A survey, published in 2013, found that nearly 4 out of 10 people in the United States are taking dietary supplements. People take supplements for various reasons. The most common examples are: to feel better, to improve energy levels, to boost immune systems and to improve overall health. In an ideal world, no one would need dietary supplements. Our balanced diets would provide all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients our bodies need.
So why should you take supplements? 1) Soil depletion. When plants are repeatedly grown on the same land, the soil loses nutrients faster than they can be replaced. Over time, the plants provide fewer nutrients. 2) Most plants are not harvested fresh. They sit on trucks, shelves, and counters for weeks before being eaten. Over time, the nutrient content of these plants decreases. 3) Alcohol consumption, allergies, infections, smoking, exposure to air pollutants and other toxins and daily stress all lead to nutrient depletion. 4) Some people simply require more of certain nutrients than others do. Children and older adults tend to need a bit extra, as do pregnant women. Others with increased nutritional demands include those who exercise strenuously and those who diet.
The four supplements that I recommend to most patients are Magnesium, Vitamin D3, a Multivitamin and Omega-3 DHA/EPA.
Omega-3 DHA/EPA: Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA) addresses the deficiency of omega- 3’s in the modern diet and helps balance our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Adequate amounts of omega-3 intake help to balance inflammatory activity, promote joint and bone health, mental/emotional health, heart health, proper blood sugar regulation, nervous system health, and skin and eye health. EPA & DHA are the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, wild game, and green vegetables. There are not adequate levels of these fatty acids in the modern diet. Unfortunately, the modern diet also contains large amounts of omega 6 fatty acids, which are found in foods processed with corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, peanut, and soybean oils. This imbalance leads to many inflammation- related health problems including bone, heart, blood sugar, and other health issues. The richest source of EPA and DHA fatty acids is fish oil capsules. Flaxseed oil and other supplement oils contain lower amounts or zero EPA and DHA fatty acids. Fish oil is not recommended for those on blood thinning medications, such as Coumadin (warfarin), Lovenox, Heparin, and perhaps Plavix. Some individuals experience minor gastrointestinal distress, such as loose stools. Patients with fish allergies and abnormal blood clotting functions should avoid fish oil supplements.
Multivitamin/Mineral. The modern diet is known to be deficient in numerous micronutrients. Supplementation with a multivitamin/mineral can help address many of these deficiencies. Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the aging process and promote the diseases of aging and other chronic diseases. Many scientific authorities believe that use of a multivitamin is a wise preventive strategy; in addition to a eating a healthy diet. Iron should be taken only by those who have iron deficiency.
Vitamin D3: The human body naturally produces vitamin D3 from skin exposure to the sun. Due to seasonal changes in daylight, use of sunblock, working indoors, sun avoidance, and other various reasons, there is a lack of sun exposure, which leads to vitamin D deficiency. Modern research now confirms vitamin D’s function as a unique hormone, which helps to modulate pain and inflammation, supports proper blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular health, joint health, bone health, mental health, and immune health. Very conservative amounts of vitamin D were recommended in the past to prevent the disease Rickets. New research indicates that we need much higher amounts of supplemental vitamin D3 (4000-10000 IU) to maintain acceptable 25(OH) D levels for disease prevention. These high levels of required supplemental vitamin D3 are directly related to modern man’s limited sun exposure. Vitamin D is contraindicated with hypercalcemia-causing conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism, multiple myeloma, hyperthyroidism, granulomatous diseases such as sarcoidosis and the use of thiazide diuretics.
Magnesium deficiency is often overlooked and is directly related to many health problems, including pain, inflammation, fatigue, headaches, diabetes, and heart disease. Such conditions develop because magnesium is involved in more than 300 different biochemical functions in the human body. Our cells depend on magnesium to produce energy, to calm inflammation and pain, and to support healthy joint, bone, and muscle function. Magnesium also supports proper blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular functions, healthy gene expression, digestive function, and good mental health. Magnesium deficiency is prevalent in the modern diet and is also depleted by stress. Research suggests approximately 1,000 mg of magnesium per day, from diet and supplements, can restore and maintain adequate magnesium levels. Magnesium doses in multi-vitamins are often inadequate, therefore an individual magnesium supplement should be taken. Loose stools can be a side-effect when too much magnesium is taken. The proper amount varies from individual to individual; the average person should take about 1000 mg per day.