5 Supplements You Can't Live Without

Disclaimer: Of course, consult with a health practitioner before taking any supplements if you have a pre-existing condition, to make sure it’s well-suited to you and safe to take. 

 

While getting all of our nutrients from a whole food diet is ideal, in our real-life daily lives, we aren’t always able to. Busy life schedules make cooking wholesome meals more challenging. Toxins in the environment compromise the integrity of our food. Nutrient depleted soils make it so nutrients that should be in our food, just aren’t. And although I know some of my clients have some hesitancy to taking supplements because they don’t want to just “pop pills” or “become reliant” on something, supplements can actually fill in some super important nutrient gaps.

 

Simply put, when your body is depleted in essential nutrients, it leads to imbalance and eventual illness. Your cells and organs have very specific nutrient needs to function optimally, and if those building blocks aren’t there, well, they just can’t do their jobs properly. 


Enter supplements. I’m a HUGE FAN of them. But not just any old supplement. In a pinch, getting them from a drugstore can work, but those are typically filled with weird dyes, additives, cheap forms of the nutrients (not bioavailable and hard to digest), fillers and even sugar. Over the long-term you want to source out high-quality, thoughtfully formulated supplements from reputable companies. 


With so many supplements out there and sources telling us to take this and take that, it can be a little overwhelming to know what to focus on! 


Start Here! If you have NO IDEA where to even start with vitamins and supplements, or you’ve been dabbling a little bit, these are the ones you want to make sure you’re taking for sure. 


Today we’re going to break down the 5 most important supplements I recommend in my herbal practice. These supplements are foundational, and quite honestly, the majority of  people can benefit from them and should be taking them!  

 

1) Magnesium (Citrate or Bisglycinate) 

Even if you eat a wholesome diet, you may not be getting enough magnesium! The reason for this? Magnesium is usually present in the soil, but recently it's become depleted. The way it’s worked up until recent history, is crops will absorb magnesium from the soil while they grow and then when we eat them, we get the benefit of a magnesium-rich diet. However, through mono-crop and “modern day” farming techniques, soils are depleted of magnesium. In fact, “recent studies have shown, surprisingly, that magnesium contents in historical cereal seeds have markedly declined over time.”(1)  Not only that, but in a recent study,  almost 70% of people surveyed in developed countries were magnesium deficient. (1)  

What Does Magnesium Do, Anyways? 

Magnesium is responsible for some critical functions in the body and can help support the following: 

  • Liver Detox- Your liver needs magnesium to properly detox! And with the extra burden of chemicals, food additives, pesticides, environmental toxins, pharmaceuticals, alcohol and stress, your liver has A TON to filter and detox everyday. Best to give it all the help it can get. In fact, a recent study concluded: “Magnesium supplementation can not only preserve liver function, but also slow the progression of liver disease, and reduce the mortality associated.” (3)
  • Tight Muscles - Calcium is responsible for contracting muscle cells, but magnesium is needed to relax them. You know those tight shoulders, low back, hips and neck? Magnesium is an amazing supplement to help ease that tension. 
  • Cramping- Because it helps relax muscles, it can be useful in helping to decrease menstrual cramps, can calm restless leg syndrome and any kind of spasm in the body (you know those annoying eye twitches? Take magnesium!) 
  • Anxiety, Chronic Pain & Migraines- Magnesium has shown promising results in studies in helping with chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, migraines and anxiety (including PMS-related anxiety). If you have menstrual cramps, double the reason to take it! (2) 
  • Blood Pressure- Helping to relax blood vessels, it’s an essential nutrient involved in maintaining healthy blood pressure! (4)
  • Regular Bowel Movements- If you have a tendency towards constipation or need a little help getting to at least ONE solid bowel movement a day, then magnesium might just be your new best friend. Remember, regular bowel movements are necessary for proper hormone health and elimination of toxins. If you need more bowel support, then choose magnesium citrate (over bisglycinate) because it’s more bowel moving. You know you’ve hit your limit dose of magnesium when your bowel movements are TOO loose. Everyone is different, so experiment with the dosage range below. 
  • Sleep- Yup, magnesium is awesome at helping to calm the nervous system, and will help with sleep! Many people take it before bed for this reason, and that’s exactly what I recommend. 

Recommended dose: 400mg per day. However, I use the dosage range of 300-800mg daily. Every person responds differently. You know you’ve reached your limit when your bowel movements become too loose.  

2) Vitamin D 

For those living in northern latitudes (Hello, Canada!), there’s a much higher risk of not having enough vitamin D, especially in winter months when we hide indoors most of the time (and even when we go outside, we’re covered head to toe so we don’t freeze). In fact, it’s estimated that 42% of American adults are deficient in Vitamin D! (5)


Vitamin D is estimated to be involved in the regulation of up to 2000 genes, which means it plays a critical role in A LOT of body processes and functions. (5)


Here’s how Vitamin D is helpful: 

  • Supports healthy bone health. In fact, without Vitamin D, the body can’t properly absorb the calcium you get through food or supplementation. 
  • Improves low mood, especially through those winter months.
  • Helps keep the immune system strong, so great to take to keep colds & flus at bay. It can help manage respiratory conditions. (5)
  • Helps maintain cardiovascular health, as well as blood vessel integrity and flexibility. (5) 

Recommended Dose: Infants 400IU, Children 800 IU, Adults 1000IU daily. However, my recommended dose during the winter months for adults living in northern latitudes is 4000IUs, with the dose being decreased as daily sunlight exposure becomes regular. Higher levels have been shown to be safe. Clinical Practice Guidelines indicate the following: (5)

  • Infants (up to 1 year): up to 2,000 IU is safe
  • Children and adolescents (1–18 years): up to 4,000 IU is safe
  • Adults (> 18 years): up to 10,000 IU is safe

Check out my online Fullscript supplement dispensary here for hand-picked products formulated by trusted, high-quality brands that I recommend in my clinical practice! Simply create an account (it takes 1 minute and is absolutely free), you'll only receive emails about your orders (no spam, promise!). BONUS- You'll get 10% off and it will get shipped directly to your door. I use this platform to order my own supplements and absolutely love it ;)  

 

3) Probiotics

Did you know an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel? (6) Needless to say, these little microbes play a HUGE role in regulating some key health processes for us. 

Some of the amazing things probiotics do: (6)(7) 

  • Keep harmful bacteria at bay
  • Aid digestion & nutrient assimilation
  • Synthesis Vitamin K and B-vitamins
  • Support proper hormone cycling 
  • Contribute to healthy immune function
  • Improve mood, anxiety and depression 

Did you know another name for the gut is the "second brain"? It connects to the brain through the enteric nervous system and produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). (7) All important neurotransmitters that play a key role in regulating mood.

In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract! (7)

 Some of the conditions probiotics have been shown to prevent and treat: (6)

  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
  • Crohn's disease
  • H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)
  • Vaginal infections
  • Recurrence of bladder cancer
  • Infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile (C-diff)
  • Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
  • Eczema in children
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Probiotic Strains

One thing to note- there are many different strains of probiotics and some health conditions respond positively to specific strains. If you’re looking to support a specific health condition, then it’s worth researching which strains have been shown to be beneficial. Otherwise, I recommend cycling through different strains so your body gets introduced to a variety of beneficial bacteria. 

Food Sources of Probiotics 

Fermented foods are a rich source of probiotics as well- things like yogurt, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. 

Taken Antibiotics? 

If you’ve had a course of antibiotics, I always recommend taking a high-potency probiotic supplement (50-100 billion CFUs*) until the bottle is gone. Then switch to a lower concentration as a maintenance dose.  

* CFU represents the number of live cells contained in each serving. 

Recommended Dose: 10-25 billion CFUs daily. See note above about strains. 

Check out my online Fullscript supplement dispensary here for hand-picked products formulated by trusted, high-quality brands that I recommend in my clinical practice! Simply create an account (it takes 1 minute and is absolutely free), you'll only receive emails about your orders (no spam, promise!). BONUS- You'll get 10% off and it will get shipped directly to your door. I use this platform to order my own supplements and absolutely love it ;)  

 

4) Omega 3’s (Essential Fatty Acids)  


Did you know the body can’t make Omega 3? Omega 3’s are essentially fatty acids, meaning they’re essential for supporting the body, and the only way to get them is through food. However, it can be difficult to get an adequate amount because a lot of us just don’t eat the foods that contain them. Sadly, with toxins accumulating in the environment, fish sources of omega 3 (one of the best sources) are being compromised due to heavy metal accumulation in the fatty tissue of these ocean fish. 


What foods provide omega-3s?

Omega-3s are found naturally in some foods and are added to some fortified foods. You can get adequate amounts of omega-3s by eating a variety of foods, including the following: (9)

  • Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
  • Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
  • Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
  • Fortified foods (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas)

While getting omega 3’s from our diet would be ideal, one of the benefits of taking a high quality supplement is that they’re molecularly distilled, which removes heavy metals and other concerning toxins that can be present in fish. 


Another factor to be mindful of is with all of the vegetable oils, fast-food and refined foods, we tend to get an abundance of Omega 6’s, which tends to favor inflammatory processes in the body when too high. This also throws off the body’s Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. Taking Omega 3’s (along with decreasing the intake of Omega 6 oils), can help to recalibrate this balance. 

What benefits do Omega 3’s have in the body? (8)(9)

  • Prevents cardiovascular disease- Helps prevent hardening of the arteries, lowers harmful triglyceride (the “bad” fat) levels in the blood, raises levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the “good” cholesterol), and reduces risk of blood clots. 
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreases inflammation in the body so can be helpful for conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Supports brain health! Omega 3’s are basically brain food and have been shown to be beneficial in ADD and ADHD. Some studies show that Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other issues with cognitive function can be improved by Omega 3’s. (9) 
  • Lubricates the bowel- Can help to keep bowel movements regular if lack of oil and lubrication is an issue. 
  • Moistens dry eyes & skin- Studies have shown it to be beneficial in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eye conditions (9). It also brings moisture to skin and dry mucous membranes that need lubricating.   

Recommended Dose: 1000mg daily with a blend of EPA and DHA. There are two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids in fish — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The form of omega-3 in plants is called alpha-linolenic (ALA). (8) If you’re vegetarian, there are supplements that are made from algae that contain these important fats. 

5) B-Vitamins 

You may have heard of B-12 before, but did you know there are actually 8 essential B vitamins? 

B vitamins are critical for A LOT of critical body functions including: (10) 

  • Supporting the growth and function of the brain and heart
  • Assuring healthy breakdown of fats (including harmful cholesterol) and pharmaceutical drugs 
  • Strong and healthy hair, skin and nails 
  • Helps the body make new red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body and prevents anemia  
  • Keep the immune system strong
  • Support the nervous system
  • Play a key role in energy production within our cells 
  • Prevent birth defects in pregnancy 

Except for B12, which is fat soluble and stores in the liver, B vitamins are water soluble. This means that we need to replenish our levels on a daily basis, either through food or supplementation, because any excess will get filtered through the kidneys and leave the body when you pee! Ever notice that bright fluorescent yellow color in your urine when you take B-complex or a multivitamin? Well, that’s totally normal and it’s simply your body eliminating what it doesn’t need. Some people say supplements are just “expensive urine”, taking the stance that you’re just peeing out what you’ve put in. But that isn’t 100% accurate. Your body will use what it needs (and thank you for it!), correcting any deficiencies you have. However, some of us actually aren’t genetically wired to process certain forms of b-vitamins properly, which brings me to our next topic. 

A Note on B- Vitamin Bioavailability & Methylation

Methylation is a biochemical process that allows for the proper assimilation of b-vitamins in the body and assures the smooth functioning of neurotransmitter production, estrogen, fat and histamine metabolism, liver detoxification and DNA production!  

Recent science has led us to figure out that there are certain people who are genetically predisposed to having trouble with methylation. 

In fact, approximately 60% of people in the United States have a genetic mutation that makes it challenging for their bodies to create enough of the “active” form of the b-vitamin folic acid (also known as 5-MTHF, and is necessary for proper methylation processes). (11)

You can get a genetic test to see if you have difficulty with methylation, but if not, I recommend sourcing out a supplement with methylated b-vitamins to make sure your body can actually use them towards the important functions listed above.    

Here’s an excellent article explaining this in a lot more depth if you’re interested: What is Methylation and Why Should You Care About It? 

Stress and B-Vitamins

When we’re stressed, we go through B vitamins more quickly, so there’s an EXTRA need to them when we’re going through stressful time periods. And seeing as MOST of us have some form of daily stress- whether it be job deadlines, family life, challenging relationships, physical illness, exposure to environmental toxins or a worldwide pandemic- I think we could all use a little help from our b-vitamin friends. 

 

Check out my online Fullscript supplement dispensary here for hand-picked products formulated by trusted, high-quality brands that I recommend in my clinical practice! Simply create an account (it takes 1 minute and is absolutely free), you'll only receive emails about your orders (no spam, promise!). BONUS- You'll get 10% off and it will get shipped directly to your door. I use this platform to order my own supplements and absolutely love it ;)  




References: 

  1. Magnesium Deficiency in Plants: An Urgent Problem 
  2. The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders
  3. Magnesium and liver disease
  4. Key Minerals to Help Control Blood Pressure 
  5. Everything You Need To Know About Vitamin D
  6. Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics 
  7. Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function
  8. Cleveland Clinic: Omega 3 Fatty Acids 
  9. National Institute of Health: Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  10. Benefits and Uses of B-Complex Vitamins 
  11. What Is Methylation and Why Should You Care About It 

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