The 5 Supplements A Naturopathic Doctor Recommends For Optimal Health
As a nutrition + healthy lifestyle coach I get a lot of questions regarding food + food brands, diets, trends, exercise and pretty much all things wellness.
But if there’s one thing my clients consistently need some guidance around — and I’m guessing you might too — it’s supplements.
After all there are SO many vitamins, pills, herbs and other medicinal concoctions advertised today it’s hard to know:
a) what you really should be taking and
b) whether or not you’re actually benefiting from taking it
BECAUSE SPOILER ALERT: Many supps on the market are inorganic, fake and aren’t even digested or absorbed properly because of fillers and materials used to manufacture them — yuck! So I figured it was time to do a post on all things supplements — and there’s no better person to break it down than my Naturopathic Physician + Guru + Partner Dr. Rhea Abbott.
Dr. Abbott is a graduate of Bastyr University and has been in personal practice for four years. She practices family medicine, with a special interest in sleep medicine, food allergies and hormonal health. But my favorite thing about Dr. Abbott is her approach with her patients, which is not only about helping them feel better, but educating and empowering them to become their own health advocate and healer in the process. Sound familiar? Just glimpse my mission statement 🙂
She also knows a TON about supplements — and I totally trust her sound advice. So much so that we’re working together on an exciting new package that combines her expertise in supplements, food allergy testing and the medical field with my background in motivational + accountability coaching, nutrition and a balanced, realistic approach to healthy living. MUCH more on that to come (contact me if you want more deets) but for now, without further adieu…
Dr. Abbott on the 5 supplements she recommends for optimal health + recommended brands and what to look for when buying!
Dr. Rhea Abbott, ND
As a naturopathic physician, I’m always working to get people to their healthiest place in the most natural way. The ultimate goal is to get everything you need from your diet, but for many of us, the perfect diet is a work in progress and we could use something to fill the gap in the meantime. As the Beatles so aptly put it, “we get by with a little help from our friends”, so let me introduce you to your new besties in the supplement world:
Living happily deep within our large intestine is a mega-metropolis of “good bacteria.” These suckers not only help digest the compounds we can’t metabolize on our own, they make Vitamin K for us and play an enormous role in regulating our immune system! Taking probiotics can re-establish the good guys to ensure they’re abundant and healthy. Yes, food items like yogurt and kimchi have good bacteria cultures in them, but usually in much lower doses than it takes to be therapeutic. I advise patients to take higher doses daily of a product that has a variety of organisms. This is definitely a go-to for patients with immune or digestive troubles!
What to Look For:
Jarrow brand is potent and cheap-ish. Probios don’t HAVE to be refrigerated. Get one that has many different strains and numbers in the double digits (10+ billion).
Not all forms of fat are created equal. Omega-3’s are a form that promote the creation of anti- inflammatory cholesterol (called “good” cholesterol, or HDL) and can help reverse the negative effects of inflammatory cholesterol (called “bad” cholesterol, or LDL). Omega-3’s can keep joints limber, stabilize mood, clear skin, tonify hair and fingernails and reduce cardiovascular risk. Fish oil is the most common and potent way of getting these fats in supplement form, but they can be found in foods such as avocados, flax, and walnuts. If you’re eating fish less than 3x per week, supplementation may be a great idea to get up to speed on your good fats!
What to Look For:
Lauren adds — I don’t take an omega-3 supplement because I happen to love omega-3 rich foods (salmon, avocado, flax and chia seeds) and eat some form of it every day. If you’re not down with fish/fish-oil, you can also try adding avocado or flax/chia seeds to your daily smoothie for an easy and delicious way to sneak them in.
This mineral is a powerful little guy that can relax smooth and skeletal muscles. It’s the magnesium in an Epsom salt bath that goes to work on those tight muscles. Because it can dilate blood vessels, I often prescribe magnesium for high blood pressure. When taken orally, magnesium attracts water to it in the intestines, which can help break up constipation and smooth things out to keep you regular — but be careful! Some people find that more than 500mg at a time loosens things a bit too much 😉
What to Look For:
I’m not so picky about the brand but make sure you get something that combines it with calcium. Cal/Mag is a team!
4) Vitamin D
Vitamin D actually acts much more like a hormone than a vitamin. Our skin can convert sunshine into Vitamin D, but our liver and kidneys need to be healthy to turn it into its active form. Cod liver oil is the only readily available food that contains Vitamin D naturally. When blood levels are between 70-90, we’re poised for optimum immune health, mood stability, and bone integrity. Most people in the pacific northwest are hovering in the teens and 20’s! I like to pulse high doses of Vitamin D through the winter, but it IS possible to have too much, so I always advise checking blood levels first before using high doses.
What to Look For:
Make sure it is D3 and not D2. Again, not as picky about the brand but many you buy off the shelf are very low dose. Don’t waste your money on anything less than 1000 IUs.
5) Digestive Enzymes
Our pancreas has the very important job of making the enzymes your body needs to digest your food. When the pancreas isn’t functioning well, or if we’re asking too much of it (nachos, coffee, AND a rib-eye steak?!) then food doesn’t break down well and it sits around. This can cause bloating, fullness, gas, heartburn, and burping. Taking digestive enzymes before your meal ensures the ingredients you need for metabolism are in your stomach before the food even gets there. Your bottle of enzymes probably includes lipase (for digesting fats), protease (for digesting proteins) and amylase (for digesting carbs). There are many other enzymes out there, but these are the basics.
What to Look For:
Disclaimer — Not all supplements are a good idea for everyone. Ask your doctor if you’d like to add these to your routine!
From Lauren: Don’t forget, supplements are meant to “supplement” your diet, not replace it. Eating nutrient-dense foods and deriving as many vitamins and minerals as you can from food should always come first — with supplements helping to fill in any gaps and optimize your health and wellbeing.
Also keep in mind this is a very general guide — your genetic makeup, environment, diet and lifestyle are unique and different to everyone else on this planet — so if you want a more tailored, customized approach don’t hesitate to reach out!
PS — Have any questions or want feedback/real talk on supplements you’re currently taking? Comment below and Dr. Abbott will answer your q’s.
Cheers to your health + happiness my love!