6 Important Supplements You Should Know More About

By Lea Wetzell, MS, CNS, LN
February 28, 2017

article_other_fish-oil.jpgAs a nutritionist, I am often asked, what supplements should I take? Ideally, it’s best to work with a nutritionist to get a true picture of what’s best for you. But generally speaking, there are some supplements that most people benefit from. These are our top six recommendations.

1. Bifidobacteria

Why is it important?  

Bifidobacteria is one of the most important probiotics for good digestion. In fact, it should make up 70 percent of the beneficial bacteria in your small intestinal tract. Bifidobacteria helps to prevent constipation, diarrhea, food cravings, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome.

People can become deficient in good bacteria from taking antibiotics and steroid medications, drinking chlorinated water, eating fruits and vegetables with pesticides and herbicides on them, or meat and dairy products from animals given antibiotics and steroids.

Do I need it?

You may ask yourself, do I need to supplement with bifidobacteria? Well, if you have the following symptoms, taking bifidobacteria could help you:

  • Sugar cravings
  • IBS
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Frequent colds and viruses
  • Low energy

What does research say?

Bifidobacteria reduces constipation, gas and bloating. (Walker, Gopal, Leyer, Ouwehand, Reifer, Stewart & Miller, 2011)

Your overall health and well-being begins in your intestinal tract, which is why bifidobacteria is our top recommendation for intestinal health.

2. L-Glutamine

Why is it important?

L-glutamine is very important for digestive health. This abundant amino acid heals all tissue in the body, especially irritated tissue in the digestive tract. It is known as the calming amino acid and is very effective at reducing anxiety as well as sugar and alcohol cravings.

If you are not eating sufficient amounts of animal protein, the primary source of glutamine, you may become deficient in it.

Do I need it?

You may ask yourself, do I need to supplement with L-glutamine? If you have the following symptoms, taking L-glutamine could be beneficial:

  • Anxiety
  • Sugar or alcohol cravings
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Poor immune system
  • Low muscle mass
  • Slow wound healing

What does research say?

Glutamine supports the immune system and is especially beneficial for patients in the hospital and those fighting viruses or overwhelming infections. (Kim, 2011)

For good digestion and fewer cravings, try supplementing with L-glutamine. Clinically, we have found it works wonders for people.

3. Omega-3 Fish Oil

Why is it important?

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is critical for brain health and for reducing inflammation. You may have heard of DHA and EPA, the two main components of omega-3. DHA makes up 60 percent of the fat in your brain, which is why omega-3 is beneficial for people who have depression, memory problems, difficulty focusing, or are hyperactive. DHA is also important for women who are pregnant, to support the brain and retina development of the baby. EPA reduces inflammation throughout the body, and studies have shown it could be helpful for people with hypertension, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, Crohn’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Many people do not eat enough omega-3 fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines) to maintain a healthy level of omega-3.

Do I need it?

You may ask yourself, do I need to supplement with omega-3 fish oil? If you have the following symptoms, omega-3 may be beneficial for you:

  • Depression or low moods
  • Memory problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • ADHD
  • Heart disease
  • Joint pain
  • Asthma
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension

What does research say?

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for people with heart disease, depression, cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune diseases. (Simopoulos, 2002)

Because most Americans don’t eat enough fish, they are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. That is why nearly all health care professionals recommend supplementing with at least 1,000 mg omega-3 daily.

4. Magnesium

Why is it important?

Magnesium is the master mineral because it affects over 300 cell interactions in our brain, bones and muscles. It’s important for good sleep, normal blood pressure, balanced moods, relieving muscle cramps and charley horses, preventing constipation and reducing those powerful chocolate cravings.

Roughly 60 percent of the population is estimated to be deficient in magnesium for a variety of reasons. Our soils are depleted and no longer rich in magnesium, and many of us don’t eat enough foods that are good sources of magnesium (such as nuts, beef and leafy green vegetables).

Do I need it?

You may ask yourself, do I need to supplement with magnesium? If you have the following symptoms, taking magnesium could help:

  • Muscle cramps or charley horses
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Chocolate cravings

What does research say?

Sufficient magnesium levels reduce the risk of depression, central obesity and a higher body fat percentage. (Huang, Lu, Cheng, Lee & Tsai, 2012)

Clinically, we have found that most people need to supplement with magnesium, and for many, it is the answer for a good night’s sleep.

5. Vitamin D

Why is it important?

The “sunshine” vitamin is important because almost every cell in your body has a vitamin D receptor. Vitamin D helps to prevent osteoporosis by carrying calcium to your bones. It also helps to prevent muscle spasms and chronic bone pain. Vitamin D is also essential for a strong immune system. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a higher risk of developing infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases and cancer. Other conditions connected to low vitamin D are depression, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.

Most people are deficient in vitamin D because to have adequate levels, you need direct high-noon sun exposure (without sunscreen) on 70 percent of your skin for at least 20 minutes daily. And in the northern latitudes, the sun’s rays are only strong enough to provide adequate vitamin D during the summer.

Do I need it?

You may ask yourself, do I need to supplement with vitamin D? Here are signs of vitamin D deficiency:

  • Low mood
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Low energy
  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Always tired and needing more sleep
  • Frequent colds and viruses
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease
  • Autoimmune diseases

What does research say?

Vitamin D plays a critical role in the development and maintenance of healthy bones throughout life. (Wacker & Holick, 2013)

At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we recommend having your vitamin D level checked by your physician. The ideal range is between 50-70 ng/mL. Once you know your level, you can supplement with the appropriate amount of vitamin D3 year round.

6. Multivitamin

Why is it important?

Taking a multivitamin daily is an easy way to ensure that you get an adequate supply of most vitamins and minerals. Multivitamins can provide energy, help reduce stress, improve mental clarity and reduce risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.  

Do I need it?

You may ask yourself, do I need to supplement with a multivitamin? It depends on your diet, your lifestyle, and how many individual supplements you are taking. The quality of the ingredients in the multivitamin is extremely important.

  • Pick Twice-A-Day if you are already taking other vitamin and mineral supplements, but you need more B vitamins and prefer taking capsules. We frequently recommend this multivitamin for women.
  • Pick Elan Vital Multiple or Life Force for a broad spectrum of individual vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We often recommend these multivitamins for men who are not taking other vitamins and minerals.
  • Pick Alpha Base if you need a higher concentration of minerals. Men or women who are not taking minerals separately could benefit from this multivitamin.

What does research say?

The American Medical Association recommends that all adults take a multivitamin daily because a large proportion of the general population is deficient in vitamins and minerals, which increases the risk of disease. (Fairfield KM, Fletcher RH)

For more information on supplements, listen to our podcast, Supplements—Ask the Experts.

SOURCES:

Walker, P. A., Gopal, P. K., Leyer, G. J., Ouwehand, A. C., Reifer, C., Stewart, M. E., & Miller, L. E. A. National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine, (2011). Dose-response effect of bifidobacterium lactis hn019 on whole gut transit time and functional gastrointestinal symptoms in adults (PMCID: PMC3171707). Retrieved from Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21663486

Kim, H. A. National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine, (2011). Glutamine as an immunonutrient (PMCID: PMC3220259). Retrieved from Yonsei Medical Journal website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22028151

Simopoulos, A. National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases (PMID: 12480795). Retrieved from The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12480795

Huang, J., Lu, Y., Cheng, F., Lee, J., & Tsai, L. National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine. (2012). Correlation of magnesium intake with metabolic parameters, depression and physical activity in elderly type 2 diabetes patients: a cross-sectional study (PMCID: PMC3439347). Retrieved from Nutrition Journal website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22695027

Wacker, M., & Holick, M. National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine. (2013). Vitamin d - effects on skeletal and extraskeletal health and the need for supplementation (PMCID: PMC3571641). Retrieved from Nutrients website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23306192

Fairfield KM, Fletcher RH. Vitamins for chronic disease prevention in adults: scientific review. JAMA 2002; 287:3116-3126.

About the author

Lea has her own life-changing nutrition story—a story that ignited her passion for nutrition. Her journey to health and wellness started in 2003 when she lost 50 pounds and healed her chronic asthma with real food and exercise. She received her M.S. in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and is a licensed nutritionist through the Minnesota Board of Dietetics and Nutrition. She is also nationally recognized as a certified nutrition specialist through the American College of Nutrition, an association composed of medical and research scientists to further nutrition research.

View all posts by Lea Wetzell, MS, CNS, LN

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