As a wellness doctor, I am frequently asked “what type of supplements should I be taking?” I am an advocate for supplementation, however the most important first step is to look at your diet. Nutrition is meant to be attained foremost from your food. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to make sure all your bases are covered in your dietary regimen. Step number one includes removing foods which are inflammatory to you. This includes wheat, pasteurized dairy products, corn and sugar. Allergy testing or an elimination diet may be required to determine how your body responds to different foods. With inflammatory foods present in the body, your immune system is compromised and healing cannot take place.
Just as your car may require a certain type of fuel to function optimally, so does your body. The human body performs according to the fuel you give it. Many foods contain chemical preservatives and toxins, which can alter body processes and lead to bigger problems down the road. These additives can be avoided by purchasing organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef, organic free range chicken, and pastured eggs. Purchase whole food ingredients and cook meals yourself. A good rule of thumb is anything made in a factory (processed) should not be eaten by you.
Lastly, consume at least 8 full glasses of water a day. Water helps to flush out toxins through your bowels and it is the medium through which all bodily processes work. If you are in a state of dehydration, your body cannot function optimally. You quickly become tired, achy and unable to perform tasks as usual. So drink up.
Once diet changes have been made, we can begin to look at important supplementation. There are 3 main supplement staples that I believe are important for everyone. Omega 3’s, Vitamin D3, and probiotics.
In a typical American diet, we usually do not see adequate omega 3 fatty acid consumption, and conversely too much omega 6. Omega 3 fatty acids are involved in removing inflammation from the body, and omega 6 fatty acids are associated with the presence of inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in grass-fed beef and wild caught fish. Your levels can be tested and should be at a ratio of 1:1. If these foods are not consumed or if your omega 3 level is too low, supplementation is suggested.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for immune function, reduction of inflammation, bone health, and has anti-cancer properties. Vitamin D can be synthesized from exposure to the sun. An adequate daily amount of 10,000 IU requires about 20 minutes in the sun with most skin exposed, and no shower for up to 30 minutes post exposure (so the vitamin can be absorbed through the skin). Unfortunately, most people do not receive this amount of sun daily, especially due to work schedules during daylight hours and winter. Vitamin D levels can be checked to see if you are low. Low levels can cause fatigue and low immune function. If supplementing it is important to choose the bioavailable form of D3 (cholecalciferol).
Lastly, many Americans at some point or another are on a course of antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics do not only kill the invader, but they kill beneficial bacteria in the bowels as well. This is a problem since your digestive tract is a HUGE portion of your immune system. Many pathogens enter your body through your mouth, leaving your bowels to deal with them. An unhealthy gut, means an unhealthy immune system. If you are on a course of antibiotics, it would be wise to also take a course of probiotics to repopulate those fallen soldiers which you have lost. Once the course of probiotics is over, it is beneficial to consume fermented vegetables to properly feed the beneficial bacteria. This would include foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi (all which should be non-pasteurized to maintain good bacterial integrity).
If you do not feel you are eating as healthy a diet as you can, it would also be wise to purchase a high quality multivitamin. The good thing about a multi is that it ensures you are receiving all beneficial vitamins and minerals.
So to reiterate…. DIET first, supplements second.