There are a few supplements that stand out when thinking about what supplements I recommend most to patients. However, I do not believe that there are supplements that “everyone” should be taking.
Why? It’s at the core of what we practice at MIMC—personalized medicine! Everyone has their own unique biochemical makeup, which means just because a supplement totally changed one person’s life, doesn’t mean it will benefit the next person. People often think of supplements as harmless since they are available over the counter, but many contain potent amounts of nutrients or botanicals that require medical guidance to properly administer and reap the benefits.
How to choose high-quality supplements
When shopping for supplements, it is also important to be confident that the product you are purchasing actually contains what it says it does, as the supplement industry is not well-regulated. For this reason, I recommend sticking with supplement brands that are third-party tested for safety and purity.
While this can be difficult to navigate initially, most companies who perform this kind of testing are very transparent about their quality standards. Companies who are not are the ones I recommend avoiding. Learn more about how to evaluate supplement brands here.
What supplements should I take?
If I had to choose 3 different supplements that would benefit most people, I would recommend vitamin D3, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. Let’s dive into how each of these can help.
A large percentage of the population is deficient in vitamin D, especially those who live in the midwest. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that plays a role in so many different bodily processes, including immune and mental health.
To figure out how much vitamin D3 is right for you to supplement with, I recommend having your vitamin D levels checked during a standard lab draw. While this used to be more of a specialty lab, it is becoming more commonplace because of the increasing evidence to support the importance of vitamin D in human health.
It is crucial to note that too much vitamin D can be toxic, so I recommend supplementing with no more than 4,000IU per day without knowing your personal vitamin D levels, which is the established tolerable upper intake level that is unlikely to cause harm.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Since so many of us are not eating the recommended weekly intake of fatty, cold-water fish per week (3x/week), a high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement can benefit most for a few reasons. The standard American diet is SUPER HIGH in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3s, and this is problematic because omega-6s are inflammatory while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory.
Though both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the body, the ratio should be close to 2:1, and it’s somewhere around 20:1 with the standard American diet. This doesn’t mean that you can balance the standard American diet out just by taking an omega-3 supplement. BUT, supplementing can help bring down the ratio while you are working on dietary changes.
Omega-3s are also critical during pregnancy (specifically DHA) for fetal brain development. When choosing an omega-3 supplement, it is important to make sure you are purchasing one that is free of heavy metals. Nordic Naturals is a brand that I commonly recommend for this reason.
Though the preferred way to support the gut microbiome is through eating a diet full of fiber and fermented foods, incorporating a well-formulated broad spectrum probiotic can be beneficial for those looking to improve GI health. I typically recommend cycling through a few different types of probiotics every year as maintenance for those who do not struggle with GI concerns.
For those who are symptomatic, advanced GI testing can help guide what type of probiotics would be best (remember that personalized medicine thing? learn more here).
While supplements are often a foundational part of treatment plans with patients, there is not a one-size fits all approach to recommendations. These are a starting place if you’re looking to support your system, but it’s merely a jumping off point. Your body might need more or less than these and the best way to figure that out is to get a full workup with a doctor you trust.
If you’re looking for a new practitioner, give us a try—we’re trained to partner with you to get to the root cause of your symptoms and create a plan that’s tailored to you.
Dr. Jones graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and with a Master of Science in Nutrition degree. She believes that the most important part of any treatment plan is first establishing a solid foundation of health. This looks different for each patient and changes over time, and Dr. Jones’ guidance on your health journey will depend on your needs.