Having worked in the nutritional department of a natural foods store for nearly five years I have seen many customers come in and immediately freeze when faced with all the choices in front of them. For the average person, just starting to take control of their own health, our area of the store can become the Aisle of Option Anxiety. Even those who come in to purchase a specific product will often ask what else I think they should be taking.
It's a valid question, with so many television shows and articles touting the new "must have" supplement every week. If we ran out and bought them all we would end up broke and eating nothing but vitamins for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Jetsons style. Add to this the fact that last weeks "must have" is often on this weeks "stay away from" list and it's a wonder that anyone can keep it all straight.
I think the answer to the question of what supplements a person should take is largely personal, based on an individuals dietary needs, family history and current health concerns. Sometimes it seems people expect me to recommend everything under the sun for the sake of sales. But I am a firm believer that the foods we eat should be our first line of defense. Never under estimate the power of nutrition. That being said, I do think there are a few supplements most people can benefit from. I'd like to delve into each a little deeper in another segment but for now here is a brief overview.
The first is probiotics, which is just a broad term used to describe the good bacteria we are replacing in our gut. Most people know that our own naturally occurring good bacteria is depleted when we have to take antibiotics. A vast majority of the customers who come looking for acidophilus, the most widely known probiotic, do so for this reason. What many people don't realize is that our good bacteria are destroyed daily by more common things like our diet, pollution and stress. It is important to make sure we replace them regularly.
The other thing that many people don't know about probiotics is how important they are for immune health, because so much of our immune system is located in our digestive track. Once thought of as just an aid to regularity, yeast balance and colon health, we now know that these friendly bacteria support wellness on many levels because so much of our over all health begins in our gut.
The second supplement I think most people should consider is a multi-vitamin. By no means do I think that this pill should substitute a good, balanced diet. It should be used as a way to fill in the gaps because, let's face it, very few of us eat perfectly. A well rounded multi can fill in the gaps we may be missing. I prefer one of the food based versions, which means the nutrients are derived from food or in a food base as opposed to traditional isolates, which are isolated in a lab for a certain potency. The food based vitamins are easier for our bodies to recognize and absorb and therefore more bioavailable.
The last supplement I think many people can benefit from taking is an Omega 3. This important essential fatty acid, found in fish, flax and chia seeds, helps with everything from hair, skin and nails to joint health, cardiovascular support and inflammation control in the body. It is difficult to get enough of this nutrient in our diet. The typical american diet is loaded with Omega 6, typically found in cooking oils and nuts but lacking in Omega 3.
Further more, some people are finding that when the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is disproportionate it can actually raise inflammation in the body. So adding flax or fish oils to the diet, whether in capsule or the more concentrated oil form, is a good way to keep that ration in check.
In my humble opinion, these three supplements are solid additions to almost any diet, no matter what is being touted online or on television as the Pill of the Week. But, at the end of the day, you have to take responsibility for your own health, do the footwork and decide for yourself. I'm just here to help.