In my practice, I get a lot of questions about supplementation. The world of supplementation (just like nutrition) can be overwhelming and confusing. Given that the FDA does not regulate vitamins and supplements at all, it is even more critical that we learn the basics. So, where to start …
In a perfect world, none of us would need supplementation. Food raised properly in healthy soil should provide all of the nutrients that we need to stay healthy and disease free. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. Even organic foods (though free of many harmful chemicals) do not always provide the full array of nutrients that our bodies need. Also, as our bodies age, we produce less of key elements that our bodies need to function optimally. This article will focus primarily on common nutritional deficiencies. The next article will focus more on supplementing to fill in the gaps as we age.
Common nutritional deficiencies:
Vitamin D – Most people don’t know that vitamin D is actually a hormone. Responsible for mood and glucose regulation, cancer and immune system function, this key element has found to be deficient in at least 50% of our population worldwide. Society’s movement toward indoor jobs is largely to blame, but our food also lacks the vitamin D content that it once had. Choosing local meats from farms where the animals are raised outside is a great way to get better vitamin D from food. Choosing pasture raised eggs (local over grocery store) is also a great way to get this nutrient from your food. Even then, many people still need to supplement, and this is one of the key nutrients to make sure that you are getting. Allow your doctor to recommend your dosage, but choose either a blend of D2 and D3 or a supplement with just D3. D3 is a more biologically active form of the vitamin and is critical for promoting calcium absorption into the bones. So, supplement daily with D3!
Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that is part of just about every process in our bodies from muscle relaxation and proper muscle movement to hormone processing. Magnesium supplementation is often used to treat muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, constipation, trouble sleeping, mood disturbances, headaches, and chronic stress. There are many types of magnesium on the market (as well as many brands), so finding the right type is important to treating the presenting condition. When supplementing with magnesium, it is also important to understand that it is quite poorly absorbed through the digestive tract at a rate of 35-45%, so it is important whenever possible to fit in Epsom salt baths. Epsom salts deliver transdermal magnesium and is more efficiently absorbed than when delivered through the digestive tract. Taking even 2-3 20 minute Epsom salt baths per week can make a difference in blood pressure, muscle cramping, and ability achieve a restful night’s sleep. Orally, magnesium citrate is the most absorbable form. Magnesium glycinate (chelated) is best for its relaxation properties because glycine is a neurotransmitter. Magnesium citrate is what is most commonly found in laxative preparations, so it is best used for constipation related to magnesium deficiency. Just be careful how much you take as some people are very sensitive to this laxative effect.
Iron – Iron deficiency is common, especially in women. Unless your doctor has told you to supplement with iron, this one is not necessarily a necessary one to take, but it is good to cook in a cast iron pan daily, or at least a few days per week to keep appropriate levels of iron in the body. If you find yourself craving ice, extreme fatigue, weakness, and brittle nails, it is a good idea to check with your physician to see if supplementation is a good idea for you.
B-Vitamins – Vitamin B12 aids the production of DNA and helps make neurotransmitters in the brain, and it is an important nutrient for producing new red blood cells. It also helps to create hormones, and build cell membrane structures and protein. In some cases, vitamin B-12 can be used as an energy source for metabolic functions. Taking a full spectrum B-complex is something that many find helpful for energy, as well as just a better general feeling of wellbeing. A B-complex should also include biotin which can help with the health of hair, skin, and nails.
Folate/Folic acid is an important supplement for women of childbearing age and can aid in the prevention of neural tube defects in unborn babies. Many multivitamins contain this nutrient, so look for this if you are taking a multi. Also, if you are one who struggles with anxiety, depression, or irritability on a regular basis, it is good to choose a methylfolate (5-MTHF) as approximately 40% of the population has the MTHFR gene mutation and should supplement accordingly.
These are the most common deficiencies in our current society. Remember to first reach for the fork to supply these nutrients as well as possible through food, then seek to supplement with high quality products. There are many products on the market that are good, and it is challenging to know which ones to trust. Some of my favorites are:
- Pure Encapsulations
- Designs For Health
- Allergy Research Group
- Douglas Labs
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Take a look at the supplements you are taking. Many of the things that we take are things that we take based on a great sales pitch. Look at each supplement and discern why you are taking it and if it is still necessary for your optimal functioning. Ask yourself if anything changed when you started. For some supplements, the answer will always be no, but for some, you can tell a real difference if something has helped you. This may be time to evaluate and narrow your supplement regimen or expand it if something you read above made sense for the symptoms you are experiencing. Be well!!