Your Guide to 10 Common Supplements - Which Should You Be Taking? - WellBeing by Well.ca
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Vitamins

Your Guide to 10 Common Supplements – Which Should You Be Taking?

supplements

With a ton of supplements out there in the market today, where do you start? How do you know which ones are right for you and, more importantly, how to find a quality formula that will actually make a difference?

Look no further. We’ve compiled the top 10 supplements to consider for overall health, who can benefit, and how to pick out the most effective ones.

Let’s start with the difference between vitamins and supplements…

The terms “vitamins” and “supplements” are often (incorrectly!) used interchangeably. A vitamin is defined as an organic, natural compound found in nature that helps to support growth and development of the human body. A supplement, on the other hand, is a general term that refers to a synthetic combination of one or more vitamins, minerals, herbs or other compounds into a single formula. The best way to understand this concept is through an example: Vitamin C is a vitamin when naturally occurring in oranges, bell peppers and lemons, but is a supplement when in pill form.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the top supplement categories containing important vitamins, minerals or other ingredients that can greatly boost your overall health. Unless otherwise specified, the time of day you take it doesn’t matter – take it at whatever time of day you’re most likely to remember!

  1. Omega-3s

These essential fatty acids are vital for many functions within the body. Omega-3s are needed for brain, heart and skin health, not to mention helpful to reduce inflammation and pain. Most omega-3 supplements come in the form of fish oil, but you can now find vegetarian sources from algae on the market as well.

Who can benefit?

  • Anyone with heart disease (incl. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history)
  • Children for brain development
  • Those with dry skin conditions

How to select the best one:

Look at the back label for the actual omega-3 content, referred to as EPA and DHA. For children and heart health, relatively more DHA is usually preferred while for skin and brain function, a balanced formula (or one with more EPA) is the way to go.

How & when to take it:

Since omega-3s are a type of fat molecule, they are best absorbed with food. This can also improve the digestibility of the oil and reduce any “repeats” of the fish oil if your digestive system is a bit weak.

  1. Vitamin D

Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ since we make it from exposure to the sun, it’s used to help the body build strong bones and maintain healthy hormonal and immune systems, and can improve low mood. However, in Canada (even in the summer), we don’t get enough sunshine to make adequate amounts of this important nutrient on our own. Testing your vitamin D levels with your doctor is encouraged, as those with very low levels can benefit from higher dosing. To maintain adequate levels, it is suggested that adults take 1000IU and children take 400IU each day.

Who can benefit?

  • Almost everyone (unless your blood test shows excess levels)

How to select the best one:

Vitamin D should always be taken in the form that is better absorbed by the body—vitamin D3. Also, since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, a liquid formula is preferred over a hard-pressed pill.

When & how to take it:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient so is best taken with other fats in the diet (lunch or dinner is preferred). I often suggest taking it alongside your omega-3s for easy dosing.

  1. Probiotics

These are known as the friendly bacteria for our gut and immune health. Although you can find smaller amounts in foods like yogurt and kombucha, taking it in supplement form will ensure you are getting the proper dosage.

Who can benefit?

  • Anyone who has recently been on antibiotics

What else can it help with?

  • Recurrent sinus infections
  • Gas or bloating

How to select the best one:

Probiotics can be overwhelming since there are many types and dosages available. I recommend working with your naturopath or functional medicine doctor to get a personalized suggestion. However, in general, choosing a dairy-free, low dose (5-10 billion) formula is often well tolerated by most people.

When & how to take it:

Depending on where you want the most impact of the probiotic can determine how and when you consume it. For most people who are seeking digestive support (for gas, bloating, IBS, constipation, etc.), an enteric-coated capsule can allow for better effects farther down the digestive track. If your capsule is not coated to withstand stomach acid or if you take a loose powder version, be sure to take it with food.

  1. B Complex

This is generally a combination of all 8 B-vitamins at higher doses than a multivitamin. B vitamins are vital for energy and metabolism, as well as nerve function and detoxification.

Who can benefit?

  • Vegetarians & vegans

What else can it help with?

  • Lower energy levels
  • Supporting a healthy stress response

How to select the best one:

B vitamins are not all created equal. Look for the words active or methylated on the product label for better absorption and greater effects.

When & how to take it:

B vitamins can easily be taken on their own; however, some B vitamins can cause nausea on an empty stomach. I recommend taking a B complex with breakfast or lunch, and definitely not too late at night since its energy boosting properties can keep you from falling asleep!

  1. Magnesium

This mineral is used in over 300 processes within the body. Although naturally occurring in soil and our environment, levels have diminished over the years and our dietary intake has declined significantly.

Who can benefit?

  • Anyone under high stress

What else can it help with?

  • Anxiety or a tendency to feel nervous
  • Muscle aches & cramps

How to select the best one:

When looking at the label, always check to see what type of magnesium you’re getting. Magnesium is bound to another molecule in order to be stable and absorbed, so the specific type does make a difference. For most people, magnesium (bis)glycinate is the best tolerated and excellent for helping to relax and de-stress the body.

When & how to take it:

Magnesium can be taken anytime, with or without food, but since it naturally has relaxing properties, I tend to prefer it in the evening before bed.

  1. Curcumin

Curcumin comes from the spice turmeric and has been made famous for its anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects. It is a fat-soluble nutrient so it should be taken with food.

Who can benefit?

  • Anyone with joint pain or inflammation

What else can it help with?

  • Improving cognitive function
  • Overall health as an antioxidant

How to select the best one:

Quality is everything when it comes to curcumin. Since this ingredient is difficult for the body to absorb, formulas that are bound to fat or lipid molecules tend to perform best.

When & how to take it:

Curcumin is a fat soluble nutrient and should be taken with food or other fat-containing supplements like omega-3 fish oil. It can be taken at any time of the day. If you’re taking it to reduce pain or inflammation, take your daily dosage 1-2 hours before any strenuous activity.

  1. Multivitamin

Whether you eat a healthy diet or not, a multivitamin is an excellent way to make sure you take in regular amounts of hard-to-get nutrients like zinc, iron and copper.

Who can benefit?

  • Pregnant women or women thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Anyone over the age of 50
  • Picky eaters
  • Vegetarians & vegans

How to select the best one:

Multivitamins include all common vitamins and minerals. However, there is only a limited about of ‘real estate’ inside each capsule, so look for formulas that require at least 2 capsules per day for the most comprehensive product. Also, ingredients sourced from whole food extracts have been shown to be well absorbed and easily digested.

When & how to take it:

A high quality complete multivitamin should be taken just before eating, ideally with breakfast and/or dinner.

  1. Vitamin C

It’s not just from oranges! This vitamin is plentiful in leafy green vegetables, peppers, and kiwis, but sometimes we need a bit of an extra boost to help support the body. This vitamin plays an important role in immune system heath (when taken regularly) and collagen formation in the skin, joints and gums, plus it helps to better absorb iron!

Who can benefit?

  • Those with frequent colds/flus
  • Anyone taking an iron supplement

What else can it help with?

  • Anti-aging support for the skin

How to select the best one:

I often suggest a powered version to get higher dosages (1000mg or more per serving) in a tasty drink when mixed with water. Vitamin C is best when taken at lower dosages 2-3x per day so keeping a chewable form on hand is also a great idea.

When & how to take it:

Vitamin C is water soluble and can be taken anytime, with or without food. If you have a sensitive stomach and are taking more than 1000mg at a time, be sure to take it with food to prevent any mild indigestion.

  1. Calcium

This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood minerals out there! Calcium is known to be the magic ingredient for strong bones but in truth, this is only one of its functions. It helps nerve function, muscle cramps, as well as a healthy blood pressure.

Who can benefit?

  • Anyone over age 40
  • Those with osteoporosis
  • Anyone who limits dairy products or calcium-fortified foods

How to select the best one:

Less is more when it comes to this mineral. Over-supplementing calcium can increase your risk of heart disease and kidney stones so aim for less than 400mg at one time, and less than 1000mg per day is often enough for most.

When & how to take it:

Calcium is often found as part of a bone building or multivitamin supplement, so many of its cofactor nutrients are already contained within the formula. This means you will better absorb the calcium even when taking it without food. If you are taking both a bone building formula plus a multivitamin, separate their dosing: 1 before breakfast and 1 before dinner is recommended.

  1. Digestive Enzyme

Our bodies naturally release molecules to help us break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins that we get from food. However, with stress, rushed eating or simply aging, our bodies produce less of these digestive enzymes. If our food is improperly broken down, we cannot fully absorb its nutrients, and larger undigested food particles can cause digestive upset.

Who can benefit?

  • Anyone with indigestion
  • Those without a gallbladder
  • Anyone over the age of 60

What else can it help with?

  • Gas or bloating with meals

How to select the best one:

First, make sure you don’t have any other reason for your indigestion (ulcer, infection or celiac disease). Selecting a full spectrum digestive enzyme will help to break down fats, proteins and carbs with ease.

When & how to take it:

A digestive enzyme needs to be taken right before or after the first few bites of your meal. This allows the enzymes to break down the food particles fully and maximize the digestion process.

Did we miss any of your top supplements on this list? Feel free to comment below with any questions on which core nutrients you feel can help improve your health!

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Please Keep In Mind

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases. We cannot provide medical advice or specific advice on products related to treatments of a disease or illness. You must consult with your professional health care provider before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, and before taking, varying the dosage of or ceasing to take any medication.

3 Comments
  • Diana M Correia
    Posted at 09:38h, 18 June Reply

    Dr. Laura Belus has been so helpful and gives the greatest advise. I do not know where I would be without her help and knowledge and advise.

    She is the greatest and I recommend everyone ask her for advise.

  • Karen Bermingham
    Posted at 15:18h, 20 June Reply

    Are there any rules for taking certain vitamins like vitamin C with a Cal/Mag supplement? Does one block the absorption of the other?

    • Dr. Laura Belus ND
      Posted at 20:07h, 25 June Reply

      Hello Karen,
      Great question! Certain supplements should be taken together, while others should be kept apart for best absorption. The cal/mag does not interfere with vitamin C absorption so they can be taken at the same time– with or without food!

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