The Top 5 Supplements Everyone Should Be Taking
We’ve finally made it to the final part of my Super Simple Nutrition series! If you’ve been following along and implementing my recommendations for healthy digestive habits, food, and lifestyle rules, congrats – you’re finally ready to learn about supplements.
If you haven’t been following the posts in this series, here they are:
The final part of this series is all about supplementation. The reason I wanted to make this the last part of this series is because using supplements shouldn’t be your first approach to achieving optimal health. Instead, they should be used to correct any residual nutritional deficiencies. That should go without saying (they are literally called “supplements”), but many people believe that if they’re taking their daily no name brand multivitamin they’re covering all their bases and can eat whatever they want. Not so, my friend. Ideally, the food you’re eating, the way you eat, and your lifestyle habits should all be aligned to contribute to maximum nutrient intake.
That being said, sadly, the vast majority of us North Americans have some nutrient deficiencies. So for that reason, I’ll cover my five favourite supplements that anyone would benefit from in this blog post!
1. Omega 3 fish oil
Inflammation. Ever heard of it? I don’t think there’s a more popular word in the realm of health and wellness these days.
As you probably already know, inflammation is at the root of the vast majority of health issues and diseases. The Standard American Diet (S.A.D. 🙁 ) is built upon foods that increase inflammation levels in the body like refined carbohydrates, sugar, refined oils, dairy, and grains. These foods feed pathogenic bacteria in our guts and starve out the good guys, leading to common health conditions like leaky gut, food sensitivities, and eventually auto-immune diseases.
The root cause of inflammation isn’t just food-related! Stress – including physical, environmental, and emotional – increases inflammation in the body as well. So if there was one supplement that I believe everyone should be taking, it’s omega 3 fish oil. This beautiful essential fatty acid is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, reduce other mental disorder symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood lability, and irritability, lower high blood pressure, reduce joint pain and inflammation, and help balance hormones. It strengthens cell walls that line our gut and work as our skin barrier – leading to better digestion and elimination and healthier skin. What if you’re vegan? No problemo, my plant-based pals. There are now omega 3 oil supplements from algae so you don’t have to miss out!
Another trendy one! We covered the importance of having a healthy microbiome in part 2 of this series, so I won’t get too much into it again.
Along with the standard american diet, frequent anti-biotic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil and Tylenol decrease good gut bug populations. In order to repopulate the gut, probiotics can be taken regularly.
Probiotics won’t build up the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut the way fermented foods will, but as they pass through your system they do a clean sweep of the area and really help decrease pathogenic bacteria, reducing inflammation levels, and improving natural Vitamin B12 production which leads to increased energy levels. Did you know that 95% of your serotonin (the happy hormone) is actually made in your gut? So if you’re prone to anxiety, depression, mood swings, or irritability, give probiotics a try.
When it comes to taking probiotics, start with a lower dose if you have a history of digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, etc. The key with a healthy microbiome is diversity! So don’t get too attached to a particular brand or bottle of probiotics – to keep your gut bug populations as diverse as possible, ideally you should be switching strains of bacteria (by switching brands). Every time the bottle runs out, usually every 30 days, switch to a different brand.
3. B vitamins
B vitamins sometimes get overlooked (the first two supplements on this list are definitely trendier) but these beauties are one supplement I definitely can’t live without.
B vitamins act as coenzymes in energy metabolism in the body and are crucial for brain health and hormonal balance. A healthy gut will produce several of the Bs, but since most people rely mostly on those S.A.D. foods I’ve mentioned above, good gut bacteria aren’t plentiful enough to make a substantial amount of Bs- which leaves us tired, irritable, and moody. Got brain fog, PMS, or low energy? You’re likely depleted of B vitamins.
If you’re the type of person who wakes up in the morning feeling groggy, maybe a little cranky, and in need of caffeine to get you going, give B vitamins a try. Within 6 weeks you’ll notice a major difference in your energy levels. You may still want that coffee first thing in the morning, but you’ll no longer feel like you absolutely need it to be a properly functioning human.
Wondering which B complex to buy? My advice is, go with the one that has methylcobalamin and methylfolate. These methylated versions of B12 and B9 are incredibly important for the 40% of the population that have the gene snip(s) that impair methylation (and therefore absorption) of these essential vitamins.
Magnesium is my favourite mineral (I’m a nerd like that). It helps with three of the arguably most common health issues today – high stress levels, pain/tension, and constipation.
Magnesium comes in several different forms. Magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate are perfect for relaxing the bowels if your elimination isn’t as regular as you’d like it to be. Magnesium malate is great to take if you experience pain, headaches, and migraines often. Want to improve brain and memory function? Give magnesium threonate a try. If you are one of those unlucky souls who has trouble falling and staying asleep, magnesium glycenate is your new best friend. It’s the most absorbable form of magnesium and just 400mg half an hour before bed every night will have you sleeping more soundly in no time. In need of double the relaxation before bed? Combine your magnesium supplementation with a magnesium sulphate crystal (aka Epsom salts!) bath. There’s really no better way to prime your body for a deep sleep.
5. vitamin d
This one is especially important for us Canadians. Living in a northern climate means a lot less sun exposure in our day-to-day compared to our neighbours to the south of us and beyond. Unfortunately, during the winter months, the right wavelengths of sunlight needed by our skin to create our own vitamin D doesn’t even reach us.
So the vast majority of us are deficient in vitamin D. This is why doctors will no longer test Vitamin D levels in blood tests, they already know everyone is deficient. This leads to irritability, increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, and seasonal affective disorder (another SAD acronym). Adequate vitamin D levels are also crucial for balanced hormonal systems. They also play a part in reducing inflammation.
How much vitamin D should you be taking, then? 1000 IU per 25 lbs of body weight is a general rule, but we’re all different of course so you could request that your doctor look specifically at your D levels if you want. Remember to consume your vitamin D with a meal containing fat as it is a fat soluble vitamin, so it will only be absorbed properly if it’s got some fat to dissolve into.
Another important thing to remember is that the sunlight on your bare skin is still the best source of Vitamin D, if you’re lucky enough to live in a place that is sunny year-round. So if you can, spending 20 to 30 minutes outside in the sunshine daily (especially in the morning), is a great way to give your body the most bioavailable form of this crucial vitamin.
There you have it! I hope you learned a thing or two over the past four weeks and that you’ve applied what you learned. What was your number one takeaway from this series? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
If you feel like you need some personalized holistic nutrition consulting, I’m your gal. Follow this link to set up a free 15 min consultation to see if we are a good fit for each other!