Supplements You Should Be Taking But Aren't
Is the stress of daily life having an impact on your health and nutrition?
Posted June 16, 2020 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
As supplements have grown in popularity over the years, it is important to clarify which are healthy and which may put you at risk. We know that supplements play a clear role in overall health by supporting our nutrition, which today is often void of essential nutrients, heavily processed, and often contaminated with pesticide toxins. It is therefore important that we are aware of which supplements are safe and beneficial.
Because the supplement industry is highly unregulated, a consumer purchasing over-the-counter supplements has no way of knowing some of the additives nor whether the active ingredient is standardized to effective doses. Additionally, these commonly found supplements often contain problematic additives, dyes, fillers, and preservatives, and in some cases, have even been seized by the FDA due to contaminants. Due to these gaps in regulation, it is highly recommended that one chooses high-grade medical supplements — which are standardized based on the studies to prove their efficacy (and often also third-party tested) — over drugstore vitamins.
With that being said, there are still a variety of common questions surrounding supplements. People want to know the most crucial supplements to take, which can help with overall health, and which can help us prevent serious health conditions.
As each person is unique, the answers to these frequently asked questions certainly vary, but some things do remain constant. While there are many outside factors that make each person’s needs individualized to them, stress is a burden that many of us bear, especially those with high responsibility jobs and very busy lifestyles. This has therefore narrowed down a few key supplements that may be advisable for everyday use in American society.
The ingredients in a multivitamin are intended to support nutritional gaps, as there is much we are unable to get from our conventional diets. These include B complex vitamins such as the necessary vitamin B12, which assist in our energy levels and cognitive function while helping manage stress. Vitamin C is also commonly found in multivitamins, and has numerous benefits, from bone and cartilage formation to helping in our arterial and vascular health. Multiple conditions including death from heart disease have been associated with vitamin C deficiency, making it an important vitamin to consider incorporating. Vitamin A is another crucial one necessary for skin and mucosal health, as it relates to cell turnover. So many Americans remain deficient in key nutrients, and a multivitamin may be an excellent way to incorporate them into one’s supplement regimen.
Adaptogens happen to be some of the most popular supplements today, given their effect on regulating our stress hormone, cortisol. Excess cortisol from chronic stress or lack of sleep ties directly into inflammation and our sex hormone production. As a result, this has been shown to diminish testosterone and sex hormone balance. Adaptogens can be very useful in this arena, as they contribute to the breakdown of cortisol into its less active form, cortisone, while improving energy. Ashwagandha and rhodiola are two examples of some of the more well-studied adaptogens. These have shown to boost athletic performance, mental work capacity, and even improve sex drive, likely as a result of managing the overproduction of cortisol.
Blood Sugar Control With Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and Chromium
With increasing rates of chronic disease in America, diabetes and pre-diabetes are topping our charts. These are known risk factors for heart disease, but several other health-related conditions, such as memory and cognitive decline. Blood sugar breaks down into highly inflammatory products that damage our mitochondria and therefore change the energy production of virtually every cell in our body. By simply lowering blood sugar to <90 mg/dl studies show this to be associated with lower heart disease and earlier death.
ALA: This supplement has been shown to improve blood sugar regulation by way of acting on insulin at the level of our cells. This has been shown not only to help in regulating blood sugar levels but is a powerful antioxidant helping to improve nerve damage associated with elevated blood sugar levels, as well as lower cholesterol.
Chromium: Chromium is a natural metal which has many proven health benefits. It has been shown to help improve blood sugar tolerance, as well as lean body mass in human studies. However, today most diets contain less than 60% of the minimum suggested intake, making it another excellent addition to a supplement regimen.
These three categories of supplements may rank among some of the most important for individuals in our modern society. As always, you should first speak with your doctor before incorporating new supplements into your diet, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or potential undiagnosed conditions or are on any medications. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, supplements are doubly as important to discuss with your healthcare provider. As heart disease is the number one health concern in America with cognitive health ranks not far behind, this may help as a general starting point. As a specialist in Integrative & Functional Medicine it is always the best advice to 'test, not guess' when it comes to what your body needs. Today such specialists routinely perform these evaluations to check what you specifically may be deficient in, therefore, being more personalized of an approach.
Anderson RA. Chromium as an essential nutrient for humans. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1997;26(1 Pt 2):S35‐S41. doi:10.1006/rtph.1997.1136
Shenoy S, Chaskar U, Sandhu JS, Paadhi MM. Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012;3(4):209‐214. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.104444
Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(2-3):95‐105. doi:10.1078/094471103321659780