What are the essential supplements you absolutely need to be healthy?
Let’s be clear: Health does NOT come from a bottle.
No matter how compelling the advertising or convincing the stories, there are no magic pills or super potions that magically make you healthy.
In a perfect world, the best source for all your nutrient requirements is from real food. Whether its macro-nutrients (protein, fat, carbs) or micro-nutrients (vitamins & minerals) you are always going to be better off satisfying those requirements with real food.
What happens when our availability of certain nutrients is limited due to disruption in our food production and supply?
When is it appropriate to supplement your diet?
And how do you know which ones you need and which ones are a waste of your money?
We’ll get to those questions in a moment but first, let’s address the root question:
What dictates our body’s requirements for certain nutrients over others?
The short answer is: TIME. Well, time + evolutionary pressures. To keep it simple, what we know to be nutrient requirements for humans today really comes from foods that we have become really well adapted to over a long period of time.
And because those nutrients have been part of our diet for so long, our bodies have come to expect them. Some have become so important to the body that it literally can’t function properly without those nutrients. (These are termed ‘essential’ like essential amino acids (proteins), essential fatty acids (fats), and essential vitamins and minerals.)
The purpose of eating is simply to fulfill all of the body’s nutrient requirements in the most efficient way possible. The best way to do this is by consuming food with the highest nutrient density and lowest toxicity to the human body.
It’s these principles that underpin all of our recommendations when it comes to Eating By Design.
So what does that all have to do with essential supplements? We’re getting there…
I know that a thousand or even a couple hundred years seem like a long time to you and I…
But in evolutionary terms, it’s barely a blink of an eye. And yet, think of the tremendous changes that have occurred to our food supply over the same time span… Starting with the agriculture revolution about 10 thousand years ago, followed by the industrial revolution 200 years ago and now the technological revolution of the past 50 years…
Some of the key disruptions include:
- An increased reliance on grains and grain products.
- A decrease in diversity of plant species consumed.
- A decline in soil diversity and quality (and consequent decline in nutrient density of foods).
- An increase in exposure to food and environmental toxins.
- A dramatic reduction of animal fat consumption.
- Overuse of antibiotics, birth control and other medications (damaging the gut and liver).
Not to mention a significant increase in chronic stress which makes it even more important to make sure you are getting all the various essential nutrients in your diet.
For all these reasons and more, it has become necessary for you to supplement with certain nutrients to make sure your body is getting everything it needs.
Before we go any further, some clarification… There’s really 2 different purposes for supplementation:
- Therapeutic – This type of supplementation is based on restoring ‘sufficiency’ of a particular nutrient or molecule. Typically this is short term, based objective testing. This is largely determined by factors like the past quality of your diet among other lifestyle habits.
- Maintenance – This involves supplementing with selected nutrients that are difficult to obtain even in the context of a nutrient-dense diet such as what we teach in Eat By Design.
This article is referring to the latter type of supplementation. You may very well benefit from therapeutic supplementation of any number of nutrients. The best thing to do is to work with a great Naturopath or Functional Medicine practitioner to determine if there are any other deficiencies that need to be addressed.
While the gold standard would be to test and determine your levels of any given nutrient, I can say with confidence that pretty much every American is deficient in these 3 things.
That, combined with the fact that it’s really challenging to get enough of these from a nutrient-dense diet qualifies them as ‘Essential Supplements’ in our books.
I have also included a list of other common supplements that many people take as a maintenance.
Lastly, a word on quality… The nutritional supplements marketplace is an over-populated, under-regulated industry and quality varies widely, despite what their marketing tells you.
Fortunately, we have done the heavy lifting for you and have taken the guesswork out of the equation. You can rest assured that every product we recommend is good for everyone, and good forever.
THE 3 ESSENTIAL SUPPLEMENTS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO TAKE TO BE HEALTHY
1. OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Historically, we obtained our essential fatty acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9), from dietary sources of wild game, seafood, and less appetizing sources like grubs and insects. While all 3 Omegas are essential, what our body evolved to expect is ~ 1:1 ratio between omega 3 and 6. This allows your cells to work optimally.
Our modern grain-fed food supply, complete with refined vegetable oils rich in omega 6, has completely altered the critical balance of omega 3:6 in our modern diet. Most North Americans today have anywhere from 10:1 – 40:1 in favor of omega 6’s.
This isn’t a good thing because this creates a systemic pro-inflammatory state in the body. Since we know that systemic inflammation sits at the root of all chronic health problems, this is a big deal.
Supplementing your diet with pure, pharmaceutical-grade fish oils has proven the best way to re-balance this all-important ratio, while you reel in your omega 6 consumption and start the process of eating By Design.
Oh, and if you’re looking for a vegetarian option, stay away from flax. Check out this post to uncover the lies behind flax.
How much do you need?
Depending on your health status and quality of your current diet, we recommend 2-4 grams of total EPA/DHA per day.
However, if you are Eating By Design, you may require less to maintain your omega 3:6 ratio in a 1:1 balance. We strongly recommend a liquid dose but capsules will work, as long as you don’t mind the inconvenience of choking down a big handful of capsules.
What we recommend: Bonfire Fish Oil.
Bonfire’s commitment to quality is reflected in their IFOS 5-StarOmega-3 product – meaning every batch is tested for purity and quality and this information is available to the public. It is a natural triglyceride from sardines, anchovies, and mackerel that are sourced in sustainable cold water fisheries in the clean waters off Peru and Chile, and then processed and purified through molecular distillation by a top Canadian firm. Bonfire claims it’s ‘the world’s best tasting fish oil’ and we agree. It tastes fantastic – kids and adults alike both love it!
2. VITAMIN D3
Getting adequate vitamin D is essential for your health. With over 3000 binding sites for Vitamin D in every cell, we are clearly designed to spend time in the sun supplying our body with the rays that aid in the production of this vital pro-hormone.
Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles rarely allow for such regular sun exposure, especially in northern climates. Getting the minimum 20min/day of at least 70% skin exposure to sunlight in the middle of the February Freeze is pretty tough.
On top of this, except for fatty ocean fish, there is very little Vitamin D in any commonly consumed natural foods.
How much do you need?
The best way to know how much Vitamin D you need is to first determine your current blood levels of Vitamin D. For optimization, your blood Vitamin D levels should be between 35-50 ng/mL for adults and children. Unfortunately, most of us fall seriously short.
Children under the age of one can begin with 1000 IU, increasing 25 IU/lb of body weight until reaching the adult dosage. Some people may need more for a period of time. Typically 4000-6000 IU/day will maintain your levels in an adequate range for normal physiological function.
When it comes to vitamin D supplements, absorption is the key factor. In nature, vitamin D always comes packaged in fat (i.e. fat soluble vitamin) so it makes sense to take a supplement made in the same way.
Ortho Molecular has done just that: They incorporate the most biologically available form of vitamin D and blend it in oil (process called emulsion) allowing your body to absorb as much vitamin D as it needs. Their products are consistently third-party tested for quality and efficacy, always performing at the top of the market.
Although this isn’t a nutrient per se, these little guys are essential to your digestion. They are also essential for your immune system, your hormonal system and your nervous system.
You’ve probably heard about the fact that you have more bacterial cells in (and on) your body than you have human cells?
Well, over 100 trillion of those bacteria live in your gut. They perform a ton of important functions – many of which we’re still learning about.
Historically, we would have developed a healthy gut microbiome (another way of saying the good bacteria) starting with a natural birthing process. As we age we would have been exposed to bacteria in the environment – from other animals, the foods we ate and the dirt we played in.
The problem today is that we don’t eat dirt; we wash everything. Additionally, we kill off many of our healthy bacteria with poor nutrition, prescription drugs, anti-bacterial products and highly stressful lifestyles. For these reasons, it’s wise to take a probiotic supplement.
How much do you need?
We recommend you begin taking a broad-spectrum probiotic, with greater than 20 billion CFU/day.
Current research shows that not all strains are made the same. Many strains are easily wiped out by our modern-day antimicrobial-mania. Unlike many brands, Innate Response recognized this and selects bacterial strains which prefer to take up residence in your small intestine. Our nerdiness is also satisfied by Innate Response’s constant pursuit in conducting quality research to improve their products.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OTHERS?
There are several other nutrients that almost made the ‘essential supplements’ list because a significant percentage of the population has been shown to be deficient.
VITAMINS A & D
Suggested supplement: Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil.
Dosage: 1 teaspoon per day.
Suggested supplement: Look for Mg Glycinate + Mg Chelate + Mg Citrate
Dosage: 250–350 mg/d
Suggested supplement: Look for kelp tablets or a high quality topical ointment.
Dosage: 325 mcg/d.
Suggested supplement: Look for a liposomal form of vitamin C that is more bioavailable than standard vitamin C preparations.
We recommend: Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C
WHERE TO START
If you’re dealing with a chronic health problem and looking for solutions then consulting with someone who is going to get to the root problem. Let me know if you need some help finding an appropriate practitioner in your area.
The easiest place to start is by cleaning up your diet.
Click below to download your copy of The Eat By Design Quick Start Guide.
Inside you’ll learn the basics of Eat By Design and 5 simple steps that you can easily put into play starting TODAY!