body. It helps to regulate your heart rate, helps you sleep, helps you not get constipated, keeps your muscles from cramping, and a whole host of other amazing things. This is one supplement I recommend to almost all of my clients. And this is a case where different forms of magnesium may be beneficial for different people.
So you want to know what form would be best for you before you start to supplement. The cheapest, and most readily available form is typically magnesium oxalate. However this form is extremely hard for the body to digest and absorb, so I don’t recommend it unless somebody is very constipated.
I could write a whole article on types of magnesium, but for now, I will say that magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are two of the most absorbable forms. Magnesium taurate is also a great form if you have any heart arrhythmia issues, and magnesium L-threonate can be helpful for tremors, anxiety, and brain health. I currently take Jarrow MagMind capsules which are a very bioavailable source. I also recommend Thorne Magnesium Citramate Capsules, and Thorne Magnesium Bisglycinate powder. And it’s a good idea to take magnesium about an hour before bedtime, as it can promote sleep.
I don’t actually take vitamin D supplementation myself because I live in Mexico and I make sure to get 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight every day. The best way to get Vitamin D is with your body’s own synthesis through sunlight on skin. But for those who live in northern latitudes and don’t get enough sun exposure (without sunscreen), you may need to supplement with vitamin D. However that being said, it’s VERY important that you test your vitamin D levels first before supplementing (as I mentioned above). Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all, it’s a pre-hormone that interacts with our other hormones. And specifically for post-menopausal women, it can exacerbate hot flashes in some.
It’s also very important that you have adequate amounts of magnesium before you supplement with vitamin D. Magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D, which helps regulate calcium.(6) All of the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D seem to require magnesium, which acts as a cofactor in the enzymatic reactions in the liver and kidneys. And if you don’t have enough magnesium before supplementing with vitamin D your body may pull it from elsewhere in your body to activate Vitamin D. No Bueno. I recommend Thorne Vitamin D Drops if your vitamin D blood labs show a need to supplement, and you can’t get out in the direct sunlight for 15-20 minutes a day without sunscreen.
You’ve likely heard of omega-3 fatty acids. And maybe you’ve heard of Omega 6 fatty acids too. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Omega-3 fatty acids are a specific type of fat the body cannot produce on its own. Omega 3s are an essential fat, which means we need them to survive.”(7) In a healthy diet, omega 3s primarily come from fatty fish, and some nuts and seeds. And omega 6s mostly come from nuts and seeds, and seed oils (think sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, soy oil).
However, omega-3s and omega-6s need to be in a 1:1 ratio.(8) And unfortunately most processed foods today contain way more omega 6s than omega 3s. This throws the ratio way out of whack in most people. This is another place where you may want to test not guess.
Even if you eat high omega 3 diet, if you don’t process fats well, you could still be deficient. My own blood tests showed I was low in omega 3 fatty acids even though I eat pleanty of fish, which is why I supplement. I take Nordic Naturals ProOmega2000, which is a very clean, ethical brand.
Probiotics are super important for supporting our gut health. Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken antibiotics in your life. Who hasn’t right? Did you know for every round of antibiotics, you may have wiped out a whole species of beneficial gut bacteria? As an example, I’m personally down 8+ important keystone species in my gut, and I haven’t even taken that many rounds of antibiotics in my life. So taking probiotics can benefit most everyone. However, there are a lot of different probiotics on the market, and it can be very confusing as to which are best. I actually supplement with a couple of different probiotics to help promote a healthy gut.
My go-to probiotic is Microbiome Labs Mega Sporebiotic for several reasons. Firstly Microbiome Labs is a science-based company that specializes in gut health. They do the research and create great products. Secondly, being spore-based instead of microbe based they don’t get degraded in heat (no need for refrigeration) or by stomach acid, so they actually make it all the way to the large intestine, where they are meant to feed your good bacteria. There are of course some different reasons you may want to take a different probiotic, or more than one. I also take Jarrow Sacromicees Boluardii , and Microbome Labs Restore Flora, as I try to re-build my missing species. A stool test like Microbiome Labs BiomeFX can help you determine what’s best for you. This is something I help my clients with as well.
Betaine HCl (Stomach Acid)
As I mentioned above, most adults over age 50 have low stomach acid. This is one supplement I take with each meal to help me digest my food better. However, before you jump in and start supplementing with HCl, you’ll want to ensure you don’t have H. pylori overgrowth. We all have a little, and that’s usually ok. It’s when it overgrows it becomes a problem. H. pylori secretes an enzyme that deminishes stomach acid production. And if you supplement with HCl while you have H. pylori overgrowth, it will just secrete more of that enzyme, wasting your supplement.
Most stool tests don’t accurately indicate H. pylori either, even though over 50% of the population has overgrowth. So this is another thing I help my clients get to the root of. I supplement with Thorne Betaine HCL (and use a different amount with each meal, depending on protein and fat content of each meal, taking too much can cause loose stools or heartburn.)
If you have heartburn, gas, bloating, or have been told you have too much stomach acid (most likely not true), book a free call, I’d love to talk with you and help you increase your stomach acid again.
In theory, our body produces enough digestive enzymes to help us digest our food. But as with the HCl, there are many reasons why you might not be producing enough digestive enzymes to properly break down and digest proteins and fats, or even carbs in some cases.(9) For my particular body, my digestion works much better with the help of digestive enzymes. I currently take Thorne Bio-Gest, though Enzymedica Digest Gold is also a great brand. And as with the HCl, you’ll need to experiment with how many you take, depending on the protein/fat content of each meal. Taking too much can cause loose stools.
Back at the top of this article, I mentioned how we now need 18 half-cup servings of veggies and fruits a day. Your plate should literally be 75% veggies at EVERY meal. Yes, even breakfast. Yet, even as a Functional Wellness Coach, I find it hard to get in that many veggies a day. Which is why I personally supplement with JuicePlus. Made from a wide range of fruits and veggies, they help support my body with a little extra anti-inflammatory phytonutrients each day.
There are a few other supplements I take on occassion here an there, depending on what’s going on with my particular body. For example I may take Vitamin C, Zinc, and Host Defense Mushroom supplements if I have a cold or flu. Or some Thorne Phytoprofen (plant-based pain killer that works as well as ibuprofen without any of the side effects) if I’ve got some aches and pains.
One last word of caution. If you’re seeing a holistic practitioner who loads you up with a ton of supplements, be wary. I have had that experience several times in the past myself, and unfortunately, there are a lot of practitioners who basically substitute “a pill for every ill” with supplements for every ill—instead of getting to the true root of what’s going on in your particular body. So you’ll want to ask some specifics before dropping a bundle on supplements: What exactly are you taking and why, or what’s it for? How long do you need to take it for? And what results should you expect to get? Any holistic practitioner should be able to answer those questions. And most supplements don’t need to be taken indefinitely.
Here’s hoping this article helped clarify supplementation for you. If you have questions about your own supplements, book a free call, I’d love to chat. And please leave a comment to let us know, what was your biggest takeaway from this article?