If you are going to take supplements it would be best to get tested to identify where you need more support instead of going for whats on offer or the latest supplement promoted in your favourite magazine or facebook ad. From testing we can better appreciate what you can take, when, how much, and for how long. Properly designed personalised supplement protocols that are therapeutic have a plan to support, stimulate and strengthen how the body needs to function with a specific order for you, taken in coordinated stages. A supplement protocol will have a warm up, working phase then warm down or maintenance. It is a bit like a fitness program that develops flexibility before stability then on to strength.
Testing is not for everyone and there are times it can be more appropriate to create a basic all round supportive program covering the major bases and ease someone into the world of supplements where you can still get great results and learn how to use supplements whilst creating the habit of taking them regular enough to support change.
What if you haven’t been tested but still want to do a good job to become healthier. Let’s look at the key supplements I would recommend. The following supplements are included because they are;
- Food based, similar to food,
- Best of the best in terms of product quality,
- Support, strengthen or stimulate the major systems of the body as oppose to isolated nutrients you are more likely to react to and may not be universally required, can be taken once per day
- Can be conveniently consumed in a one stop shop smoothie, they are either liquids or powders that allow you to add to water, coconut/almond milk and improve further by adding a portion of your preferred fruit and/or veg for flavour, consistency and extra nutrition.
Why Take Protein Supplements
Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are needed in only small quantities, are called “micronutrients.” But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.
Protein powders can be a beneficial supplement for many people, especially for athletes, older adults, vegetarians, and vegans. They are a convenient source of complete protein. Sometimes they also contain other nutrients. However, not everyone needs extra protein. People who eat a diet that is rich in meat, fish, dairy, and eggs and do not do intense weight training are unlikely to need to take protein supplements. However if you are one of those people that skip breakfast and choose your meals during the day based on convenience and speed of consumption it’s likely your meals will be protein deficient relative to fats and carbs.
One of the problems I see is that people over estimate how much protein they eat and under estimate how much they need. When I was at University in the late 80’s and early 90’s, in physiology we referred to the physiological man as 70kg or 154lbs (11 stone) for working out energy demands of daily activities and exercise. These days that average man, depending which country you get the data from, is more like 90kg or 197lbs (14 stone). Looking at the table below if you are looking for fat loss then a daily target range for protein is 108g up to 297g. At the top end of the range that’s a difference of 66g more grams per day of protein you need to find to get the same job done. My point being that with more weight gain that we all know is more common these days, we are not seeing the same appreciation for an in line increase in protein consumption.
Thanks in part to the role social media has in rallying us all to a cause and helping us become even more partisan to what the one size fits all, ideal diet is, the growing popularity of vegan or plant based diets, rightly on morality but questionable on human biological evolutionary and functional nutritional requirements has seen a further reduction in the perception of how much protein we need. For long enough the public perception against the need for protein was mostly about high protein diets causing kidney disease and images of bodybuilders making the average man look inferior and “freaky” big muscles only served to help keep the focus to fat vs carbs. So now we can divide ourselves based on politics or race and whether you eat according to your evolutionary, genetic and biological requirements or consume a balance of nutrients in spite of these requirements and in line with a belief in the impact their food choices will save the planet, maintain animal life and welfare as well as adequately supporting human health and allowing it to thrive.
The long and the short of it is there are challenges consuming enough protein for good, robust health never mind recovering from ill-health and in some cases we need as much 6 chicken breasts per day. If you go down the vegetable root, spinach has 1g of protein per cup and lentils come in at 9g per half cup, either way going veg only puts a large pressure on your ability to secure an effective dose of protein per day. With or without a restriction on the sources of your protein whether it be moral pr food sensitivity or inflammation based it isn’t that easy. Therefore for many people I am a fan of protein supplements being included in a daily supplement regime. If you can get the big stuff right first, the macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein) through food and helped along by supplements where there are gaps going on to add in the clever micronutrients and more therapeutic and specialised nutrients such as vitamin D and probiotics then makes more sense for more benefit.
How Much Protein Do We Really Need?
With all that said from up on top of my soapbox my preference these days for a quality protein supplement is pea protein. Long gone are the days where egg, casein or beef protein were the options then it was whey, whey and more whey, processing techniques are now superior that there are more options. Pea, rice and soy have come more popular to rival whey proteins crown. Rice isn’t the complete protein option that pea is, soy is evil but that’s for another day, and there are some quality pea protein options on the market that don’t come with the lectin issue that can cause symptoms for those with lectin sensitivity. It is less common to see pea protein trigger digestive complaints, is seen as less inflammatory to whey or casein and I would prefer to use it with clients that have autoimmune issues. It seems to help lower inflammation through its ability to support the growth of gut friendly probiotics such as bifidobacterium and short chain fatty acids. Lastly Pea protein like whey protein has been shown to reduce hunger, so for those working on normalising their appetite and not over eating to help reduce weight this is also a viable option.
Why Take Probiotics
From modern diets filled with sugar and additives to exposure to antibiotics in both medicine and food, your lifestyle can wreak havoc on your body’s delicate balance of bacteria. Even aging, stress, environmental toxins, and medications (such as antacids, birth control, and steroids) can have indiscriminate effects on your healthy microflora balance.
When the good guys are overwhelmed, your microbiome can quickly shift and create issues that are less than ideal. Luckily, consuming probiotic supplements can replenish your body’s levels of healthy bacteria and encourage the maintenance of healthy conditions in your body.
They also enhance mood, support the immune system, improve absorption of the nutrients in your food, support balanced blood sugar, support health of the skin, assist weight management by helping to balance hormones and reduce cravings.
There used to be questions over whether the strains were viable by the time you popped open the bottle, did they get to where you needed them in the digestive system and in large enough numbers, will they make any difference as the total number of bacterial cells in the gut, good or bad, is in the trillions as there are 10 times as many of them as there is of us and were the strains the right ones to be increasing in the first place. These days higher dosages, better research on the good versus bad gut bugs, better production techniques to improve their survival through the harsh acid loaded stomach environment and different types of probiotics such as what’s called spore-based, all serve to make probiotics a potentially more beneficial option to boost your health than ever before. You may not need them forever but definitely in the short term and in the absence of diets higher in natural foods that come with good bacteria on them such as raw foods – plant and animal, as well those produced in a way that raises the bacteria count such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir or kimchi, my opinion is that probiotics are an essential component of the modern diet and supplementation is the simplest, most convenient route to support your diet.
Why Take Vitamin D
Having spent the last 10 years seeing clients in the ground floor of a 7 floor tenement building in the city centre I don’t get that much daylight and more importantly don’t get much access to the sunshine. Also Scotland doesn’t always see the sunshine anyway even if you can get out in it. So for a long time now I have been very aware and focused on assessing my own vitamin D levels. The best source, most natural, and the most effective at raising your body’s production of vitamin D is the sunshine and to maximise its effect at doing that being naked in the midday sun is the way to go. Certainly not very practical in this day and age, and this part of the world. However if you want to maximise your levels then this is what it takes and even when we are on holiday in the sunshine we don’t all go naked and we largely avoid the midday sun. For those that are out in the peak sun the we lather up to minimise burning but also blocking vitamin D production via the sun on our skins. Since many people avoid large areas of their skin being exposed at midday or any time of day even the sun, sadly, isn’t the best source of vitamin D. To make matters worse we typically only think of decreasing vitamin D levels as just a winter issue, this further reduces our focus on vitamin D whether its sun exposure, through foods high in vitamin D or supplementation. If we were in an evolutionary sense designed to take it on board in the summer months but don’t do that all that well suddenly grabbing some vitamin D capsules out the supermarket when it hits December cant really reverse a likely year round deficiency.
Studies show that adult levels in the early 2000s when just looking at sufficiency which isn’t optimal have decreased to 30%. So 70% of the population could be optimal, too high or deficient in fact studies suggest nearly 42% of Americans are deficient. It’s hardly likely to be a whole lot better over here in the UK when its not exactly well known for its sunny climate.
If your diet is low in these following foods high in vitamin D then your needs go up;
- Red meat,
- Whole milk,
- Cottage cheese.
This is not an exhaustive list but these foods have been found to be the most effective. Cod liver oil and high vitamin butter are also options. Also harping back to us humans as omnivores, where do those foods fit in an exclusively plant based diet?
When it comes to supplementing with vitamin D you need adequate amounts of the synergistic nutrients involved in its absorption, production and preventing toxicity; vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium and magnesium. Not all supplements are created equal. I prefer capsules, for convenience. Powders to control the dose for those that are sensitive to change, have long term digestive issues, toxicity symptoms like skin rashes or headaches, immune challenges such as autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or Coeliac and for those new to supplements and don’t quite know their bodies and how they respond to food or supplements. When you need better absorption, so especially if you have, abdominal pain or reflux, then liposomal or liquid options with your supplements. Vitamin D definitely fits in to that category.
If the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 400-800IU, and more and more experts and studies are suggesting daily intakes of 1000-4000IU may be more effective, I experimented with 10,000IU for 3 months several years ago following a lot of time on PubMed researching the subject. I used one of the simple finger prick, blood spot, blood tests and found my level to be 29 when the target for good health is recommended to be above 50 depending what organisations advice you choose to follow fo course. Three months later after this self-experiment my levels had gone all the way up to 31!
I might be more health focussed than some but with travel, holidays and different stressors in my life I didn’t have digestive symptoms at the time but I did have some parasites to deal with, identified from a stool test. So I had a reason absorption was poor and a reason supplementation even at high dosages barely made a difference. My most recent blood test showed a vitamin D level of 54 and I also know on the digestion front I don’t have the challenges I previously had. So it is possible to improve your health with direct action when you know the action to take. To give yourself a better chance and add supplements to your daily life then pick the products that are higher in quality and offer better absorption. I used to rely on capsules and I did back when I tried the high dosing strategy, whereas these days I prefer especially when it comes to vitamin D to take it as a liquid emulsion or liposomal, dissolved in fat droplets, either option allow the vitamin D to be absorb similar to a natural food source. With all this in mind then you are more likely to benefit from the addition of vitamin D to your diet and help to help the gut absorb calcium, promotes strong and healthy bones, reduce inflammation and boosting immune function and cell growth.
Why Take Green Tea
Green tea is one of the most commonly consumed teas in the world. Green tea extract is its concentrated form, with just one capsule or a sachet containing the same amount of active ingredients as an average cup of green tea. Like green tea, green tea extract is a great source of antioxidants.
Green tea’s antioxidants can help a range of health benefits;
- Promote heart, liver and brain health,
- Improve your skin,
- Regulate blood sugar levels,
- Regulate blood pressure,
- Reduce blood fat levels,
- Improve exercise recovery,
- Aid weight loss
Why Take Fish Oil
Omega-3s of which fish oil is the top supplementary source, most bioavailability (useable by the body) and absorbable, contributes to normal brain and eye development. They help fight inflammation and may help prevent heart disease and a decline in brain function. Eating two portions of oily fish per week can provide you with a healthy dose of enough omega-3s, the problem is most of us don’t do this and certainly not on a regular basis. If you have inflammatory issues (for example aching and painful joints, nerve pain, fatigue, fever, rashes, abdominal or chest pain) and need support especially if the symptoms are related to brain function then fish oil becomes a supplement to seriously consider.
Why Take Collagen
As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen used in your muscles, skin, blood, bones, cartilage, and ligaments. Collagen is used as a building block and is vital for several reasons:
- promotes skin elasticity
- holds together your bones and muscles
- provides structure to joints and tendons
- protects your organs
Your body slows down its collagen production with age other factors that slow it down further include smoking, sun exposure, and an unhealthy diet. Some health conditions may also deplete your collagen storage. And without this important building block, you may start to see wrinkles and sagging skin, or even experience joint pain. So plenty of reasons to keep this protein included in a body wide supplement protocol.
Why Take Nucleotides
Nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA and RNA that work deep within every cell of your body. One nucleotide is one “unit” of a DNA or RNA strand. Dietary nucleotides (from food and supplements) provide a range of health benefits. Our body needs billions of these tiny little units any time a cell divides to make a new copy of DNA, and also when it makes proteins. These proteins are responsible for pretty much everything that goes on in our body.
Our body gets nucleotides from salvaging them from old proteins, from our diet, and from synthesis from amino acids (for example, glutamine) and sugars (glucose). Dietary sources of nucleotides are found to varying degrees in many foods – lamb, liver, and mushrooms are good examples.
Being important for growth, nucleotides are also present in human breast milk. Under conditions of stress, poor diet or if you have symptoms and a medicinal condition dietary nucleotides may be “semi-essential”, that work directly to improve the function of the gastrointestinal and immune systems. They are essential for cell renewal in areas that have high turnover, the sites in your body that get plenty of abuse and have to be on it to keep regenerating and repairing your body ready for each new day. The better your body is at repairing itself the more robust you are and the more you can cope with. If you want to go large in the gym or rack up the miles on the road you need to repair, recover and adapt. That’s how you get stronger, fitter and longer! So the more nutrition you can pack in to cope with your busy, stressful day with or without the demands of heavy exercise the more able you are to cope with what life throws your way. Nucleotides are one of those up and coming supplements that fit that remit perfectly instead in this era of “its all about gut health”.
Why Take Sulforphane
Another important supplement I think should be considered as part of a healthy supplement protocol to support, strengthen and stimulate health of the body as a whole is something not many people will have heard of, sulforaphane. It is a completely natural and very healthy organic compound. It contains sulphur and occurs in the Cruciferous or Brassica class of vegetables (kale, radishes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabaga, mustard greens, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts). When the greens of these vegetables are crushed or chewed, it causes a chemical reaction that creates the sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane is an antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation and support the immune system, therefore helping with issues such as heart health and lowering blood pressure and autoimmunity. It has been shown to promote liver health, hormone balance, infertility and hair loss.
It has been shown to reduce inflammation caused by sun exposure. It can protect mitochondria in the cells from damage, microscopic cellular cleanup like this is called “autophagy.”
It can also help protect nervous system from whats called oxidative stress, its the type of stress where the metabolic waste that can build up in the body from stress of all types creates a situation where you lack the antioxidants to balance the free radicals and that results in damage to the cells. A plant based antioxidant like sulforaphane helps protect the body specifically improving mood disorders, memory, brain fog, reducing pain and stress.
Sulforaphane may be beneficial in other ways such as increasing insulin sensitivity and improving metabolism. A 2014 study found sulforaphane to have anti-obesity effects by reducing the body’s tendency to build up fat stores, and instead switched the body’s metabolism towards burning it more efficiently.
Why Take Multinutrient Superfoods
The recommendations on the side of processed foods and those that come with plastic labels on them are providing you with the information on how the nutrition in that food can help you avoid disease and associated deficiencies. When was the last time you picked up a carrot or even a chicken breast in its plastic wrapper to check the amount of vitamin B12 or magnesium or protein you were going to get from them? Of course how fresh they are before you cook them and then how you cook the food and whether you add sugar or heat sensitive oils like nut and seed oils, then you might not get the nutrients listed and they might not be enough to counter the stress placed on the body from the cooking plus what you added. Under stress you need more nutrients. Stress is about managing resources and those resources include nutrients so lacking nutrients is in itself a stress. So there are many ways you can struggle to get the nutrients you need daily. If you add in the fact that we eat a limited range of foods then its easy to see how we probably don’t always have a high nutrient diet or the myriad of nutrients the body needs.
Supplements often provide single, isolated nutrients vitamins, minerals or limited combinations, and come in forms not typical of those found in real food. If you chose to add superfood supplements to your daily food and supplement intake then you would be consuming nutrients in the forms found in foods alongside their synergistic cofactors, the nutrients you also need to be there at the same time so your body can absorb and use them. Many synthetic, isolated nutrients can create long term more problems than they solve.
Superfood supplements containing the nutrients from fruit, vegetables and herbs, quite often also come with enzymes and probiotics to maximise absorption and benefit and act like a nutritional insurance policy. These superfood products can help support your hormone balance, digestion, immune and detoxification system and many people report and increase in energy as a result.
Putting It All Together
There are certain supplements that work better if you take them at certain times of the day and in specific amounts but I have seen it often enough to know that for many people they just need to find a way to get them down their throat and then often it becomes a habit and the body then through regularly consuming these nutrients begins to change. So why not support the whole of your body, across multiple systems, instead of looking for that one perfect supplement that does everything and doesn’t exist and place all these supplements in a shaker or blender, add a portion of veg such as spinach and blueberries and drink it as a oner, job done and get on with your day? This way if this became a bit of a morning ritual, and doesn’t take a lot of time, you have this insurance policy if you like, under your belt for the day ahead,
To learn the exact quality therapeutic practitioner grade products I use and the dosages, email me to find out more and if these supplements can help you.
People who wish to supplement their diet should choose high-quality products and speak to their doctor or a dietitian before using them.