Dr. Amy’s Favorite Supplements
Contributed by Dr. Amy Whittington, Trilogy’s Naturopathic Physician
In the decade I’ve been working as a naturopathic physician, I’ve seen some supplements, like probiotics, go from virtually unknown to standard of care. I’ve seen other supplements hit the market like a flash in the pan, with disappointing results in studies and in clinical trials. We are constantly watching research and patient outcomes to decide what is worth your dollar and the space in your regime. We often use single nutrients or herbs for particular maladies, but the basics that everyone should consider have remained mostly unchanged over the years. Below are some of my favorites.
Multiple Vitamin: I often like to describe a good multiple vitamin as “topping off the tank.” A multiple vitamin is formulated to give you a small amount of a lot of nutrients that you may or may not be deficient in. Some of those nutrients will not be needed and will work their way through your system. However, if you have some minor deficiencies (and most active adults do), then a multiple is a great way to fill in some gaps. Many people experience improved energy thanks to the extra B vitamins found in a multiple. Minerals found in many multiples, such as zinc, help boost your immune system. I recommend a multiple with additional antioxidants in herb form for an additional boost.
A Probiotic: Probiotics are a great way to improve your immune system, and are perhaps most notable for benefits they provide to the digestive tract. Probiotics are beneficial flora: bacteria that line mucosal surfaces such as the digestive tract and sinuses. In the digestive tract they are responsible for helping us digest our food, and if they are not present in high enough numbers, the deficiency allows bad bacteria to flourish. Probiotics can be useful as a general immune booster and aid in relief from reflux, constipation, IBS, chronic sinus infections, and yeast infections. A refrigerated version with a mix of strains (acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, etc.) is best.
Magnesium: Magnesium has moved up my list of important nutrients for the active adult over the years. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body, including energy production. Magnesium is essential for maintaining normal bone density, cardiac rhythmicity, pulmonary function, and blood glucose regulation. Magnesium is also a muscle relaxer and thus is useful in treating muscle cramping. Its ability to relax smooth muscle in the lining of capillaries decreases blood pressure. Relaxation of the smooth muscle of the colon can be helpful in alleviating constipation. Magnesium supplements come in many forms: I recommend either glycinate or citrate form (the back of the bottle will tell you what form you have). These forms are more absorbable than the commonly found magnesium oxide. It is especially important to avoid the oxide form if you have a history of kidney stones, as it can increase oxalates, a problematic component of many stones. Typical dosage starts from 240mg once per day and goes up in divided doses.
Fish oil: An oldie but goodie, fish oil continues to be one of the most studied and seemingly beneficial supplements around. It gets its power from omega-3s, especially EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These essential fatty acids work as powerful antiinflammatories making fish oil beneficial for cardiovascular, brain, and joint health. A fatty phospholipid component aids in skin and tissue health and fish oil has also been shown to enhance mood. Good fish oil is essential: I recommend at least 1200mg EPA and DHA per day (ignore the “total omegas” and add these two active ingredients together). Be sure to discuss the use of fish oils with your personal physician as it can be a mild blood thinner.
Ubiquinol/CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10): This is another important supplement for the active adult community. CoQ10 helps shuttle oxygen around the body and functions within all cells in the Kreb’s cycle, an important step in the production of energy. This is especially beneficial to systems that require lots of energy, including the cardiovascular and neurological systems as well as the kidneys. CoQ10 also supports healthy lipid metabolism, functioning as a protective anti-oxidant. CoQ10 is best supplemented in its active form, called ubiquinol. Check the back of your bottle to ensure that the ingredient of your CoQ10 is listed as ubiquinol, not ubiquinone, which is the less active form. Ubiquinol is especially important for those taking a statin medication for cholesterol, which has been shown to deplete CoQ10 levels in the body. Typical dosages start at 100mg daily.
Calcium: This has been more of a moving target over the last 10 years than all of the other supplements listed above. In the not-so-distant past, we prescribed high dosages of calcium, especially to women who were osteopenic and osteoporotic. Calcium can be difficult to digest and absorb, and over the years we have seen proof that calcium dosages can be lowered as long as we combine that supplementation with important cofactors like Vitamin D and Vitamin K. A particular kind of Vitamin K, called MK4, has been shown to be as effective as medications like Fosamax and Actonel in improving bone health. The Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that 45 mg of MK4 per day can decrease the risk of vertebral fractures by 60%, hip fractures by 71% and all non-vertebral fractures by 81%. It is important to note that those on anti-coagulants cannot use Vitamin K. Typical dosage for others: Calcium 400-500mg/MK4 45mg (note that this is milligrams, not micrograms) daily in divided doses.
Resveratrol: A great addition if you still have room in your general supplement regime. Resveratrol is the active polyphenol from the skin of red grapes; the trans-isomer of resveratrol has shown powerful anti-aging benefits and is a powerful anti-oxidant and metabolic booster. A typical dosage is 125mg per day.
Vitamin D: There is evidence that Vitamin D has health benefits that include improvements in bone health, mental wellness, longevity, immune support and general health. It is estimated that as much as 50% of the population might be deficient in Vitamin D, which is why your levels of Vitamin D should be checked at least every few years with a blood test called 25-OH Vitamin D. It is important to note that the low end of what is considered “normal” on most lab reference ranges is 30ng/ml, however, evidence suggests 60-80ng/ml is more ideal (meaning you can be “normal” on labs but levels may still need to be improved). Maintenance is considered 1000IU-2000IU per day of Vitamin D3, but much higher dosages may be prescribed if your blood levels measure low.
There are many other supplements, herbs and nutrients to consider for your regime, and this is where a naturopathic provider can guide you to proper support for your adrenals, thyroid, blood sugar, memory, immune system and more. The above nutrients are a great place to start, however, for many active adults looking to gain preventive benefits from supplements.
Stay healthy and be well!
Amy Whittington, NMD