We have all heard the saying, “you are what you eat” but more accurately, you are what you digest. It’s no surprise that we should all eat as many organic, whole foods as possible. Unfortunately, with our modern depleted soil and our ever increasing busy lives, we may be coming up short when it comes to the essential nutrients that we need. When we are not able to get these necessary nutrients and beneficial bacteria, supplements can make a huge difference in how our bodies function and feel. Remember that supplements can be a great way to supplement a healthful diet; there is no blanket statement for what vitamins every person requires. We are all very different and have individual needs for our body’s natural process to work. Certain co-factors such as lifestyle, genetics, epigenetics and how we express our genetics, play a big part in determining what nutrients each person needs.
The Organic Consumers Association says that isolated vitamins cannot be recognized by the body in the same way as the natural version. I recommend that all supplements should be high quality, natural, and derived directly from the nutrient dense plant source. This way, our bodies can easily recognize, metabolize, and absorb the nutrients.
What supplements are essential for most adults today?
Pro and Pre-biotics
Probiotics are living bacteria and yeast that line the gut and are great for overall health. Science has discovered that some of the gut microbiome can release neurotransmitters to communicate with the brain. This is known as the gut-brain connection and is not only tied to disease prevention but emotional health as well. The gut needs a balance of bacteria and enzymes to be able to properly digest food and absorb nutrients. There are many sources of probiotics or good bacteria. The most beneficial are found in fermented foods such as:
- Raw cheese
There are also probiotic supplements that may help if you are not able to eat fermented foods as often as you should or if you have sensitivities. Different variations on how many and what type of cultures will apply to the individual’s specific needs. I recommend Klaire Labs for adults, children, and infants. A good second choice for infants is GutPro.
Prebiotics, are various fiber that boosts beneficial species of gut bacteria. Otherwise known as non-digestible fiber since our body’s won’t digest it, but our good gut bacteria will. With prebiotics, we can essentially feed the bacteria that are necessary for a healthy gut. Prebiotics are best from raw food sources, including:
- Chicory root (inulin)
- Dandelion greens
- Tiger nuts
- Larch arabinogalactan
Higher intake of prebiotics can be linked to benefits including better gut health, improved digestion, lower stress response, increased calcium absorption, and higher immune function. Prebiotics also provide energy for the cells that line the gut wall, which can potentially protect against certain disease.
Prebiotic supplements are available, however, they are best when consumed in the form of raw foods. You should consume as many prebiotic foods as possible.
Over 50,000 of the chemical reactions in the human body require the hormone vitamin D. Playing an important role in our health, Vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly concerning and prevalent. This vitamin contributes greatly to the immune system, prevention of autoimmune diseases, bone strength, heart health, and cancer prevention.
One of the best sources of Vitamin D is the process that is triggered when sunlight touches our skin. Due to limited sun exposure because of our modern indoor daily habits and lack of Vitamin D dense foods in the average diet, it is not easy to boost Vitamin D levels in our bodies naturally. It is important to know that Vitamin D is fat-soluble; this means that you need to be sure that you are getting ample amounts of healthy fats and that your gut can absorb those fats. Factors such as an unhealthy gut from lack of beneficial gut flora, or inflammatory foods such as gluten can diminish the absorption of a Vitamin D supplement.
There are a few food sources of Vitamin D. Try to add as many of these into your diet as possible:
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
I like to see my patients with a Vitamin D level around 50-60. If your levels are lower, it is a good idea to take 10,000 IU of Vitamin D3 until levels improve and 5,000 IU daily to maintain healthy levels. Tests are available to calibrate specifically the amount you should take daily. I like to recommend Bio-D-Mulsion from Biotics or Metagenics D3 liquid.
Just as important as Vitamin D, K2 doesn’t always get the proper attention. It is responsible for activating a complex biochemistry between two enzymes which are important for removing calcium from the lining of your blood vessels. Without Vitamin K2, the calcium cannot be transferred from your blood vessels to your bones, not only reducing bone strength but raising your risk for arterial calcification. If you have health conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, or heart disease, you may be deficient in Vitamin K2. It has also been recently suggested in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that statin drugs may decrease Vitamin K levels. The primary food source of Vitamin K2 is fermented foods, but not all fermented foods contain the specific bacteria needed to produce this vitamin. Even so, it is difficult to obtain enough Vitamin K2 through your diet alone. In this case supplementing is a good idea.
Good sources of Vitamin K2 include:
- Natto or other Asian fermented soy products
- Brie or Gouda cheeses
Most of the higher quality D3 supplements will contain Vitamin K2 since they need to be taken together. Try these Vitamin D supplements that also contain K2: Bio-D-Mulsion from Biotics or Metagenics D3 liquid.
Even though you can easily get magnesium from many foods, over 80% of Americans are deficient in this vital mineral. Magnesium activates over 300 enzyme reactions in the body that are crucial to your nerves, muscles, energy, blood coagulation, and both bone and cell formation. A magnesium deficiency can cause symptoms like muscle aches or spasms, anxiety, sleep trouble, and digestive issues. More serious symptoms include nutrient deficiencies, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, and tooth cavities, to name a few. A common sign of magnesium deficiency is a craving for chocolate. Being deficient in Vitamin K2 or having excessively high levels of Vitamin D can contribute to a magnesium deficiency as well. Magnesium is also responsible for balancing high levels of calcium.
Foods rich in magnesium include:
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains like brown rice
There is a verity of magnesium supplements available. Magnesium citrate is magnesium combined with citric acid and is thought to be absorbed better by the gut. Magnesium chloride oil is another option for those who have trouble absorbing magnesium through their gut. It is great as a treatment for muscle pain as well. Keep your eye out for a post for more on Magnesium in the next few weeks.
Adults should take 500 mg of magnesium daily. My favorite way to supplement is with NaturalCalm.
Of the eight B Vitamins that are found in foods and supplements, Vitamins B9 and B12 are the most essential. It is important to know that the two are connected. Because the body needs adequate amounts of B12 to methylate B9, if we are lacking in B12 then we may suffer a B9 deficiently.
You may have heard of B9 haphazardly referred to as “folic acid” because “Folate” and “folic acid” is mistakenly used interchangeably. The truth is, that they are not the same. Folic acid is a synthetic Vitamin B9 and is metabolized in the liver, while folate is naturally found in whole foods and is metabolized through the gut. The problem with folic acid is that the liver lacks the enzymes needed to metabolize this nutrient. Because B vitamins are water soluble and will not be stored in the body, this results in excretion of unused folic acid via the renal system. In other words, folic acid is not properly absorbed and you are flushing the synthetic B Vitamin down the toilet. Almost 50% of the population has a gene mutation that creates even greater trouble because of unmetabolized serum folic acid or UMFA. B9 is responsible for helping the body to make healthy new cells. It is no wonder that it is imperative for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant to have adequate amounts of folate in their diets. Please note that I recommend that my patients who are expecting take a prenatal supplement with folate instead of the more common folic acid prenatal supplants.
The best sources of folate are:
- Leafy greens
- Sunflower seeds
I recommend having three servings of greens daily. If you are not able to get enough servings of greens in your diet, then a supplement containing 400-800 mg of folate is a good alternative source.
Necessary for the fusion of red blood cells, the nervous system; and growth and development, B12 is another essential B Vitamin. It is key to preventing free radical damage to cells. Without B12, cells would not function and energy levels would plunge. It is alarming to think that almost half of the population is deficient in B12. This is likely because many diets are lacking in B12 nutrient dense foods and because poor gut health prevents its absorption. Surgery, birth control pills, intestinal ailments, gluten sensitivity, exposure to mercury, and consuming unnatural food preservatives can be a factor in why many people might not be absorbing B12. B12 deficiency is typically seen in individuals who follow a vegan diet due to lack of animal protein.
Try to add more of these foods into your diet:
- Red meat
- Nutritional yeast
Note: I do not alway recommend a B Vitamin to every patient. Make sure to remember to ask what supplements are right for you and how to find out your specific nutritional needs at your next appoint.
A form of omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, is derived from the tissues of oily fish like salmon. The two types of omega-3 fatty acids to focus on are EPA and DHA. EPA is best for heart health and reducing inflammation, while DHA is imperative for a successful pregnancy and child development because it is known as brain food. Omega-3s may lower the risk of many fatal diseases by reducing inflammation. It is also essential to memory, cognition, and behavior. Our modern diets that are full of processed foods and refined oils, also lack fruits and vegetables which supply excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. It is important to have the right ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 to stay healthy. That is why so much emphasis is placed on supplementing diets with fish oil to balance the Omega-3 and 6 ratios. People who tend to eat high amounts of fatty fish may not need to supplement with fish oil. However, keep in mind that many varieties of fish contain high levels of mercury.
I only I recommend that my patients take a high-quality fish oil since some species fo fish have been exposed to high amounts of radiation. My favorite EPA and DHA supplements are OmegaGenics, NutraGEN, and for children Nordic Naturals.
You can also add more of these foods for additional Omeg-3 fatty acids:
- Chia and flax seeds
- Leafy greens
- Seafood oils
The word antioxidant often gets thrown around as the fountain of youth. Antioxidants do have an anti-aging effect because they neutralize free radicals which damage our cells. Many times, however, I find that antioxidants are not fully understood. For instance, there are direct antioxidants and indirect antioxidants; both are not created equal.
Direct antioxidants are what most people are familiar with, like vitamin C and E. These are consumed or applied to the skin. They bind directly to free radicals, but they have a disadvantage. Direct antioxidants lose their capacity to neutralize free radicals because they have a short lifespan. Direct antioxidants also only neutralize free radicals on a one to one ratio.
Indirect antioxidants are more effective at anti-aging because they repair damage by boosting the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes. One way that the body uses these antioxidant enzymes is something known as the Nrf2 pathway. A powerful protein existing within each cell of the body, Nrf2 cannot operate until it is activated. When we are young, this system is better equipped to handle neutralizing free radicals. The problem being that this system becomes disrupted by age, malfunction, or disease and can cause further damage. Also known as Oxidative stress, this free radical damage is the cause of aging and disease.
In short, indirect antioxidants are superior.
Looking to get more indirect antioxidants into your diet? Here are a few great sources:
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Fiber-rich seeds
- Green tea
Unless you plan to have a broccoli and cauliflower salad, topped with grapes, sprinkled with fiber rich seeds and turmeric while drinking green tea, I expect that you might be looking for a great way to activate the Nrf2 pathway in supplement form. Protandim is a wonderful way to get more indirect antioxidants into the body. This supplement not only incorporates turmeric and green tea, but it contains these other powerhouse herbs:
- Milk Thistle – Supports liver health.
- Bacopa – Increases SOD, protects mental function and improves learning skills.
- Ashwagandha – Raises energy levels, improves overall health, and has positive effects on the nervous system.
This is one supplement that I do not hesitate to recommend to almost all of my patients. Unlike direct antioxidants, which have a one to one ratio of neutralizing free radicals and oxidative stress, the specific combination and ratio of herbs in Protandim provides the benefit of neutralizing free radicals on a one to one million ratio. Needless to say, the studies on this supplement are pretty impressive.
Thoughts on Multi-Vitamins
I am not a big fan of “one-size” multi-vitamin supplements, especially the variety that is most commonly available. As I said before, there are many factors that determine what nutrients each of us need. I recommend that my patients seek out a custom blended multi-vitamin based on nutritional testing, but there are a few good multi-vitamins available. Seeking Health Optimal Multivitamin and Metagenics PhytoMulti are great for adult men and women. Metagenics PhytoMulti Kids for children and Prothera Prenatal Formula for pregnant and nursing mothers.
Visit us at Kadin Family Chiropractic & Wellness Center to learn more information on deficiency testing and what supplements are recommended for your specific needs.