Making Up For Deficiencies In Our Food Supply
Supplementing our diets with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are just not available in our food supply is important. Especially if we want to feel optimal health and vitality... Which is more than just the absence of symptoms or a diagnosis.
In this post I break down my most frequently prescribed supplements to replenish the biggest deficiencies in our local food supply.
If you thought you could get everything your body needs for optimal in just your food, you're not alone. Many of my patients believe this and resist supplementation. In fact, I used to think the same thing too...
But I was wrong. When I started using some basic supplements to replenish the nutrients typically low in our local food supply, my patients and I myself started feeling better and healing faster. (If you are interested in reading more about why these nutrients are low, you can read about it in this blog post.)
Here are my most frequently prescribed wellness basics.
(**Please be aware this is not to be construed as medical advice for your unique situation. Please consult with your Naturopathic Doctor if these items are appropriate for you. If you need an Naturopathic Doctor, you're in luck! I'm accepting new patients.**)
01. VITAMIN D
The sunshine vitamin! You body produces it naturally when skin is exposed to sunlight. The problem is, those of us in Canada (especially St. John's/Avalon) just don't get enough exposure for our bodies to achieve optimal health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition of sub-optimal vitamin D levels where patients experience depression like symptoms. Think of it like a really bad case of the winter doldrums. In addition, vitamin D is critically important in hormonal regulation, muscle and bone health, and in your daily energy.
Dosage: Optimal dosage is a topic of considerable debate. Dosages used in the research generally range from 400IU to 2000IU per day of vitamin D3. Note that D3 is a more potent form that D2, and should not be dosed over 15,000IU per day. Dosage ranges of D2 are higher... and cause some of the debate/confusion over optimal dosing.
02. VITAMIN C
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is involved in immune system function, skin repair, energy production, detoxification, and it's even active in brain chemistry. While severe deficiency of vitamin C is rare in developed nations like Canada, many of us fall short of the optimal level for health. As an interesting aside, humans, guinea pigs, and some types monkeys are the only mammals that do not produce our own vitamin C. We lack one of the enzymes required in its manufacture. So we need to source it in our food...
Dosage: Dosage for optimal functioning depends on the general health status of a person. Meaning... if you have a poor immune system, are actively sick with a flu/cold/infection, or under stress your body needs more. Typically the dosages range between 100-3000mg/day. Be aware that vitamin C also interacts with many drugs, so be extra sure to consult your ND before starting this on your own.
One of the fats nutritionists consider an "essential fatty acid". This means that the body cannot produce it (or enough of it), to maintain health without a dietary source. Paleolithic diets were found to have a ratio of 3 parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3. Thanks to modern agriculture and fishing practice, research shows our current ratio to be more like 20 parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3. (Read: We are getting waaay more omega-6 than omega-3...) This ratio change is leading to health problems, which is why, I think, so many conditions respond well to omega-3 supplementation. Conditions omega-3s are indicated for run the gamut from cardiovascular, dermatological, neurological, gastrointestinal, psychiatric, and rheumatological... did we leave anything out? lol.
Dosage: There are three relevant types of omega-3's to watch for on your product label: ALA, EPA, DHA. Commonly used dosages of fish oil are 1-12g/day, cod liver oil are 5-15mL/day, and flaxseed oil are 5-30mL/day. Keep an eye on the combined total of EPA and DHA levels specifically when dosing... for most conditions this needs to reach at least 1500mg/day. TIP: if you take your omega-3 with a meal, it will reduce the fishy burp effect.
Magnesium is a cofactor for more than 300 different enzymes in your body... it's involved in nerves, heart, muscle, and energy production most notably. Symptoms of a mild/moderate deficiency include anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, muscle cramps/twitches, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, tremor... the list goes on. Low magnesium status in otherwise healthy patients is likely linked to dietary deficiency. The high proportion of nutrient-poor, processed, and refined foods in the typical Western diet is the cause in my opinion. Even if you are eating all your fruits and veggies, magnesium content in conventional produce grown with ammonia-based fertilizer has declined since the 1940s. In other words, you're not eating your grandma's tomatoes.
Dosage: The usual dosage for oral magnesium supplements is 100-750mg/day. There are a variety of different types of magnesium preparations. Typically I recommend a magnesium citrate, since citrate is vitamin C and is often required anyhow.
Probiotics are supplementation of friendly bacteria. If you didn't know it, you have bacteria crawling all through your GI tract. In fact the human body has more bacterial cells in it than human cells! They are required to help with immune function, digestion, vitamin and mineral levels and a host of other uses... The gut flora (sum total of GI bacteria) have a delicate balance that keeps you healthy. It gets upset when you are sick, taking medications, eating too much sugar, or have dietary sensitivities. After and during a period of upset supplementing them can make a big difference in your severity of symptoms and recovery time.
Dosage: It really depends on your situation. Different symptoms and conditions require different bacterial strains to be balanced/replaced, and the dosage depends on the type of bacteria. That said, probiotic (i.e. fermented) foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi will keep a healthy gut flora stable. If it's a mild case of upset, typical supplement dosing ranges from 2-12 billion c.f.u./day of a good multi-strain probiotic formula. Please see your Naturopathic Doctor for a individualized prescription on this one.
So there you have it! My top 5 most frequently prescribed supplements that help to top up your nutrient status when our food supply just won't cut it. Of course, if you have any specific concerns that you'd like addressed this basic protocol can be changed to suit your unique situation. If you'd like to explore that together, I'd be happy to see you in the clinic.
Dr. Laura Nurse ND is a Naturopathic Physician living, writing, and working in St. John's, NL, alongside the health professionals at Avalon Laser Health Physiotherapy and Wellness. Her goal is to help people just like you learn to use diet, lifestyle, and natural medicines at home, so that you can get relief from their symptoms and create a healthier, happier body. Her website is: www.drlauranurse.ca