Written by: Dr. Janine Mackenzie, ND
Supplements are meant to “supplement” a healthy diet and lifestyle. The reality is that most people aren’t eating a diet full of colourful fruits and veggies, good clean protein sources, and good healthy fats. In addition, the nutrients in our soil is depleted and our food isn’t as nutritious as it used to be, not to mention the chemicals and pesticides that we come into contact with on a daily basis. That leads us to wonderful world of supplements. By using supplements, we help fill in the spaces that you may be missing. Supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle but can definitely help fill in the gaps. Continue reading to find out my Top 10 Supplements that offer benefit for most people no matter your starting health.
Drug Store vs. Professional Line Supplements
I am often asked about the difference between drug store brands of supplements and professional line products. There are so many supplement companies out there and it seems that the brands are growing daily. Myself and my colleagues generally pick a few companies to work with that we have looked into their quality assurance and trust their formulations. These professional line companies ensure that all ingredients are validated by third-party laboratories for identity, potency, and purity and are willing to provide the information. There have been investigative reports on supplements on whether they contain what they say they do on the label and often times, the companies that offer the cheaper price points fail these tests. The quality of the base ingredients is also a very important factor to consider. The professional lines will often use active forms, which means the component is in the form your body wants to use, instead of forms that your body needs to convert in order to use. They will also ensure “bioavailability” as often as possible. This means the professional lines choose ingredients that your body is able to uptake easily. For example, curcumin is gaining popularity as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Unfortunately, in its basic form, it is hard for the body to uptake, it is not very bioavailable. So, companies have figured out a way to make it more “bioavailable” which increases its absorption and enhances its therapeutic effect. In addition, the professional lines hire medical consultants that help them formulate products for therapeutic synergistic effects.
Disclaimer: Not all supplements are right for everyone. The dosages included in this post are the recommended dosages on the label based on the recommended daily amounts. Depending on your current health, medications, whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding it is best to speak with your health care provider before you add in or change your current regime. Or come on into the clinic and have a chat with one of our amazing Naturopathic Doctors who can help you choose which supplements are right for you.
1. Fish Oil – Optimega 3 by Bioclinic Naturals
Dose: 1 tsp per day
What it is: Fish oils, or Omega 3’s, are my top recommended supplement for patients. Just about every condition and person can benefit from a good quality fish oil. They generally made from small fish like anchovy and sardine. This is important because the small fish do not bio-accumulate metals and other things from the water they live in and their muscle tissue remains clean.
Why it’s great: All our cells in our body are made of a fat layer that holds all the goodies in the center, our brains are made of mostly fat, and Omega 3’s help promote an anti-inflammatory action in our body. Our diets have lots of Omega 6 and Omega 9 in them but we are generally lacking in the Omega 3 component. People taking fish oils have improved healing and general inflammation reduction, they often note improved cognitive function and memory, and have amazingly shiny hair and improved skin texture just to name a few! I love love love this supplement for my patients.
Note: When looking at quality of fish oil, you definitely get what you pay for. This is one supplement where I recommend investing a little more money to ensure you are getting the highest quality. The Omega 3 oil is fragile. It is sensitive to heat and light, so you need to ensure that the product you buy has a dark bottle and once it is opened it is best to store in the fridge. Some people do not like the texture of the oil, so capsules are a good option as well. Check out Optimega 3 Capsules by Bioclinic Naturals. Also, caution in those allergic to the fish it is made from, it is important to read the labels if this applies to you. If you are vegan or vegetarian, there are some options for you as well! Check out Ascenta’s NutraVege Omega 3
2. Calcium with Magnesium and Vitamin D3 – Cal Mag by Cytomatrix
Dose: 1 tbsp per day at night before bed
What it is: A liquid mineral supplement with 500 mg Calcium and 200 mg Magnesium with 1000 IU Vitamin D3.
Why it’s great: Minerals are hard for our bodies to absorb, when they are in liquid form like they are in this supplement, they are more easily absorbed and are gentler on our digestive system. This is a great multi-use supplement. Since magnesium is calming, and relaxing it helps with muscle spasm or cramping. This can be used for leg cramps, muscle soreness, headaches, and yes, even menstrual cramps! It also can be used as needed for heartburn and nausea. Due to the relaxing effects it is dosed at night and can help promote sleep, it won’t put you to sleep but can help with the calming effect before sleep. It also helps with regularity and if you find yourself constipated you can always dose yourself a little more to help move things along! Magnesium is also fantastic for your adrenals and stress response and helps calm anxiety. And also, the obvious benefit of bone health with the proper ratio of Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D3 for maximum absorption. It’s an all-around fantastic supplement to have on hand and it’s also quite tasty!
Note: Once opened, keep this one in the fridge. It also may separate, just give it a shake before taking. I also usually wean the dosage up slowly. I start with 1 tsp for a few days, then go up to 2 for a few days, then up to the full tbsp. The reason for this is magnesium has a slight laxative effect and some patients are more sensitive to others. Generally, 1-2 tbsp per day does not cause this laxative effect, but I have seen it happen and weaning up helps find your tolerance dosage.
If liquid is not for you, there are capsule options like: Cal Mag SAP by NFH
3. Adrenal Support - Adrenal SAP by NFH
Dose: 1 cap 2-3 times daily
What it is: A mix of vitamins, minerals, and adaptogenic herbs used to support adrenal health and the stress response.
Why it’s great: Stress is unavoidable. The adrenal glands are the house of our stress response and excessive and prolonged use can lead to health problems including fatigue, brain fog and memory issues, decreased immune function and frequent illnesses, impaired blood pressure control, impaired blood sugar regulation, just to name a few! This supplement is a good medium strength formula with adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogenic herbs help modulate the stress response meaning they help calm it down when it’s too high and help bring it up if it’s too low. The vitamins and minerals in this formula help the chemical reactions involved with the stress response function at their optimal rate. This is an overall great formula which is helpful for those who have not progressed into an adrenal burnout.
Note: I know that you’re probably thinking “sign me up for that!”, but for adrenal support it is good to have a conversation with one of our expert Naturopathic Doctors as there are many different adrenal supports with differing strengths of support so it is important to find the one that is right for your needs. This is not a one size fits all supplement, but there is an appropriate adrenal support for everyone. In addition, there could be other factors leading to your symptoms such as thyroid function and iron status that need to be evaluated.
Cautions: This supplement contains the herb licorice which is shown to increase blood pressure and therefore patients with hypertension should use a licorice free version such as Adrenal SAP Licorice free by NFH
4. Digestive Enzyme – Cyto-Zyme by Cytomatrix
Dose: 1-2 caps 3 times a day with food
What it is: This is a broad spectrum digestive enzyme. This means it contains a bunch of enzymes your body normally produces to digest your food. It contains enzymes that digest proteins, fats, sugars, lactose, and plant matter, and also some digestive promoting herbs.
Why it’s great: Digestive complaints are some of the most common health problems that patients talk about. One of the first steps to improving digestion is ensuring that the levels of the enzymes your body produces are optimal. Your stomach is full of acid and your small intestine produces enzymes that help break down your food into the parts it is able to absorb. Without these enzymes your foods don’t get broken down and you aren’t able to absorb all the good stuff. In addition, the bacteria in your gut get bigger proteins and sugars and they use these as their foods and produce gas as a bi-product, which leads to gas and bloating in you!
Note: I usually recommend patients take their enzymes with their sit-down meals not their snacks or smoothies unless you notice symptoms after eating those foods.
5. B Vitamins – B Complex SAP by NFH
Dose: 1 cap per day in the morning with food
What it is: A full complement of all the B vitamins which are used as mediators for most of the chemical reactions in your body, help with energy production, formation of blood cells, and help with absorption and assimilation of minerals like iron.
Why it’s great: This formulation contains compatible and complementary blend of B vitamins which are used for pretty much everything your body does. Many patients note increased energy when taking a B vitamin. But it also helps improve immune function, nervous system function, DNA production, and many many more!
Note: Sometimes people note a brightening or change in smell in their urine when taking a B vitamin. This is very normal. In addition, you’ll want to take this with food as sometimes B vitamins can cause nausea in some people.
6. Multivitamin and Multimineral – PreNatal SAP by NFH
Dose: 3 caps per day with food
What it is: a comprehensive supplement with lots of vitamins and minerals
Why it’s great: A multivitamin is a great place to start to ensure that you’re getting minimum amounts of all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to do its job on a day-to-day basis. While there are many options out there it is important that you pick a high-quality supplement so that it is absorbable by your body. The supplement I am recommending is a labelled as a Prenatal, all this means is that there is higher levels of folate and iron. In my opinion, all women of child bearing age (as long as you’re getting a menstrual cycle) should be on a prenatal. Sometimes supplement companies are tricky and use the same formula in their “Women’s Multi” as their “Prenatal” so it really is just a name. Men obviously don’t want to take a prenatal vitamin and there are Men’s Multi’s which will contain more selenium and zinc or just basic Multi’s that are applicable for everyone.
Note: For those who don’t want to take the prenatal form of a multi vitamin there is Multi SAP by NFH.
7. Vitamin D – Vitamin D3 by Bioclinic Naturals
Dose: 1 softgel per day (1000 IU per day)
What it is: Easy to swallow active form of Vitamin D.
Why it’s great: Vitamin D is best known for bone health and mood stabilization. But it’s also super helpful in immune function. Most people in the northern hemisphere are vitamin D deficient no matter how much time we spend in the sun. In addition, there are few foods which contain vitamin D which leads to a global deficiency in the population. I generally recommend a higher dosage than the 1000 IU per day for my patients, especially in the grey winter months where we don’t get much sun, but 1000 IU per day is a good starting point.
Note: If you’re curious about your vitamin D level we can easily check this for you in the clinic as it’s a simple blood test.
8. Probiotic – Probiotic-Pro 12 by Bioclinic Naturals
Dose: 1-3 cap per day with food
What it is: A multi-strain probiotic containing 12 different strains.
Why it’s great: We are learning more and more about gut health every day and the importance of a healthy microbiome in your gut is gaining evidence rapidly. Probiotics are great because they are the good bacteria which help us digest and absorb our foods, contribute to our immune system, help us produce hormones are just a few of the benefits of a healthy gut flora. They compete with the pathogenic, or bad, bacteria that can make us sick for resources like food and space. Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut are great because they contain probiotics but they do not have the numbers needed to build a complete healthy flora so we need added help by taking a daily probiotic. Some patients also note that it helps with regularity and reduction in their gut symptoms like gas and bloating. Sometimes probiotics make people feel worse, in that case there is other conditions going on that need to be addressed. In addition, if you’re sensitive to dairy or soy you may want to check the ingredient list.
Note: Generally, to ensure potency you need to store probiotics in the fridge. There are shelf stable options for travelling Probiotic 7-in-1 by Biomed is a great option.
If you’re needing Dairy free and Soy free check out Probiotic 50B by Pure
If you’re taking antibiotics Recovery SAP by NFH is a great option.
9. Greens Powder
Dose: 1-2 scoops per day
What it is: A mix of various veggie, fruit, and herb greens ground up in powder form for a quick and easy way to get the health benefits from fruits and veggies. Some powders contain probiotics, vitamins, and minerals.
Why it’s great: Everyone can use a helping hand. Greens powders are just that for your diet. While they aren’t a replacement for fruits and veggies, they are a great way to supplement and help fill those gaps so you can ensure you’re getting lots of plant-based nutrition in your diet. These powders are full of antioxidants, detoxifiers, and food sources of vitamins and minerals. Mix it into your smoothie, your yogurt, your chia pudding, your oatmeal, it doesn’t matter! Such a convenient way to add in tons of antioxidants and nutrition on the go without having to swallow another pill! I find I am often eating on the go, so I put a tablespoon of greens (among a few other healthy things, I’ll write a post on my fav smoothie boosters soon) into my smoothie and I know that I have my bases covered.
Note: There are many many options for greens powders. I like ones that have many ingredients on the label. I feel this gives you more bang for your buck. Here are a few of my favourites.
Organic Greens & Reds Powder by Douglas Labs
Paleo Greens by Designs For Health
10. Collagen Powder
Dose: 1 scoop per day
What it is: It is the most abundant structural protein that is in skin and connective tissues. It’s the glue that holds your body together.
Why it’s great: Like you may have thought, collagen can help with aches and pains from arthritis, skin strength and healing, and hair growth. But it has way more benefits than that! It is amazingly helpful in the gut, healing inflammation and helping with food sensitivities and can help those who have frequent diarrhea for unknown reasons. When added to a breakfast smoothie it can help keep you full until lunch. And it has started gaining popularity in brain health by eliminating brain fog and Alzheimer prevention. It is also cardio-protective meaning its good for your heart. Plus, it dissolves easily in liquids and is tasteless so you really cannot go wrong here. I add it to my smoothie in the morning.
Note: It is made from bones of cows or fish scales, but I’ve heard there are some vegan products on the market. I am unfamiliar with those so cannot vouch for them.
There are several different kinds of collagen powders and sources. My favourite so far is the Bulletproof brand Collagen Protein, it dissolves so easy and it does not alter the flavour of my smoothie.
Feeling overwhelmed with your current supplements or unsure where to start? Come on into the clinic and let us help you out! Contact Cheam Wellness Group at 604-776-2432 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can work together!