Why should we even consider taking vitamins? Can’t we get all of our nutrients from food? Unfortunately for us today, the nutrients in our food are not what it used to be. Many foods are grown year after year in the same field. This leeches the nutrients from the soil. The lack of nutrients is replaced by synthetic ingredients. Traditionally, farmers rotated their crops. This allowed certain foods to use up some nutrients, while replacing others. Proper usage of compost also helps replenish nutrients in the soil naturally. These traditional farming methods are rarely practiced today, however can be found in many small, family or organic farms.
Vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This is good and bad. It’s good because it means you don’t need to see your medical doctor to enhance your health naturally. It’s bad because it means any Joe Schmoe can create a vitamin and sell it. It doesn’t have to contain what it says it contains because no one has to check up on it. Trustworthy supplement companies generally sell only to healthcare practitioners because they are spending the extra money in having their product tested by a third party and following strict guidelines. Many supplements you see at your local drug store have more fillers than nutrients and are generally useless. When it comes to supplements, you get what you pay for.
Alas, as the name implies, supplements are just that; supplemental to our current diets. You cannot out supplement a poor diet. Once our food choices are sound, vitamins are used to enhance our health. The following are the vitamins I believe every person should be taking.
Multi-Vitamin Look for a multi-vitamin made from organic fruits, vegetables and herbs instead of synthetic vitamins. This is a great way to make sure your diet is well rounded and you won’t be deficient in any certain vitamin or mineral. A good multi is a great “catch all”. Ultra Preventative X (by Douglas Labs) is jam packed full of all sorts of vitamins and minerals. In research, multi vitamins are rarely found to change blood levels of any particular component. However, taking a quality multi-vitamin won’t do any harm. My thought: it’s not going to hurt you and it will help fill any holes your diet.
Our guts are often referred to as our “second brain”. What we eat and inhale keeps us connected to the outside world. A healthy gut is a healthy person. If our guts are damaged, our immune system suffers, chemicals from the outside world leak into our blood stream and we end up with allergies, sensitivities, acne, brain fog and tons of other symptoms! All because our guts are damaged! Also, antibiotics are widely used today. These kill off all of the bacteria in our gut, both good and bad, leaving us vulnerable to future illnesses. This is where probiotics come in. They replenish the good bacteria in our gut, resulting in happy bacteria which leads to an increased immune system and healing from the inside out. Fermented foods also contain probiotics.
Omega-3 (Fish Oils)
The modern diet greatly lacks in quality, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. We eat much less fish and our meat supply is often fed corn and soy (high in inflammatory omega-6 fats) rather than grasses which animals convert to omega-3. In addition, much of our food is laden with omega-6 fats because they are more stable at room temperature so they have a longer shelf life (they won’t go bad). We need all different fats in our diet. It’s the imbalance of fats that creates a problem. Today’s common scenario (too many 6s, not enough 3s) leads to inflammation which is a component of all diseases. Taking an omega-3 supplement can help reverse this problem, moving our body away from inflammation and pain and toward homeostasis and comfort. The cool thing about omega-3s is that they aren’t something we have to take every day. Once it is in our system it will stay for a while because it is fat soluble (versus water soluble, which means our body excretes it regularly throughout the day – another reason we must eat every day; to make sure we get nutrients on a regular basis). For the first 4 weeks of taking omega-3s or after trauma, take 3-5g/day. After this loading dose, you can take a maintenance dose of 3g 3x/week or 5g 2x/week. Buying Omega-3s in liquid form is often less expensive, but capsules are sometimes easier for some people to take.
Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin, but rather, a hormone. It is essential to many biochemical processes within our bodies. The best source of Vitamin D is from the sun. Working inside and living at our latitude results in low vitamin D levels for the majority of us. Organ meats, such as liver, are great sources of Vitamin D (along with lots of other vitamins and minerals), but many of us don’t consume organ meats regularly. That’s where supplementation comes in. Like Omega-3s, Vitamin D is also fat soluble. This means that when we consume it or obtain it, it will stay in our system longer than a water soluble vitamin which your body excretes immediately after it is used in a way that matches your body’s current needs. Beginning in October, when our exposure to the sun is less, it is recommended to take 20,000IUs of Vitamin D per week. This could be broken up to 3000IUs/day or 10,000IUs 2x/week. This should be continued through April.