With so many supplements on the market these days, sometimes it can be overwhelming when standing in the supplement isle in your local health food store. My approach with my patients is to always start with the basics and then add on supplements depending on what an individual’s health needs are.
The basic supplements are what I believe most people need as a foundation for optimizing nutrition and wellness.
One of the hardest supplements to choose is the seemingly simple multiple vitamin. A multiple vitamin with minerals can be thought of as an insurance policy that fills in the blanks. Unless you are eating 6 – 7 servings ofvegetables and 2 -3 servings of fruit daily, you are not getting enough micronutrients that are essential for optimal health. Remember, the RDA for vitamins and minerals is based on the the levels needed for the average person to avoid the diseases of nutrient deficiency. Although some of the recommendations have been updated over the years, many of the them were established decades ago, before the advent of multi-sport athletes, boot camps and cross-fit training. The physical demands we place on our bodies and the stress we are under in today’s culture are vastly different then they were even twenty years ago. So if you are ship-wrecked on an island, the average over-the-counter vitamin might help you avoid scurvy, but in today’s environment, you need more than the cheapest generic multiple vitamin available just to maintain good health, let alone reducing your risk of chronic disease and cancer risk.
A common scenario I see in my office is a female patient who’s iron and thyroid levels are sub-optimal. Optimal thyroid function depends on adequate levels of iodine, magnesium, selenium, and iron, all of which are found in a good women’s multiple vitamin. Women who are still menstruating and who exercise regularly are at particular risk of being low in iron. Traditionally, we only recommend multiple vitamins with iron to women who are still menstruating or adults with known anemia or low iron levels. I however, regularly see adult women who are no longer menstruating who have low iron or ferritin levels. Ferritin is the storage form of iron and can be thought of as the fuel for the body. Low levels indicate a pre-anemia state and can cause all of the same symptoms as anemia; fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, and difficulty losing weight due to sub-optimal thyroid function.
The B vitamins are another important component of a good multiple vitamin. Most people are concerned about vitamin B12 but it is better for your body to have a balance of all of the B vitamins which are vital for optimal function of your metabolism, including blood sugar and fat metabolism. It amazes me the number of patients I see that are in the bottom 10% of the normal range of B12 levels despite a diet that is rich in foods containing this vitamin. This tells me that they are either not absorbing B12 or they are simply not keeping up with demand. In either case, it requires supplementation that is way beyond the RDA just to maintain normal healthy levels.
As research has evolved, it has become harder and harder to recommend over-the-counter supplements. The things I look for in a supplement company are; where the bulk products are obtained (not from China or Mexico), third party testing of the quality and quantity of nutrients, and solid research on absorption rates of their supplements. Nuetracuetical companies such as Prothera, Xymogen, and Orthomolecular, which I carry in my office, do a much better job of changing ingredients based on the most up to date research in the nutrition field. A recent browse through the vitamin isle of my local health food store left me disappointed in the few brands that I typically recommend. Truthfully, I only found one brand that seems to be keeping up and that was Emerald Labs.
If you are not currently taking nutritional supplements and are thinking of starting, a good multiple vitamin with minerals is a good place to start. Good health food stores tend to carry higher quality supplements which are preferred over the typical brands found in your local grocery store. If available though, your best bet are supplements manufactured by nuetracuetical companies.
Next up is Dr Mike’s # 2 on the list of favorite supplements. Until then, Stay Healthy and Live Well… Dr. Mike