If you are eating a varied whole foods, nutrient-dense diet (including liver, eggs and seafood), get plenty of sun and have good gut health, then you probably don’t need supplements. So why am I writing this article, you may ask?
Many folk, especially those who live inland or at higher latitudes, will tend to be deficient in three key nutrients. Since this is a large percentage of my client base, I thought the topic deserved some attention.
This key mineral is instrumental in glucose control, potassium retention, calcium absorption and many other processes in the body. Over the millennia, Magnesium has been depleted from the soil and water in many parts of the world. The best modern sources are seafood, grains, dark chocolate and nuts. When many of my clients go grain-free, their main source of Magnesium disappears and they can end up with deficiency symptoms, like dizzyness and constipation.
Magnesium is so helpful for controlling sugar cravings–that reason alone is enough for me to make sure to supplement. It also helps prevent muscle cramping, constipation, high blood pressure, insomnia, preeclampsia…the list is endless!
My general recommendation is 400-600 mg Magnesium Citrate (if you have constipation) or Malate, Glycinate, or Aspartate, if not. I like NOW brand Magnesium Citrate softgels. Take it just before bed for maximum benefits. Start with 200 mg and add more as needed, up to the recommended range.
If you prefer, Epsom Salts baths are another way to get Magnesium into your system.
D3 is really a hormone precursor, not a vitamin. Your skin will make it (magic!) via sun exposure. It is essential for hormonal balance, immune system support, glucose control and gut health. I have personally experienced the many benefits of optimal D3, including excellent sleep, complete cessation of my asthma symptoms, disappearance of peri-menopausal mood swings and only one cold in the last four years! In high amounts D3 acts like an antibiotic in the body. I have blogged previously about its benefits in pregnancy; all of us need D3 for optimal health.
Even if you live below 38 degrees latitude, modern lifestyles don’t always allow for the recommended hour of outside time. Combined with the sun paranoia in our culture and it is easy to get D3 depleted. If you live in the higher latitudes, it may be near impossible to get sufficient D3 via sun exposure. Of course, tanning is certainly an option, if you have the time and can find a good UVB booth. But sometimes a supplement is essential and just more convenient.
Fortunately, D3 is cheap and easy to find. My favorite supplement is Carlsons Solar D Gems. They are cod liver oil and lanolin based. My clients also like Liquid Vitamin D drops for children. The current recommendation by the Vitamin D Council is 1000 IUs per 25 lbs of body weight, for maintenance. If you are depleted, you may need more for a few months to get your levels up.
It’s best not to supplement blindly, so get your level tested via your doc (ask for the 25 (OH) D test or you can buy an at-home test kit here. The current Vitamin D Council recommendation is 50-60 ng/ml.
How do they know how much is optimal? Modern day hunter gatherers have recently been tested and averaged around 50 ng/ml. This matches my personal experience; I was able to achieve 57 ng/ml with no supplementation, by sunning an hour a day in a bikini at noon, from April through June in Santa Fe, NM.
Cod liver oil also has some D3, but it is not enough if you are very deficient (only 1000-1500 IUs per serving), which is why I don’t recommend it as a D3 supplement.
If you are supplementing D3, then you need to make sure your dietary sources of Vitamin A, K2 and Magnesium are dialed in or supplemented. These are all co-factors of D3. Weekly liver, eggs, seafood and dairy will meet these needs.
Those of us who don’t eat enough fatty seafood may find it helpful to supplement Omega 3s. DHA and EPA are the main ones we need to help prevent inflammation. Ideally we would have our Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids in a 1:1 ratio, but most of us, even on a whole foods diet, can get too much O6 (via poultry, pork and nuts.)
Many folk use cod liver oil as their source for Omega 3s. This is fine, if you don’t eat liver. But if you are eating liver (and eggs) regularly, you are getting all the Vitamin A you need and can just supplement the Omega 3s.
My preferred Omega 3 supplement is Krill Oil. It is derived from a crustacean low in the food chain, with little risk of mercury accumulation. It is also far less likely to oxidize like many fish oils and you can keep it at room temperature. Krill oil also contains a powerful antioxidant called Astaxanthin, the pink pigment in the skin of salmon and other seafood.
I like NOW brand Neptune Krill Oil. There are several other brands available. I suggest 1000 mg, depending on your dietary needs.
There are many other supplements out there that may be beneficial for those with special needs, for sure. A good naturopath should be able to direct you to ones that would benefit specific issues. The majority of us will thrive with a well-sourced whole foods diet with a few judicious supplements to fill any dietary/lifestyle gaps.