As naturopathic physicians, this is a question that we hear every day. Based upon the latest scientific research and clinical experience, our top picks are:
1. Vitamin D
Where we are located in the Northwest, residents are notoriously low in the “sunshine vitamin”, which the body produces naturally from sun exposure. This is shortage of vitamin D is not limited to the Northwest. Frequently, even residents in sunny climates are low on the sunshine vitamin thanks to liberal use of sunscreen. Over 90% of our patients who do not take a vitamin D supplement are found deficient. Vitamin D plays a role in building bones, preventing cancer, maintaining heart health, fighting infection and elevating mood. Foods like cow’s milk are fortified with vitamin D, but only in small amounts. The U.S. RDA for vitamin D is 400 IU per day, but much higher doses may be necessary to maintain adequate levels, particularly during the winter months in areas further from the equator. It is possible to overdose on vitamin D, so have your health care provider order a simple blood test to determine your individual vitamin D needs.
Foods and supplements that contain high quantities of beneficial or “good” bacteria that are normally found in the body are called probiotics. Friendly bacteria are essential for good digestion and for developing a strong immune system. You may be aware of the benefits of taking probiotics after taking antibiotics which indiscriminately kill the good and bad bacteria in your body. Many of our patients experience further improvement in their health when they take probiotics daily. Foods like yogurt contain probiotics, but in relatively small quantities compared to supplements. When choosing a probiotic, look for a blend that contains several different species of bacteria and is stored in a temperature controlled environment. All of the supplements offered at Naturologie meet these criteria.
3. Fish Oil
The typical Western diet is low in EPA and DHA, two important omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. Omega-3’s are found in oily fish like tuna, cod, mackerel and our local salmon. These oils play a key role in the function of your heart, brain, eyes, nervous system, kidneys and liver. Studies show fish oil to be preventive against heart disease, arthritis, depression and to lower cancer risk. Fish oil also acts as a strong anti-inflammatory. In higher dosages, fish oil can thin the blood, so use it under the advice of your physician.
Fruits and vegetables are not only rich in vitamins and minerals, but contain plant pigments called bioflavonoids which are powerful antioxidants. Bioflavonoids give the immune system a major boost and maintain health and vitality in many organs and tissues including the eyes, heart, skin and blood vessels. You may have heard of resveratrol which is a bioflavonoid found in wine that is thought to improve heart health. It is important to get bioflavonoids from a variety of sources. Some of our favorites are berries, turmeric, and green vegetables. In addition, a bioflavonoid supplement can give you a super dose of these substances without adding to your waistline.
In addition to these suggestions, we recommend taking a multi-vitamin, along with calcium and magnesium for bone health. However, because the supplement industry is not well regulated by the FDA, we suggest pharmaceutical grade supplements, which are supplements that have been independently evaluated as having met the highest regulatory standard. At Naturologie, all of our supplements meet these standards.