If you popped a vitamin with your breakfast, you’re one of thousands of Americans who take some type of nutritional supplement. The daily multivitamin has been around for decades and continues to be a popular addition to a potentially insufficient diet. Yet more and more people are turning to a wide array of ‘nutraceuticals,’ food-derived nutritional supplements, and various combinations of vitamins, minerals and herbs to improve health and prevent disease.
Research on many of these is underway, however, supplement labels contain some form of the following: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
Despite this precautionary statement, many health care professionals recommend supplements to support health and improve various medical conditions. We asked three of them to talk about their favorites, and while recommendations varied, vitamin D was a stand-out on each list.
“I usually recommend 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D, coupled with 600 mg of calcium to be taken twice a day,” says Dr. Victoria Cornelius, an associate professor of general internal medicine at St. Louis University. “The number of patients I have who are vitamin D deficient is surprising.” She notes that the vitamin “helps to put calcium into the bones. Side effects can include mild constipation due to the calcium, but this amount is generally tolerated very well by most patients,” she says.
Any supplement should be discussed with your primary-care physician, especially if you take other medications, Cornelius warns. “Also, there is no substitute for a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.” That said, Cornelius also recommends:
•1,000 mg fish oil per day. “Generally, brands made with anchovies or cold-water fish contain the oil shown to decrease inflammation and some of the fats in the bloodstream. This supplement is well-tolerated except for some belching. Taken with food, that is minimized.”
•500 mg glucosamine and 400 mg chondroitin sulfate three times a day for mild to moderate degenerative joint pain. “It generally takes a few months before significant benefit has been appreciated. Mild side effects can include some stomach irritation.”
•400 mg of magnesium per day. “This mineral helps with constipation and mild migraines. There are studies to show some benefit with asthma, although this is controversial. Coupled with vitamin D and calcium, these minerals are helpful for the body’s mineral balance.”
•B-stress vitamins. “These vitamins are needed when the body is under stress and the metabolic processes are increased due to increased stress hormones. This can also help with mild to moderate acne. Ask your doctor about doses.”
David Peterson, D.C., of Wellness Alternatives, recommends a vitamin D supplement that is absorbed under the tongue “and a specific supplement protocol to reduce inflammation.” Among his picks:
•Iodine. “This is one of the sacraments of alternative medicine for thyroid treatment. If a patient is truly primary hypothyroid, iodine will be effective because it is needed for T4 production, but excess iodine suppresses thyroid hormone synthesis.” Peterson recommends iodine only after testing has determined the cause of thyroid imbalance.
•Flax seed oil is “useful in helping insulin bind to receptor sites.” However, people who are insulin-resistant may exacerbate an inflammatory response with flax seed, evening primrose or borage oil.
•Arnica/calendula blend to decrease bruising and swelling after trauma. “Healing AC Cream is a homeopathically prepared topical cream. It can be used for relief of minor symptoms, such as scratches, bruises, rashes, sprains, muscle pulls, sunburns and dry skin.
•Leopard’s bane as a muscular tonic after traumatic injuries, and marigold as a healing agent for open wounds, ulcers and healing after tooth extractions.
Chiropractor Cheryl Shea of Complete Wellness Center also recommends enzymes to her patients, as well as vitamin D, which she doses based on the patient’s blood chemistry, and fish oil, which she recommends at a minimum dose of 2,000 mg per day, “Unless we eat a predominantly raw diet, our body can’t begin to produce enough enzymes, which help digest food and help other crucial bodily reactions such as reducing painful inflammation,” she says. Dosages will vary based on the patient’s diet.