Navigating the world of dietary supplements is overwhelming. Are taking daily multivitamins necessary? What’s a probiotic? Should you really be popping turmeric pills like everyone else?
Although whole food should be the first line of reaping vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, some supplements can offer a serious boost to your health and wellbeing.
You should always ask your doctor regarding taking new supplements and vitamins first, especially if taking certain medications – as misusing supplements can result in serious health issues.
When choosing a supplement, look for a product that has a third party certification verifying the supplement’s quality such as NSF International, Consumer Lab, or United States Pharmacopeia. Or, head to a reputable health food store (such as Whole Foods Market or Pharmaca) that has a knowledgeable practitioner or employee on staff.
These are three dietary supplements I highly recommend taking daily to support whole body health and wellness. Here’s to your daily dose.
1. Fish Oil + Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil dietary supplements are filled with essential omega-3 fatty acids, healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids known to promote anti-inflammatory benefits, and brain and heart health.
These fatty acids are literally essential because our body cannot produce them, so we must obtain them from food. The bad news is that many people are seriously deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, which has scary repercussions.
There are many omega-3 fatty acids, but the three to know are EPA, DHA, and ALA. Fatty fish (and fish oil dietary supplements) such as wild salmon and mackerel are rich in EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), both of which are essential for brain and mental health, cell membrane integrity, and controlling inflammation. ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) is found in plants such as hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds, but is not bioactive and needs to be converted into EPA and DHA.
Taking a high-quality fish oil dietary supplement filled with omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have shown numerous health benefits. Web MD notes that omega-3s are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and reduce symptoms of high blood pressure, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain, and skin ailments. Studies have also shown omega-3 fatty acids to reduce cognitive decline and even reverse and manage anxiety.
2. Vitamin D
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone found in some foods and produced by the skin endogenously when exposed to ultraviolet rays.
This vitamin plays critical roles in the body including strengthening the immune system, promoting calcium absorption in the gut, bone growth, and bone remodeling. In fact, without enough vitamin D, bones can become weak and brittle and can even lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “Research suggests vitamin D may also provide protection from hypertension, psoriasis, several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), and reduce the incidence of fractured bones.”
Vitamin D can be found in fortified foods including dairy products and cereals, cheese, eggs and egg yolks, fatty fish including mackerel, sardines, salmon, and tuna, and some mushrooms. If you’re not consuming these foods regularly due to dietary restrictions, or live in a gloomy climate, you may be lacking in this vitamin.
I always recommend getting your vitamin D levels tested, and being prescribed the proper dietary supplement of vitamin D by a health care practitioner – as taking too much vitamin D is a very real (and unpleasant) thing. Ask your doc for a blood test next checkup and talk about vitamin D.
Since gut health and the microbiome are so important (improving brain function, supporting immune health, and boosting happiness levels, for example) probiotics are trendy dietary supplements.
According to Dr. Joshua Axe, probiotics are essential for “producing vitamin B12, butyrate and vitamin K2, crowding out bad bacteria, yeast, and fungi, creating enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria,” and absorbing nutrients and promoting a healthy digestion, among others.
These “friendly bacteria” can be found in fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables) along with fermented dairy and alternative fermented dairy products like yogurt, kefir, and cheese. Not slugging back a kombucha or eating sauerkraut on the regular, however, may be a good reason to supplement with a probiotic pill.
Those who may have recently taken antibiotics (which kill the bad and good bugs) or those who are routinely stressed or eat a Standard American Diet may also benefit from supplementing with a probiotic.
When choosing a supplement, (first ask your doc!) look for a refrigerated bottle with a high CFU count (around 15 billion to 100 billion organisms) and with strain diversity – at least 10-30 different bacterial strains. Dr. Axe notes to look for strains like bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, and lactobacillus rhamnosus. These are hardier strains of bacteria, which can make it to the gut to colonize.