Supplements are obviously big business, and a hugely confusing subject for most people. We get told that we need Sooooooo many pills. Do you feel discombobulated when you walk down the vitamin aisle of Whole Foods Market or a health food store? Most people do, so I wanted to let you know the only 3 supplements you really need, and the rest is where you get into customization. I have a few general rules of thumb that I stick to:
- There isn’t a one-size-fits-all. We all have different health conditions, diets, and medical issues.
- You should try to get as many of your nutrients as possible from food instead of supplements because your body utilizes and digests these nutrients better in their natural (non-synthesized) form. Plus is waaaay less expensive.
- Nature has provided us with foods that are perfectly packaged with all the nutrients we need.
- Purchase high-quality supplements because the cheaper ones are often formulated with additives and fillers.
- Supplements are not benign and should have the same consideration of any medication you take.
- A multivitamin gives you a false sense of security, and should not be considered a substitute for the abundance of nutrients that you find in whole, natural foods.
The only 3 supplements that most of us need to take daily are:
- Vitamin B12 (especially if you don’t eat meat), and/or Vitamin B Complex. I recommend a high quality supplement, such as Pure Encapsulations Or liquid such as Vegan Safe
- Vitamin D3 (2,000 – 5,000 IU daily)*
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
*If you expose your skin to sunlight 3 0r 4 days a week for about 15 minutes without sunblock, you may not need a Vitamin D supplement. But the UV Index of where you are needs to be 3 or greater. This is a good UV index finder, where you can type in your zip to find out what you UV index is hour-by-hour today. If you decide to get your D from the sun, be sure not to shower for at least one hour after sun bathing or being in the sun, because you need this time for the Vitamin D to be made in your skin.
In a perfect world you could actually get all of the above from a food and sunlight, but since most of us don’t want to subject our skin to cancer-causing rays, and many of us don’t want to eat fish because it’s contaminated with pollutants, we may need supplementation. Moreover if you don’t eat meat, you will need to to supplement B12 because this is found in animal flesh from the bacteria that animals consume.
Vitamin B12 is vital for our body to function properly, energy, red blood cell production, and it’s vital for arterial health. If you are vegetarian or vegan, I recommend taking either 2,500 mcg of Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) once a week, or 250 mcg daily. You don’t actually need to take it everyday, so it’s a matter of preference. It’s fine to ingest as a pill, a chewable, liquid, or a sub-lingual. Note that the methyl form of Vitamin B12 is preferred for bioavailability.
If you are stressed and exhausted, it’s very likely that you will have adrenal fatigue. If this is the case, I highly recommend an adrenal supplement such as Body Software Super Adrenal by The Hall Center.There are of course, many other considerations where your doctor or N.D. may prescribe other supplements to treat specific health issues.
I urge you to get a blood panel done if you have any concerns. Unfortunately, you may have to pay for the kind of panel that tests for certain deficiencies. In my case, my regular annual physical labs included testing for Vitamin D levels. But I had to pay extra to have magnesium levels, heavy metals, and a few other things tested. So when you next go to the doc to have labs, be sure to find out what’s what with what they’re testing, and make sure you get the most bang for your buck from a regular comprehensive lab report. I found that I was low in Vitamin D (despite taking 2,000 IU a day), so I dialed it up to 5,000. And my husband found that his levels were on the high side. We never would have known! This is why I recommend getting tested.
If you see an N.D. (Naturopath), it’s likely that he/she will request extensive testing, which gets really expensive. If you are in good health, this isn’t necessary. However, if you are struggling with a suspected or known health issue, it might be a good idea to do some research and find someone. Word of caution: I have seen quite a few N.D.’s over the years in Los Angeles and you have to be careful that you’re not handed a massive bill after the fact. Moreover, many of them will prescribe buckets of supplements, creams, herbs, and remedies for you to take…now we’re talking ridiculously expensive! Fortunately we have review sites such as Yelp that can give you an idea of how trusted the practitioner is, and it will be very clear to see if people have been ripped off! After walking out of a Naturopathic Doctor’s office in LA (who will remain nameless,) with a $1,200 invoice in my purse and severe palpitations, I learned my lesson. The other thing about N.D.’s is that they will read your labs in a very different way to how your regular Intern does. There’s good and bad about this: The good is that they will consider different and more sensitive ranges. Where my doc said that certain counts were within range, the N.D. said that they weren’t. This is because N.D.’s often use different labs, which are way more detailed and nuanced. I like to have tighter ranges and more detail because this allows me to participate fully in my preventative health care. The bad is that these super-sensitive tests and ranges can spin you out. And before you know it, you’re burning your credit card on all the crazy supplements and IV bags that will supposedly deal with underlying issues, or banish your fatigue, stomach bloat, hormonal swings etc. Just be careful.
Ultimately, nothing can take the place of a really good whole food plant-based (at least 80% plant-based) diet, exercise, and stress-management. The latter is perhaps the most important part of the entire equation. You can have a great diet and take every expensive supplement on earth, but if you are driving yourself into the ground with stress and worry, nothing will work as well as it’s supposed to. You’ll be depleted. And tossing supplements into a stressed body with burned-out adrenals is nothing more than a Band Aid. My biggest piece of advice? The one you least want to hear? Meditate, or at the very least learn some yoga breathing techniques to manage your stress.
Finally, the only other two semi-necessary supplements that I sometimes toss in the mix are:
- Magnesium – this is the anti-stress mineral, and will also help with bone strength. I actually like the Natural Calm + Calcium supplement, which comes in a powder.
- Milk Thistle – this will help your liver to do what it does everyday – detox!
The reason why I do a mega smoothie every morning is that into that smoothie goes as many of nature’s wonderful minerals, vitamins, and nutrients as I can possibly stuff into it. GO SMOOTHIE!!!!