Supplements for a Strong Foundation
If you are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of supplements out there, you’re not alone. If you’re like me, you see a promising supplement that seems to cover one of your struggles, then you turn around and there is another enticing supplement for a different struggle. Pretty soon, you have a large handful of capsules to take every day and you are overwhelmed.
To minimize the handful of capsules, there are ways you can streamline your choices while still addressing your health goals. By answering some basic questions for yourself and examining your health habits, you can make a strong foundation of supplements to support your health needs.
One important note: no matter which supplements you select, quality is critical and can make a 100% difference in your results. You cannot trust that what’s sold in that big online behemoth is the same product that’s on the temperature-stable shelf at your local store, nor can you be sure that that grocery store vitamin actually contains what the bottle states it does, but fortunately at Peoples, we do the vetting for you, so you can trust that the brands we carry are the real deal.
Multivitamin vs. Nutrition
I always get asked the question about which multivitamin to take. To answer that question, I ask someone about their nutrition habits. Do you eat fresh veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, grassfed, pasture-raised meats, wild caught fish? How much processed food do you consume? What are your sugar, alcohol, and snacking habits? Are you SAD (Standard American Diet) most of the time?
You see, you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. If you really do eat well, then that healthy food habit is your multivitamin. And to cover any temporary gaps, you can work with a quality basic multi like ONE by Pure Encapsulations or Twice Daily by Designs for Health. I like these multis because they have active forms of the B vitamins, which many people need due to genetics. If you need a more substantial dose of active B vitamins, then use a strong B complex as your multi. In that case I opt for a vitamin B complex like Methyl Plex B by NuMedica or Active B Complex by Integrative Therapeutics.
If you really struggle in the diet department, a strong multivitamin may be your best hope for adequate nutrition. Do know that a stronger multi means taking more capsules – likely 2-3 caps 2 x per day. There is simply no physical way to get a large variety of minerals and vitamins in one capsule or tablet. If you only want to take a “one-a-day” then your diet should be amazing.
If “amazing” is not how you would describe your diet, you’re going to have to take more capsules. MultiMedica by NuMedica and Comprehensive Core by Mother Earth Labs are my go-tos. Many times, I have used Mitocore by OrthoBiotic or KPax by Integrative Therapeutics as a multivitamin, especially if someone has fatigue as a major concern. These support mitochondrial health and can help improve energy levels.
Essential Fatty Acids
As you evaluate your nutrition, consider how often you consume fish, avocado, and olive oil. This will let you know how much and what kind of essential fatty acid supplement you may need. Most diets are abundant in Omega 6 and 9 Fatty Acids – nuts, vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, soybean, safflower and canola oils are plentiful in most diets.
What people usually lack is the Omega-3 Fatty Acid. Omega-3 fats are essential for your brain, circulation, heart and metabolism. They are found in the highest concentration in fish. Really, if we ate fish like most of us consume chicken, then omega-3 would not be a deficit. Eggs are also a rich source of omega-3, but there is a stark difference in the factory raised egg vs. the pasture-raised chicken egg. Farm-raised eggs have three times the omega-3 content.1
I will recommend Omega 3, 6, 9 formulas when I am really worried about a general lack of fat intake for someone. For instance, for children who are picky eaters, people with poor appetite or various bowel pathologies, or those who actually have low cholesterol, I will rely on the Barlean’s products to supplement as we work on nutritional changes and healing.
For the most part, I opt for a strong Omega-3 supplement (and of course recommend more fish). If you hate fish or just don’t have access to quality fish, then a supplement will be your best friend. My favorites are the Ultimate Omega lines by Nordic Naturals, Omega lines by NuMedica, and MonoPure by Xymogen. I usually recommend 2,000 – 4,000 mg of EPA and DHA total. These supplements have ample amounts of EPA and DHA, so we minimize the amount of capsules per day. Lessen them further with this simple rule: On the days you eat fish, you don’t have to take your fish oil supplement.
Stress and Magnesium
Feeling pretty stressed on a regular basis? Sadly, emotional stress quickly burns through magnesium.2 Dietary sources of magnesium (leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds) usually can’t provide us with enough to keep up with what our stress is depleting, so supplemental magnesium is a very common need.
Because the stress experience is subjective, I pay attention to how people describe what they handle in a day. I have had many clients tell me they are not stressed only to find out they fly airplanes, juggle four kids, or work as a 9-1-1 operator. I realize they may just be good at handling stress or think they are, but the body may have something different to say. Headaches, constipation, muscle twitches and cramping, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, sleep issues, all indicate a deficiency in magnesium.
As we have written about many times before, like here and here, there are many forms of magnesium. Each form addresses a need: Mag Glycinate is used more for lowering tension in the nervous system, muscles, and cardiac system. Mag Malate and Mag Taurate are used for muscle support. Mag Threonate shows great impact on the brain (rumination, memory issues, anxiety). Mag Citrate and Mag Oxide are generally used for constipation. So, figuring out the form you need is most useful. But, if you just want a general magnesium, Tri-Mag from DaVinci is a good blend as is Mag-Plex Ultra by NuMedica.
As my clients and students will tell you, I don’t like to use “You’re getting older” as an excuse for pathology. That is a very dismissive statement that will miss important health evaluations. If we do think of age as a cause of some issue, then we must be willing to investigate the physiological mechanism behind it. Aging can mean that you have been inflamed, imbalanced, or dealing with toxicity for a longer time. That said, as we age, we do simply have less upper GI function which can show up as heartburn and indigestion. Stress and gut inflammation send signals to your stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas to slow down. This means weaker stomach acid and bile, and depleted pancreatic enzyme output.
Probably somewhere in your 40s, the need for a digestive enzyme becomes a thing. You may be feeling more heartburn, but rather than thinking about stopping stomach acid production, you actually may need better stomach acid support. You see, reflux is more about a compromised mucosal layer in the esophagus and stomach rather than too much stomach acid.3
If you are older, you probably need digestive enzymes. You will get better nutrient absorption this way. Basic enzymes like Digest Gold really support healthy nutrient absorption. This can impact your mood, energy, and metabolism. If you have more indigestion symptoms, something stronger like Panplex 2-Phase or Digestzymes by Designs for Health are great.
Poop and Probiotics
We need to talk about your bowel movements. There is no smooth way to bring that up. Do you have a bowel movement each day? Do you have loose or hard stool? Gas and bloating? These are all signs your digestive tract is not well. So, where do you start? Probiotics.
We are all facing a depletion in our gut flora. This is due to foods laden with pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, preservatives and additives. We also get prescribed medications and antibiotics that negatively impact the gut flora. We have many challenges to our gut flora that make probiotic supplementation a necessity.
You can get probiotics from your food. In fact, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and yogurts are all made from probiotic cultures. As your gut heals, consume these foods to help assure your probiotic diversity. But, if these are not your favorites, you will need a probiotic. My favorites are Ortho-Biotic, Ther-Biotic, and the MegaSpore lines. Rotate your probiotics periodically. Why? Remember, you want to increase diversity in your gut flora. So, taking one brand over and over will actually work against that goal.
The last foundational supplement I recommend is vitamin D. To be truly precise with dosing, I recommend having your vitamin D level tested—it’s a simple blood test available at your doctor’s office. However, 1,000 – 10,000 IUs is a common adult dose. Severe Vitamin D deficiency may call for even higher dosages. Even infants need 400 IUs per day.4 So yes, it is preferable to know your blood values, but, if it is going to be a minute before you get into the doctor’s office, then a safe bet is to take 2,000 – 5,000 IUs per day until you have your numbers checked.
Fatigue and poor immune function are two big clues you need more Vitamin D, so you are experiencing this, it’s time to get labs done. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are also big indicators for the need for D. Remember- you need vitamin D to absorb calcium and other minerals. Vitamin D3 and K2 are often seen together and studies show this formula can aid calcium absorption. The D3/K2 formulas assure calcium reaches the bone and stays out of your cardiac system, preventing arterial calcification.
Asking yourself key questions about digestion, nutrition, and stress can help you optimize your supplement plan. Health is not found in a bottle, so you must work at changing what you eat and how you handle stress. Even small changes are important and can be impactful, so don’t let perfect get in the way of pretty good. As you are getting this sorted out for yourself, consult the highly trained wellness counselors at your local Peoples Rx. They can help you build that perfect, streamlined foundation you need to be on your way to optimal health this year and beyond!
If you have comments and/or questions about this blog, email us at email@example.com.
Amy Nelson, ND* received her Naturopathic Doctorate from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR where she studied nutrition, homeopathy, herbal and functional medicine. In addition, Dr. Nelson was the Associate at The IBS Treatment Center in Santa Monica where she treated irritable bowel syndrome and complex food allergies. Dr. Nelson utilizes her experience in natural medicine to address female and male hormonal imbalances, mental health, and digestive disorders. Amy is available for consultation at: DrAmyNelsonND.com.
*Although licensed in other states, Naturopathic Doctors are not currently licensed in Texas. To support licensure efforts, please visit www.txand.org.
- Sergin S, Jambunathan V, Garg E, Rowntree JE, Fenton JI. Fatty Acid and Antioxidant Profile of Eggs from Pasture-Raised Hens Fed a Corn- and Soy-Free Diet and Supplemented with Grass-Fed Beef Suet and Liver. Foods. 2022 Oct 28;11(21):3404. doi: 10.3390/foods11213404. PMID: 36360017; PMCID: PMC9658713.
- Pickering G, Mazur A, Trousselard M, Bienkowski P, Yaltsewa N, Amessou M, Noah L, Pouteau E. Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients. 2020 Nov 28;12(12):3672. doi: 10.3390/nu12123672. PMID: 33260549; PMCID: PMC7761127
- Orlando RC. The integrity of the esophageal mucosa. Balance between offensive and defensive mechanisms. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2010 Dec;24(6):873-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2010.08.008. PMID: 21126700; PMCID: PMC2995989