Best supplements for overall health
We give you the low down on the best vitamins, minerals and health supplements to take for optimal wellbeing
Ideally a balanced diet and sensible levels of exercise should ensure the body has the right levels of vitamins and minerals for optimum health. In today’s fast-paced, stress loaded environment, however, even those who are well informed nutritionally and motivated to eat healthily will find it difficult to get sufficient levels of essential nutrients for the body and brain to function optimally. Add to this the depletion of essential nutrients from the soil through intensive agriculture methods, and it becomes clear that a base level of supplementing is a wise precaution.
Here are some useful hints to help you navigate the minefield of vitamin and mineral supplements and point you to some of the reputable brands and recommended dosage.
Do vitamin supplements work? Prevention vs Cure
Experienced Nutritional Therapist Bo Tyler stresses the need for prevention of ill health through optimal diet, exercise and supplementation if necessary, rather than seeking to cure, once symptoms have manifested themselves, with a cocktail of supplements.
Even if we show no symptoms of genuine illness, ‘the body can rust from the inside’, says Tyler. ‘No matter how good your diet is, the combination of job stress, family responsibilities, poor sleep and not enough exercise, will deplete your optimal balance of vitamins and minerals’. The good news, however, is that many everyday symptoms of sub-optimal health such as lethargy and fatigue, poor sleep quality, bloating, IBS, bad skin, and brittle hair and nails can be addressed through a tailored approach to supplementation.
Nutritional supplements are not to be taken lightly though.They are not cure-alls that guarantee enhanced health, and should not be consumed as a result of on trend marketing campaigns and Hollywood hype. It is a wise precaution to consult a nutritional therapist or your GP if you suspect a medical condition that may benefit from supplements, or indeed contraindicate taking certain supplements.
How to identify good quality supplements
If you are going down the supplement route, do your due diligence in order to identify good quality. Dietary supplements can be sold without any absolute safety and efficacy approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – individual brands are responsible for the safety and labelling of their own products.
Look for supplements that are at least 99% pure, containing no binders, fillers, dyes, excipients or other unknown substances. The FDA warns customers to watch out for labels claiming to ‘reduce pain, treat heart problems, be 100% natural (natural does not mean safe), be the miracle cure’. Many supplements offered by maverick brands or advertised online will contain vitamins that have been synthesized from petrochemicals, and there is much controversy over their bioavailability and absorbability into the body. Study the labels carefully.
What supplements are right for you: Testing protocols
A whole range of private testing procedures and health checks are now available to assess your body’s deficiencies and requirements – tests that claim to diagnose anything from levels of toxicity damage to the organs, to gene analysis, stress assessment, mitochondrial activity, and much more. But be warned: there is controversy over the expense and efficacy of such tests. Much is also still unclear about the complicated area of interaction between the relevant vitamins and minerals, and whether optimum interaction in the body is actually achievable when ingested in pill form.
How many different supplements should you take?
Bo Tyler would recommend taking no more than 3 different supplements at a time as they can be non-compliant. ‘Take each supplement for three months to top levels up’, says Tyler.They can then be used for a further three to six months or longer term to maintain levels. ‘But overuse of vitamins and minerals can cause more harm than good and at the very least can cause significant discomfort in the digestive tract’. Bo recommends three key areas for supplementation:
Vitamin D3: Boosts immune system
Recommended Brand: BetterYou DLux vitamin D3 3000
Recommended dose: 3000iu per day
A deficiency in vitamin D is at the root of many diseases and is linked to an impaired immune system. It is also linked to mood disorders – low levels of Vit D are associated with low serotonin, which our body uses faster in winter, contributing to the now well-recognised condition SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Derived from sunlight and difficult to get through diet alone, vitamin D could arguably be supplemented by everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women. Incidentally, it is the only vitamin routinely prescribed by medical practitioners.Vitamin D3, available in a nasal spray, is absorbable and bioavailable.
Fish Oils (Omega 3): Boost cardiovascular and mental function
Recommended brand: Nutri Advanced Eskimo-3 fish Oil
Recommended dose: 1 tablet 600mg per day
Most of us do not eat the optimum amount of oily fish – think mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines.The recommended amount is a portion of oily fish at least 3 times per week. Omega 3 oils are essential for many bodily and mental functions: healthy heart, reduced cholesterol, bone and joint health, sleep quality and glowing skin and hair.
Probiotics: Good for gut health
Recommended Brand: Liquid Rawbiotics
Recommended dose: 30ml per day.
In the hurly burly of everyday life, where meals are taken on the run – if they are taken at all – and not enough time is given to digestion, many people will suffer an imbalance of gut bacteria. This will lead to annoying symptoms of bloating and digestive pain or IBS, as well as feelings of fatigue. 70% of the immune system is stored in the gut. Although natural probiotics are available in the form of kefir and fermented foods, many people either don’t like them or don’t eat enough of them; a 30ml shot of this multi-strained live fermented supplement will help to promote optimal gut health.
Additional nutritional supplements targeting common health conditions
The above baseline 3 key supplement programme is a general guideline for optimising overall good health. But it may be necessary to substitute one of the above with a more targeted supplement for a specific condition. Some of the most effective supplements for common health conditions are listed below.
B vitamins to boost energy, hormone function and health of hair and skin
Recommended brand: Biocare Methyl B Complex
Recommended dosage: 1 tablet per day
Chronic stress will wreak havoc with the B vitamin balance in the body. For increased and sustainable energy, a maintenance regime of Vitamin B complex is recommended. For ease of administration, look for a high dose combined vitamin B product such as the Biocare Methyl B complex.
Turmeric Curcumin to reduce inflammation
Recommended brand: VitaPremium
Recommended dose: 1 tablet 500mg per day
The powerful effect of turmeric on inflammation is well catalogued, with the medical profession now recognising the extraordinary benefits of turmeric for all forms of inflammation from arthritis to cancer. Mix it in its original state with coconut oil and black pepper, or ingest it in tablet form.
Magnesium to help cellular energy production and reduce symptoms of anxiety
Recommended Brand: Solgar Magnesium Citrate
Recommended dose: 1 tablet 400mg per day
There is no more important nutrient than magnesium in the fight against stress. It is used in the ‘fight or flight’ stress response to produce instant energy.There is little surprise therefore that many people under chronic stress will be lacking in this vital mineral. Topping up levels of magnesium will help calm the parasympathetic nervous system and lead to more restful sleep.
Zinc to bolster the immune system
Recommended brand: Solgar
Recommended dose: 1 tablet 50mg per day
This powerful antioxidant, which attacks destructive free radicals in the blood, can help to boost the immune system and promote healthy skin, hair and nails.
Folic Acid for Pregnancy Care
Recommended brand: Pregnacare Max strength
Recommended dose: 2 tablets per day. 1 tablet 400mcg folic acid, 500mg calcium. 1 tablet 300mg Omega 3
Supplementing folic acid is actively encouraged for pregnant women, to promote healthy development of the neural tube in the foetus. Calcium will help to prevent bone density loss and the extra Omega 3 tablet helps to ensure normal foetal brain and eye development.
Ultimate Complete Daily Healthcare Multivitamins and Minerals
Recommended brand: Athletic Greens
Recommended dose: 1 Heaped scoop per day with water
This is the ultimate supplement for those looking to ensure they get the daily recommended dose of all vital vitamins and minerals, for those that are looking for help to reduce stress levels or for those looking to enhance their athletic performance. It contains 75 vitamins, minerals and whole food sourced ingredients – a great catch all for topping up what may be lacking in your diet.
Iron supplements may be necessary for Vegans
Vegans should take great care to ensure they ingest enough protein, Vitamin B12 and iron. Iron from food is available in two forms – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only available from animal products. Vegans should therefore try to double the normal quantities of non-heme iron or consider iron supplements. As iron can be dangerous if it is over-supplemented it is recommended vegans get their haemoglobin and ferritin levels checked by a GP before embarking on a regime of iron supplements.
Supplements for children
Recommended brand: Biocare Vitasorb C
Recommended dose: 15ml
Winter bugs and colds are a notorious hazard for children of nursery age and above. A daily dose of vitamin C during the winter months can help to strengthen the immune system.
When taking nutritional supplements, continuously evaluate how you are feeling and whether you notice an improvement in your health. If not, and symptoms of illness or ill health persist, it is important to consult your doctor.