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Do I need to take supplements?

During a first visit with a new patient, I review what medications and supplements they are taking in order to make sure there aren’t any dangerous interactions. I am often taken aback by the length of the supplement list that many of these new patients provide me! When questioned about  why they take each supplement, I often hear that they “heard that it was good for me”.

It seems like every week there is a new product on the market that is touted as being “good for you” with regards to preventing disease, increasing energy, improving mood, you name it! With hundreds of these supplements to choose from, it’s easy to rack up an expensive bill at the health food store and leave feeling more confused than when you entered.

In reality, the majority of these nutrients are found in the foods we eat and if you consume a well-balanced diet, chances are you don’t need to take supplements at all! The problem that arises, is that we often don’t eat what we  should; in fact, a 2009 study found that globally, about 78% of people do not consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. This can lead to low-level nutritional deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (plant-based chemicals that support detoxification and reduce inflammation).

If you are like most people and don’t get your 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you may want to consider taking some of these daily supplements as an adjunct to your diet to stay healthy, decrease inflammation and improve detoxification.

The Top 5 Daily Supplements

Again, not everyone needs to be taking supplements, especially if you are consuming a well-rounded diet. Below are the top 5 supplements that you may want to consider taking; please note these supplements may not be necessary for everybody. Unless otherwise advised, these supplements will not interfere with any medications or medical conditions and are safe in pregnancy. If you are taking medications or are pregnant, it is best to speak to a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.

A multivitamin and mineral complex  is a great place to start to ensure that your body is receiving an adequate amount of all the minerals and vitamins that are needed to carry out all the bodily processes. Be sure to choose a whole food multivitamin that is organic, non-GMO and free of colouring, fillers and dyes such as those provided by New Chapter or MegaFood.
Vitamin D  is needed to keep our bones strong and our immune system working properly. Unfortunately, Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods and instead is made by the skin when it is in sunlight. In people who live in higher latitude areas or in areas that are frequently cloudy, your vitamin D levels may be low! This is especially true for people with tanned skin or those who stay out of the sun. If this sounds like you, you may want to consider taking 2000-4000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day.
Probiotics  are bacteria that help replenish the human microbiome. Imbalances in these bacteria have been implicated in everything from impaired digestion to mood disorders to weight gain. Unless you eat fermented foods regularly, a probiotic supplement may be just what you need! Look for one that is a mixed strain containing both Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus  and has around 10-15 CFUs per dose.
Fish oils  contain the essential omega-3 fatty acids that provide the body with a multitude of benefits! They decrease inflammation, enhance heart health, improve the texture of hair and skin and benefit mood. Most people don’t consume enough fish in their diet to balance out omega-3 and omega-6 ratios; if this sounds like you, go out and find a fish oil supplement but ensure that the brand you use has removed all heavy metals and toxins that can accumulate in fatty tissues. A good choice would be Ascenta NutraSea.
Lastly, Vitamin B12  would be a great supplement for you if you are vegetarian or vegan as vitamin B12 primarily comes from meat, fish and dairy as opposed to vegetables and fruits. In fact, the only vegetarian source of B12 is nutritional yeast. If you are low in B12, you may become fatigued, anemic, or experience nerve issues like numbness or tingling in your limbs. 1000mcg of sublingual B12 per day will ensure you don’t become deficient!

Yours in health,

Dr. Nicole Hartman

About Dr. Nicole Hartman

Dr. Nicole Hartman is a naturopathic physician, a world traveler, a hiker, and a blogger. She focuses her practice in digestion, women's health and weight loss and takes an integrative, evidence-based approach to healthcare.