'Can't Live Withouts': Supplement Savvy


As naturopathic medical students we get a lot of information thrown at us everyday and sometimes it is hard not to think we should be taking every supplement under the sun. There are so many different treatments and supplements for all sorts of conditions that it is hard to keep track! We thought that it would be a good idea to make a quick essential list of what we think are the top four supplements that you can take everyday for the maintenance of a healthy body and mind.  

1) Multi-vitamins
Taking a multi-vitamin can be a great way to supplement your diet if you are not getting enough variety in your day to day eating. It is obvious that in this day and age many people are on the go and eating a diet varied in a broad range of fruits and vegetables is difficult. Studies have shown that people consuming less than adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals are much more likely to develop chronic diseases. Ideally we should be getting these essential vitamins and minerals from whole foods in our diet but when that isn't possible a good quality multi-vitamin can help us reach the necessary daily amount. It is especially advised to be taking a multi-vitamin if you are an elderly person as this demographic is prone to malabsorption. Also, with increasing age your metabolic rate decreases which in turn requires you to eat less food while your body still craves the same level of micronutrients. Taking a multi-vitamin on a daily basis is a great strategy to improve overall health and can keep your mind at ease on those days when you just can't fit in enough fruits and vegetables.
Remember, if your pee turns neon yellow it means it is working!   

2) Probiotics
Probiotics, also known as the “good bacteria”, are live microorganisms that have a proven beneficial effect on health. Most commonly probiotics belong to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, which are part of the natural intestinal flora. 
  • Probiotics are commonly found in yogurt, miso, tempeh and soy products. 
  • They compete with "harmful bacteria" for nutrients 
  • Can be used to treat intestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea or IBS
  • Help maintain the integrity of your gut. 
  • Help preserve an anti-inflammatory environment for the colon 
  • Aid in immune function and increasing the protective barrier of the digestive tract. 
It is important to note that a prebiotic is not the same thing has a probiotic. A prebiotic is a non-digestible food that stimulates the growth of helpful microorganisms that are already in the gut. 
It is also noteworthy to always refrigerate your probiotics, as the successfulness of the probiotic is highly associated with refrigeration. A study conducted in 2003 found that, “viability was significantly associated with refrigeration status; 100% of the refrigerated samples proved viable compared to 50% of the non-refrigerated.”

3) Vitamin D-3 
Vitamin D is a heavy hitter when it comes to the fat soluble vitamins. Although it is called a vitamin it actually acts more like a hormone as it is a compound that is made in one part of the body but causes another part of the body to respond! Vitamin D plays a part in the following processes:
  • Bone growth and development
    • helps to maintain blood concentrations of calcium and phosphorus, two other key players in bone growth
    • allows calcium absorption in the gut
  • Immune and neuromuscular function
  • Reduction of inflammation
  • Mental health
    • people in more northern latitudes (like us in Canada!) are at risk for not getting enough daily ultraviolet light especially in the winter months which has been correlated to higher levels of depression
  • Menstruation regulation
    • there have been studies showing decreased vitamin D levels and its effects on women’s menstrual cycle (ie. dysfunctional bleeding, irregular cycle lengths)
  • Insulin and obesity
    • a few studies have shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with obesity and insulin resistance
After all of that important involvement in our body systems, it’s hard to think of a reason why NOT to start taking some Vitamin D-3!  Remember that this vitamin is fat soluble, so if you are taking a Vit D-3 supplement make sure to take it with a meal containing some fats to allow for best absorption. Vit D-3 is also available as liquid drops that come in many different flavours. The benefit of the drops is that the vitamin D is pre-dissolved in an oil so you don't need to worry as much about taking it with a fatty meal. Personally, I love the lemon-lime flavour!


4) Fish Oil


Fish oil (aka EPA/DHA, omega 3 fatty acids) is one of the most well-studied natural health products to date. I’m sure many of you can remember your mom trying to shove cod liver oil down your throat, proclaiming that “it’s good for you.” Well, it turns out she was right!

The more common benefits and therapeutic uses of fish oil include:

  • General anti-inflammatory action
  • The ability to help prevent heart disease
  • The ability to lower triglyceride levels in the blood
  • Aid in the prevention and treatment of depression
The American Heart Association recommends consuming two servings of fatty fish per week. So why supplement? Firstly, the majority of the population in North America is likely not eating enough fish per week to maintain good levels of DHA and EPA. Furthermore, there is much debate on the quality of fish these days and the potential for ingesting harmful toxins (ie mercury, PCBs, dioxins). The good news is that there are now several high quality fish oils manufactured in a capsule so you don’t have to plug your nose while you try to swallow the oil! They also come in great flavours such as apple and lemon, which helps cut down on the dreaded "fish burp".  Remember, it is important to note that like probiotics, fish oil is best kept refrigerated to preserve quality.
As always, whenever thinking about starting a new supplement, be sure to consult your ND or MD!


The an avocado a day Team!

References:


Multi-vitamins:

1.  Girodon et al.  Effect of micronutrient supplementation on infection in institutionalized elderly subjects: a controlled trial. Ann Nutr Metab. 1997;41(2):98-107.
2.  Hersberg et al. The SU.VI.MAX Study: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the health effects of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Nov 22;164(21):2335-42.



Probiotics:
1.  Berman, S., and Spicer, D. Safety and Reliability ofLactobacillus Supplements in Seattle, Washington (A Pilot Study). The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine.2003. Volume 1 Number 2
2.  Isolauri, E.Probiotics, Gut Inflammation and Barrier Function. Gastroenterol Clinics of North America. 2005. Volume 34 p. 437-450.

Vit D-3:
1.  Prousky, Jonathan. Principles & practices of naturopathic clinical nutrition. Toronto: Ccnm Press, 2008. Print.
2.  Whitney, Eleanor Noss, and Sharon Rady Rolfes. Understanding nutrition. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005. Print.
3.  Office of Dietary Supplements: http://ods.od.nih.gov/


Fish Oil:

1.  Kris-Etherton P, Harris W, Appel L. Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation. 2002; 106: 2747-2757. DOI: 10.1161/ 01.CIR.0000038493.65177.94
2.  Lin PY, Huang SY, Su KP. A meta-analytic review of polyunsaturated fatty acid compositions in patients with depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul 15;68(2):140-7.
3.  Martins JG. EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2009 Oct;28(5):525-42.

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