Supplements? My Top Recommendations
One of the most common questions I get from my patients is what supplements should I be taking? My first question is,”what are you already taking?” Often the answer is Centrum or some other grocery store multi-vitamin. If that’s the case, throw them away! You’re wasting your money at best and at worst endangering your health. The problem is, not all vitamins are created equal. There is no regulation on vitamins (a 23.4 billion dollar industry). The FDA doesn’t keep track and therefore companies can put whatever they want in the vitamin. Often that means that what the company says is in the vitamin isn’t there at all. According to an investigation by the New York State attorney general’s office into store-brand supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, supplements don’t contain what they say they do. All four companies received cease-and-desist letters demanding that they stop selling a number of their dietary supplements, few of which were found to contain the herbs shown on their labels and many of which included potential allergens not identified in the ingredients list.
“Contamination, substitution and falsely labeling herbal products constitute deceptive business practices and, more importantly, present considerable health risks for consumers,” stated the letters to the companies.
So what does this mean for you? Unfortunately most people today don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, or get enough sun to take in the vitamins they need, so supplements are necessary. But how can you be sure to take a safe and effective supplement? There are vitamin companies that are reputable. We use Metagenics, a triple GMP certified company that uses science-based technology, 3rd party testing and pharmaceutical grade whenever possible (not all vitamins have a pharmaceutical grade).
Now that you know what brand to take, the question is what supplements should you take? Everyone is different and I can talk to you in person about specifics for your health. But in general, I’ve listed the four most common supplements I recommend besides a multi-vitamin.
Omega-3s are a fatty acid that is considered essential to the human body. However, we can't produce it on our own so we must get it from our food. Because of the challenges of getting Omega-3s from our foods (mercury in wild fish, farm-raised fish with no Omega-3s), many people are deficient. That's why most health-care professionals recommend an Omega-3 supplement.
Benefits of Fish Oil
The benefits of fish oil (Omega-3 DHA and EPA) are well researched and numerous, and I wrote about them in a previous blog post if you’d like to read about fish oil in detail. Fish oil reduces inflammation of the body (the number one cause of chronic disease), lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and reduces the risk of heart disease. It curbs the onset of arthritis, osteoporosis and can help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Sources of Fish Oil
The best sources for fish oil are the smaller, cold water fish like sardines and mackerel because they contain the least amount of mercury. However, it’s difficult to eat enough fish to get enough Omega 3s, and getting all of our fish oil from our diet puts us at risk for too much mercury intake. Therefore I highly recommend supplementation.
Vitamin D is manufactured by our skin cells when we are out in the sunshine. Most people are deficient in this vitamin despite being able to make it themselves because they don’t get enough direct sun exposure and vitamin D isn’t present in very many foods.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D promotes healthy cell growth through gene encoding, reduces inflammation, and improves calcium absorption which is important for bone health. Without it, our bones are more brittle and the risk for osteoporosis and rickets increases.
Sources of Vitamin D
The recommended dietary allowance for adults between 19-50 years old is 600IU (15 mcg) or 5-30 minutes of sunshine between 10am and 3pm at least twice a week. However this amount is quite low and will probably be changed in the near future do to the rampant low levels of Vitamin D in the American population. Up to 70% of white adults and 95% of adult African Americans in the US have a vitamin D level under 30 ng/mL. I recommend that everyone get their Vitamin D levels tested. Your medical doctor will do this for you. A healthy level is somewhere between 50 and 100 ng/mL. I recommend taking between 2,500IU and 5,000IU of Vitamin D to start, depending how deficient you are. It’s important not to overdo Vitamin D as it can lead to hyper-calcemia, a condition where too much calcium in your bloodstream can lead to weakened bones, kidney stones and heart and brain dysfunction.
Benefits of Probiotics
Gut flora helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest, it helps with the production of Vitamin B and K, it helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, it plays an important role in the immune system, and a healthy and balanced gut microbiota is key to ensuring proper digestive functioning.
Sources of Probiotics
We can boost our gut flora through the intake of fermented foods like pickled vegetables, yogurt and kefir. Everyone should also take a probiotic that contains 1 to 10 billion CFU’s of probiotic. Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria have both shown an ability to survive the trip to your intestines, where they are able to destroy excess bad bacteria gathered there. Within the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria strains are several different species. When you purchase a probiotic, read the label to find out if the microorganisms are alive or freeze-dried. They have to be one or the other to do you any good. If they’re live, the label should give you instructions for keeping them that way, usually by refrigeration.
Magnesium is an abundant mineral as it already is present in a lot of foods and added to processed foods, however due to poor eating habits, Americans tend to be deficient in magnesium.
Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium is responsible for assisting 300 different enzyme systems of the body, contributing to protein synthesis, muscle contraction and nerve conduction, blood glucose control, and regulating blood pressure and heart rhythm. It’s required for cell metabolism and breaking down glucose for storage, DNA and RNA synthesis, and plays a role in active transport of calcium and potassium across a cell’s membrane.
Sources of Magnesium
You can find magnesium in many nuts and legumes, leafy greens such as spinach, or through high quality dietary supplements. For a full list, please go here. I recommend taking a magnesium supplement, which will give you a full daily allowance, unlike most food sources. For example, almonds contain the highest concentration of magnesium at 20% of the recommended daily allowance in 1 serving. Only 30-40% of that is absorbed by the body. In contrast, magnesium supplements from Metagenics are highly absorbable so you know you will be getting much closer to the required amount needed. Just watch out for which kind of magnesium you’re taking if it’s a supplement - magnesium citrate is a kind of magnesium that can produce very unpleasant side effects like diarrhea.
Supplements are a great way of getting the proper amount of nutrients our bodies need. In addition to a mult-vitamin, there are four vitamins and minerals that I recommend supplementing with: Fish oil, vitamin D, probiotics, and magnesium. I highly recommend supplements from Metagenics, as they manufacture pharmaceutical grade vitamins and minerals, and they have great customer service. You can buy all of the above supplements at my office or through our Metagenics online store. If you buy from the online store, you will get 25% off the your first order. And orders over $49 always have free shipping.
Aren’t sure if you’re deficient and want to get some advice during your chiropractic visit? Give us a call at 510-922-1579 to schedule or go online to www.core-wellnesschiro.com.
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