As a wellness doctor, I get a lot of questions about what supplements to take. My first reaction is to get someone eating clean as quickly as possibly. When a patient comes into my office, whether they are a man, woman, pregnant or postpartum, I make sure they are eating real food. This means grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range chicken, organic or local fruits and vegetables and plenty of good fats like avocados. If someone is having a difficult relationship with food, then I start him or her on the Whole9 Life’s Whole30 Program. It is exactly what it sounds like — 30 days of a complete nutrition clean-up. We also discuss a few lifestyle modifications to practice during these 30 days. This plan of attack works for a professional athlete as well as a weekend warrior. The difference in each approach is determined by the initial consult and carried out through each week’s specific individual programming.
Once they have completed the Whole30 Program (with lifestyle modifications included), that’s when we begin to talk about introducing foods back into their diet and about supplementation. While doing the nutrition clean-up, there are three things that I feel every human being needs without question: omega-3s, probiotics and vitamin D.
Our current food supply does not support adequate consumption of omega-3s as compared to omega-6s. Even if you are eating a clean diet, chances are your omega-3-to-omega-6 ratios are not 1:1. I consume grass-fed beef on a regular basis and wild caught fish at least four times a week, and I supplement with Original Nutritionals Functional O3 on a daily basis. I test my omega-3 levels regularly now, and they continue to stay 1:1. If you body is dominant in omega-6s, then I guarantee there is inflammation in your body and you are not as healthy as you could/should be.
Omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and postpartum is safe, and it’s a must. Omega-3 fatty acids are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids. More than half of the brain is made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids that regulate inflammation and provide neural support. These fatty acids are critical for growth and development in a growing fetus, a newborn, as well as a high performance athlete. EPA (eiocosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two of the significant omega-3s. EPA and DHA occur naturally together and work together in the body, but have very distinct effects on the body. EPA supports the heart and the immune system.
Omega-3s are best absorbed via the food we eat. Therefore, consume grass-fed beef and cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and anchovies. And supplement your clean food diet with the clean fish oil.
Now, let’s move on to the gut. Our gastrointestinal health is pretty much the game-changer as far as the effectiveness of our immune system. It makes up at least 70 percent of the immune system. Our intestinal flora or gut biome communicates with and informs our immune system. It’s composed of good and bad foreign microbes living in harmony with us. The idea is that everything is in harmony and functioning optimally. The intestinal lining is like the gate keep, so when it has to spend more time fighting off riff-raff, then it cannot communicate to the immune system as efficiently as possible.
One way to support your gastrointestinal health is by consuming probiotics. Start with real-food products such as kraut, kimchi or eventually yogurt from a raw dairy source. I try to add kraut into my meals at least three to four times a week. There are tons of probiotic-rich foods, so find the ones that suit your taste buds. If someone has recently been on an antibiotic or just not in his or her optimal health, then I suggest a round of probiotic supplementation. To be clear, I only do this after the Whole30 Program. If someone needs multiple rounds of probiotic supplementation, then we do this at different times. There is no increased benefit to being on a continuous probiotic supplementation. Give your body a chance to adapt and excel.
And lastly, I want to discuss vitamin D. All too often I see people popping vitamin D pills, pharmaceutical grade or store-bought supplements, without an objective. Vitamin D is basically a group of vitamins that are precursors to many hormones and particularly important to endocrine health and immune function. More times than not, if you have adrenal issues, then you probably have vitamin D issues. Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 are the most common forms of vitamin D. As I mentioned before, lifestyle modifications play a key role. One can obtain vitamin D from sunlight and certain foods like mackerel, oysters, sardines and egg yolks. Therefore, if you are stuck inside at a desk all day, get out and walk around for 20 minutes a day. Go get coffee, lunch or just walk.
Before supplementing with vitamin D, I recommend getting your vitamin D levels tested (25-hydroxy-vitamin D). Every individual is different, and different seasons will have an effect on your vitamin D levels. I recommend testing your vitamin D levels quarterly for the first year. That way you have some sort of baseline and can do trial and error from there.
Each individual metabolizes vitamin D differently based on various things going on within their bodies. The RDA of 600 IU vitamin D may not be ideal for everyone. Some individuals may need significantly more and some may need far less. This is why testing your levels and tinkering with them is ideal. The same vitamin D protocol does not work for everyone, and it may take you a year to determine the ideal protocol for yourself. I advise finding a wellness doctor near you to work with you on this project.
There you have it. These are three things that nearly human being could benefit from adding into their lifestyle. As I mentioned before, start with cleaning up the diet, then including more real-food options. Only after you have tried those two things should you think about supplementation. When you think you need to supplement, I advise finding a wellness practitioner or Paleo physician who will do blood testing and omega-3 testing. Establishing a baseline for your health is just as important as it is when testing performance in the gym.
— Lindsey Mathews