Choosing vitamins and supplements can be incredibly confusing. I could write for days about how to find just the right ones for a particular need or issue, but instead I want to offer a few things you need to know about choosing your own supplements and then share a list of my favorites.
First, did you know that for a vitamin to be labeled “natural” only ten percent actually has to be natural? The other 90% can be synthetic!
Synthetic nutrients manufactured in a lab are different from the ones found in nature and are often used simply because they’re cheaper. In their naturally-occurring state, vitamins always appear in a synergistic complex, balanced with other nutritional cofactors and in the right biological concentrations. Our bodies can only utilize vitamins as they naturally occur in food, regardless of whether they’re water soluble or fat soluble. So while synthetic vitamins are cheaper, they usually don’t have identical effects on our bodies and can sometimes actually cause harm.
Here are some examples:
Vitamin C never occurs in an isolated form in nature – it’s always accompanied by natural complex nutrients which are essential for vitamin C’s bioactivity. The synthetic form, ascorbate, is an isolated form which the body can’t properly utilize alone.
Vitamin B6 provides fabulous support for the adrenal glands and helps maintain a healthy nervous system. But the synthetic form of B6 – pyridoxine – has been shown to cause liver damage when used in long term “therapeutic” dosages (over 200 mg/day).
Chromium, in its natural form, is a mineral that can help control blood sugar levels. But most chromium you’ll find on the market is a synthetic version called “chromium picolinate” which doesn’t work the same way in the body because it’s not in a natural form.
Even worse, when you buy a supplement from a company without knowing exactly where the nutrients come from, you run the risk of completely wasting your money.
The New York Times reported in 2015 that the “New York State attorney general’s office accused four major retailers on Monday of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves. The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.”
This is also why it’s not a great idea to purchase supplements from places like Amazon – it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll get.
Standard Process is one of our favorite brands we use for our clients at Our Well House, but you can only purchase them from a practitioner’s office. Standard Process has found people selling their products on Amazon, but those those companies selling on Amazon are doing so against Standard Process’ policy and some were found to be selling bottles that didn’t actually contain the items on the label. I highly recommend purchasing all supplements from a nutritional practitioner, or from another trusted source online.
Update: I recently found out that Standard Process has an authorized seller on Amazon. While I think it’s always smart to talk to your practitioner about the dosage recommended, it’s nice to know you can order a Standard Process supplement online if needed!
Another danger associated with taking supplements: many nutrients work synergistically together and most supplements aren’t formulated to keep nutrients in balance in the body.
For example, calcium and magnesium work together. If you take a lot of calcium, it will throw off the balance of magnesium in the body and vice-versa. The same goes for copper and iron, vitamin D and K2, and I could go on and on. I recommend you talk to your nutritionist before consuming specific supplements because they have training on balancing nutrients to work best in our bodies.
As promised, here’s an easy list of some of the best vitamins and supplements:
Vitamin D and K2: It’s important to always take Vitamin D3 and K2 together because they work synergistically in the body. My two favorites are Thorne D3 with K2 and D-Synergy Max, which contains all the vitamin D synergists (K2, A, B6, chromium, magnesium, zinc and boron).
Multi Vitamin: Catalyn from Standard Process is a great option and there is also a Catalyn Chewable for children. It contains vitamins A, C, D, thiamine, riboflavin, B6 along with their co-factors and other whole foods-derived nutrients to support the body. I also highly recommend Biosuperfood F1.
Calcium: Calcium Lactate from Standard Process is the best because it contains the proper 5:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium.
Cod Liver Oil: A high-quality cod liver oil contains vitamins A and D as well as EPA and DHA. This is a great supplement to add in the winter time when we aren’t getting as much sunshine. My two favorite brands are Green Pasture and Standard Process.
HCl: Making sure your stomach produces enough stomach acid is fundamental to good health. Without the right stomach acidity, your body cannot break down your food and utilize the nutrients. My favorite brands: Thorne Betaine HCl & Pepsin or Biotics HCl-Plus. You can also use Moonshine Bitters or apple cider vinegar before each meal to help increase HCl.
Iodine: Iodomere and Promoline Iodine from Standard Process are two of my favorites. Iodomere contains less iodine than Promoline Iodine. Nascent Iodine is also a good option and comes in liquid form. You can also get added iodine into your diet with Dr. Cowan’s Sea Vegetables Powder. If you have thyroid disease and are concerned about consuming any form of iodine, watch this video.
Iron: I prefer Vital Proteins Liver capsules, because liver contains not only iron, but also folate and vitamin B12 – these three nutrients work together. Also, remember that grass-fed beef is rich in iron and easy to add to your diet.
Magnesium: One of the cheapest ways to get extra magnesium into our systems is with an Epsom salt bath. Put 1 cup of Epsom salt in a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes. The magnesium will soak into the body via the skin. If you’re looking for extra magnesium in pill form, I recommend Dr. Ron’s Mag Max.
Prenatal: Cyrofood, Green Pasture Cod Liver Oil with Butter Oil, and Vital Proteins Liver Capsules together make a nice combination for a wide variety of nutrients needed by mother and baby (always consult with your practitioner before taking any supplements). Of course, a nutrient-dense diet overall is paramount!
Probiotics: It’s a good idea to rotate between different probiotics each month to get a variety of probiotic strains for immune system support. My favorites: Ther-Biotic Complete, BioKult, Gut Pro, and ChampPro, or JustThrive (you can use the code ORGANIC15 to save 15%).
Selenium: Selenium + E from Genestra is a good selenium to choose.
Thyroid Support: If you’re struggling with thyroid disease, it’s best to get a personalized supplement protocol, but a general supplement I really like and personally use is Thyroid Complex from Standard Process. It contains the synergistic herbs bladderwrack, ashwagandha and bacopa and well as iodine.
Zinc: Standard Process Zinc Liver Chelate is a good choice. Remember, zinc and HCl work synergistically together, so if you find you’re continually deficient in zinc, ensure your body is making enough stomach acid.
One last thing – it’s important to understand that many medications can cause specific nutrient deficiencies. If you’re on any medication, I would check out this site – enter in the name of the medication and see what deficiencies you might experience as a result of taking that drug.