A question I get from almost all my patients and clients is, “What supplements should I be taking?”
The answer varies from person to person. Though I grew up taking a multivitamin and continued to take one all through undergrad, but I gradually moved away from that, preferring instead to aim for “food first.”
In general, I feel that if your diet is consistently adequate enough to cover your basic needs, a multi can be redundant and/or excessive. Though you end up peeing out excess water-soluble vitamins and substances (like the B-vitamins—except B12—vitamin C, etc), it’s possible to build up harmful or even toxic levels of other nutrients if we’re already getting enough through food. For example, getting enough iron is important, but getting too much can cause GI discomfort, fever, rapid heartbeat, and even death (in the case of severe overdose).
That said, if you’re someone whose eating patterns are more erratic (thanks to a busy schedule or other factors) or you have a medical condition that impacts your needs, a multi can provide some insurance that your body is getting what it needs.
- Probiotic—I always look for a multi-strain variety from the refrigerated case. I like my probiotics to still be alive when I eat them. I totally just said that to be creepy, but it’s true! Instead of “alive,” let’s just say “active.” Sounds much better. I talk about probiotics a fair amount, but for good reason—these “good” bacteria promote digestive health and immune system function. Also, since most of our serotonin is produced in the gut, restoring and maintaining good digestive health can also help our mood.
- Omega-3—I keep these in the fridge after opening. I don’t always eat fish 2-4 times per week, so this helps me feel that I’m getting the anti-inflammatory benefits. I also feel like it helps for my eczema, but that’s more anecdotal/personal research that what you’re find in, ahem, The Literature.
- Calcium—I only take one capsule a day because I eat dairy as well as plant sources of calcium such as kale and broccoli. If I didn’t, I might take more. In the winter I switch it up sometimes and will buy Cal-Mag-Zinc for the extra immune system boost. I’m a little obsessed with my bone health. Since I still have another year-and-a-half (supposedly) in which to build new bone, I want to give myself the best shot at not being a brittle (if still feisty) old lady. I have osteoporosis on both sides of the family, so in some case, bone loss seems inevitable, but starting with a strong foundation is important.
- Vitamin D—one of the few supplements I recommend to almost everyone I work with, since most of us in the Northeast are likely to be deficient.
- Vitamin C—I have never not taken vitamin C, now that I think of it (Thanks, Mom). Though there’s a lot of research to support its role in immune function, skin healthy, and a whole host of other things, the main reason I take it has to maintain a “hostile environment” for bacteria, per my gyno’s recommendation.
At times, I’ve also taken vitamin B-12 when I wasn’t getting enough in my diet, but I’ve already talked too much on this blog about adventures in cohabitation with militant vegetarians. I also reach for magnesium at times as well.
Though it’s not a vitamin, I also start every morning with a cup of warm water with lemon juice. You can read a little more about why here. Since adding it to my morning routine a few years ago when I first started working in hospitals, I’ve noticed a huge different in my energy levels, digestion, and number of colds per year.
*Just a note: the supplements I take are based on my own needs and health concerns. Because our health is not One Size Fits All, someone else’s needs may be vastly different, requiring different supplements.
What vitamins and/or supplements do you take?