With so many dietary supplements at the disposal of those seeking good health, determining which ones to take can be a very confusing task. How does one decipher between all of the multiples, antioxidants, herbs, essential fatty acids, and others? All too often, many people (out of nothing more that sheer frustration) end up grabbing anything off the shelf in the hopes that it will provide them with what they need. This would be the equivalent of choosing a car without taking a test drive, or a new home without looking inside.
Each one of us is an incredibly unique work of DNA and cellular composition, and this is just one of many reasons why choosing the right mix of supplements can be confusing. Since no two humans are alike, it stands to reason that no two nutrition regimens will affect two people in exactly the same manner. The simple truth is that it can take many attempts to determine which particular arrangement of dietary supplements works best for your absolutely unique needs.
If there is one characteristic that we all do share, it is that we all have a number of basic nutritional requirements. Long before today’s modern diet, most of the nutrients we needed were easily obtained from food. As time passed and modern diet continues to evolve, the methods in which foods are processed, raised, and cultivated has changed significantly. In fact, a concerning percentage of today’s most popular foods are genetically modified, treated with hormones & preservatives, and exposed to pesticides and other chemical contaminants. The negative manner in which the modern diet has evolved has made it next to impossible to obtain certain nutrients from supplements and other sources.
To help eliminate some of the confusion, let’s explore the big six essential dietary supplements.
Daily Multiple Formula
If you were to take just one supplement, very few would rival the benefit and importance of a good daily multiple. There is a very good reason why we rarely hear these referred to as multi vitamins. Today’s formulas contain not only vitamins and minerals, but enzymes, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, male/female support compounds, herbs, supergreen foods, and more. Multiples are essential for anyone who is not consuming a perfect diet, as they help bridge the nutritional gaps in today’s diet. Even better, there is a multiple for just about everyone these days-men, women, kids, athletes, seniors, diabetics, vegetarians, pregnancy, etc. Choosing a multiple can be just as confusing as choosing a core supplement regimen. Considering the long term importance of the multiple, it might be wise to consult an unbiased expert in nutrition. They will be able to help you identify specific compounds that coincide with your unique needs and goals.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
Thanks in part to the media and scores of loyal users, Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) now teeters on the brink of household names status. And the timing couldn’t be better, because the human body was never intended to function without them. It would be like trying to start a car without motor oil. In short, we call these essential fatty acids for a reason-the body needs them, but can’t make them on their own. This is bad, because without them, the functionality of many systems suffers. The cardiovascular system ends up using saturated fat to construct new cells, cholesterol builds up within the arterial walls, the brain is denied the EFA it needs to function properly, the cellular energy needed to burn fat is missing, and the list just goes on.
If you are limited to taking only one dietary supplement, make it a multiple formula. If you’re in a position to add one more, make that one an Omega-3. Then, take 3,000 mg a day in three divided doses with your larger meals. Another thing–anyone who allows their doctor to prescribe Fish Oil to them should worry less about their heart, and instead, have their head examined. There are dozens of highly-concentrated, meticulously-purified fish oil supplements available at respectable health stores; many of which are more potent than the Rx version, without the side effects.
Antioxidants scour the body looking for unstable molecules in prime cellular position to wreak havoc-compounds more commonly known as free radicals. Free radicals are caused by exposure to airborne toxins, smoke, exhaust, heavy metals, bacteria, and other pathogens. Over time, they can be very damaging to healthy cells and cell cycle development, which can ultimately lead to a number of health concerns. There are many antioxidants available to help counter their effects, including vitamins A, C, E, Selenium, CoQ10, Green Tea, Grape Seed, Resveratrol, Pycnogenol and others. One of the most popular is Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), a highly versatile antioxidant that can travel to any system of the body. ALA is both fat and water soluble, which allows it to fight oxidation within any of the body’s cells.
It is just remarkable to think that enzymes have somehow slipped through the cracks in terms of “fundamental” nutrients. These highly specialized proteins are, in essence, the body’s biological workforce. They transmit messages, build new cells, remove cellular waste, break down foods, and the list just goes on. At conception, each one of us is preprogrammed to produce a very specific number of enzymes throughout of life; a concept known as enzyme potential. When they’re gone, they gone, leaving us at the mercy of our diet to get the enzymes we need. Sadly, today’s modern diet is about as respectable as a corrupt warden. And because it is so poor, we’re forced to exhaust more enzymes than we ever should. Ever wonder why so many Americans are fat, lazy, and unmotivated? My guess is that it has a lot to do with the fact that so many of us are enzyme deficient. The easiest way this is to get in the habit of taking a digestive enzyme with each meal.
I rarely see people lugging enormous sacks of fruit over their shoulder, which has lead me and about a gazillion other nutritionists to believe that we are a society that is grossly deficient in fiber. This is bad. Not only does fiber bulk and swell within the digestive tract to keep things moving along, it also absorbs excess fats and cholesterol before they have a chance to be absorbed into the bloodstream and stored throughout the body. The current recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is between 25 and 30 grams. This, obviously, would amount to an insane amount of romaine lettuce or broccoli. An easier approach would be to supplement the diet with a bulking fiber such as psyllium, pectin, or glucommannan. All three are available in capsules (or powders, if you’re so inclined), and are very effective with minimal side effects. Be sure to drink lots of water, though. Fiber can bulk to 100 times its original size, and the last thing anyone wants is a constricted esophagus.
Probiotics (Acidophilus & Bifidus)
Last but absolutely not least, are probiotics. We’ve all seen the yogurt commercials and heard plenty of people misuse the word “cultures.” But the simple truth is that the human gastrointestinal tract (the small intestines and colon) is a breeding ground of microbial life. Everything we eat, drink, breathe, snort, nibble, lick, and smoke contains toxins and bacteria. Eventually, they all retire in your gut. It’s like a veritable Florida for germs. The body’s total level of health (and this is no exaggeration) is dependent on the ratio of good to bad bacteria that resides within you. If there is more good bacteria than bad, things are generally under control. When the bad outweighs the good, things get ugly. Digestion suffers, the immune system is forced to work overtime, and the body becomes prone to infection, odor, bad skin, exhaustion and many other undesirable conditions.
A poor diet is just one reason why this happens in so many people. Magnifying the epidemic is the fact that today’s physicians rarely, if ever, educate their patients on the importance of repopulating their GI tract with good bacteria after 10 consecutive days of antibiotics. You see, everyone loves antibiotics because the make you better, but what few realize is that antibiotics wipe out every form of bacteria in its path; good and bad. Once the digestive battlefield is barren, most people go back to eating the slop that got them sick in the first place. As a result, the intestines become rife with bad bacteria. It’s a vicious cycle that has helped keep America fat, sick, and sluggish. And for the record, yogurt won’t give you anywhere near the amount of probiotics you need to stay healthy. Get yourself a high potency (5-10 billion live cells) formula, keep it in your refrigerator, and take it 1-2 times a day.
If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed a trend; three of the six most important supplements support the digestive process. This is not by chance. Digestion is an incredibly important, incredibly underrated aspect of human health. Remember, the nutrients we need are absorbed through the walls of the small intestines, not the stomach, as so many seem to believe. If the digestive system is in bad shape, there’s not much hope for the rest of the body. Somewhere along the lines, we got it wrong. We cut out the fat (which we actually need), ditched the carbs (which left us exhausted), and put all of the emphasis on our hearts. No, I’m not knocking the need for cardio, but rather suggesting that we need to give digestion the attention it deserves. It we don’t start taking our digestive health seriously, there is no limit to how obese and sloth-like we can become.
So there you have it – six of the best supplements to get started. Now, just because I’ve suggested these here in this forum doesn’t mean that it’s going to solve all of your health problems. You need to keep in mind that dietary supplements are just that; meant to supplement the diet. If you have any doubts, spend a few bucks and work with a qualified nutritionist. Their advice can be of immeasurable value. The supplements discussed here can serve as a solid foundation to ensure that your core nutrient needs are being met. Eat a balanced diet, keep active, avoid fast food and high fructose corn syrups, and you’ll be well on your way to feeling a helluva lot better.