Supplements. There’s a million of them. And Harvest Market carries over 2000 choices, with at least 10 times that amount available to us through special orders from vitamin manufacturers and distributors. Shopping for supplements can be an overwhelming experience, whether you are new to taking vitamins or have been a pill popper for decades. Hopefully, this article will help make it easier to choose which supplements might be best for you and your family.
If you don’t take supplements, great! The first step towards better health can be simply asking yourself what you can do without. We all intrinsically know that there are at least a few things we are doing to ourselves which can have a negative effect on our health. Pick one: Inflammatory foods; processed foods; sugar; alcohol; cigarettes; carbohydrate overload; worry; guilt; blame; lack of forgiveness; lack of sleep. Improve or remove at least 1 of these self-destructive habits and you put into motion a chain of events which can lead to overall improved wellness and personal happiness. Really.
If you are in general good health and can get all the nutrition your body needs to flourish and thrive by eating organic vegetables and fruit, consuming wild caught fish, pastured grass-fed meats and dairy, and you know what foods to avoid, then you’re probably good to go. That being said, there is still usually room in one’s health regimen for improvement. If you are thinking of supplementation, I highly recommend the following list as a good starting point:
A Multiple Vitamin. Taking a multi is probably a good idea. Think of them as a relatively inexpensive Wellness Insurance Policy. Even with strict attention to our diets, we can definitely benefit from a little extra support with some nutrients we may be lacking or need in higher amounts for therapeutic reasons. Ideally, a multiple vitamin should be a vitamin you take multiple times a day, (twice), and should be either food-based or a high-quality USP source. There are now a number of personalized multi’s for men and women, delivering condition specific combinations for varying age groups and needs.
I take (and tend to recommend) Garden of Life’s myKind Organics Men’s Multi 40+, or Natural Factors Whole Earth and Sea Men’s 50+. Both are Non-GMO Project Verified, and, in the case of the myKind, Organic, Vegan and Gluten Free. MegaFood also offers Whole Food multi-vitamin options, utilizing a combination of farm fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs, along with a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The yeast is essentially fed a diet of USP vitamins and minerals. The process makes those individual vitamins and minerals more bioavailable, or more easily digestible. Think of it like marinating a chicken in yogurt: The yogurt makes the chicken tender by pre-digesting it. Or maybe don’t think of it like that at all, now that I think about it.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Fish Oil. Ideally, eat wild caught fish 3 to 4 times a week. Be sure to include sardines and mackerel in your diet. But not everyone likes fish or can afford to eat it 4 times a week. Supplementing with a high-quality, 3rd party tested, purified Omega-3 is the best option. This is the one supplement everyone could benefit from, with literally thousands of clinically tested and proven results ranging from cardiovascular support to improving joint function, mood and brain health, allergies, eczema, and overall immune system support. We typically get plenty of Omega 6 and 9’s from our Standard American Diet, but we are generally deficient in Omega-3’s. About 2-3 grams (usually measured as 2000mg to 3000mg) a day would be considered a therapeutic dose.
I like Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil. Derived from 100% wild-caught Arctic cod and 3rd party tested, it surpasses the strictest international standards for purity and freshness. 2 teaspoons daily (with food) supply just over 2 grams of EPA and DHA, in addition to naturally occurring vitamins A and D. Yes, it can be added to smoothies, but try it off the spoon first. This is not your grandmother’s Cod Liver Oil, (which was probably rancid). Or you can try Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega soft gels, delivering 1280mg of Omega-3’s per serving from anchovies and sardines.
Vegan? Well, that can be tricky. Barlean’s Flax Oil supplies over 7600 mg of Omega 3’s (as Alpha Linolenic Acid) per tablespoon. Of course, the body has to break that down into usable DHA and EPA. The overall conversion efficiency from ALA to EPA (plus DHA combined) is estimated to be only about 12% in humans, so I would consider using lignan-rich flax oil for its own inherent nutritional value and not as your main Omega-3 supplement source.
Turmeric/Curcumin. You have been hearing a lot about the health benefits of this amazing culinary spice over the past few years, (it’s been used for centuries!), and this will probably continue in the years to come. Again, this supplement offers myriad benefits. Using the spice by itself is not the best choice for therapeutic use, however.
Here’s the key: Think of turmeric as a healthy Super Food. A spice with benefits. Add it to your soups, or try golden milk, or take one or two capsules or tablets a day as part of that Wellness Insurance Policy I mentioned earlier.
Think of curcumin, an extract of turmeric, as something not unlike a Therapeutic Healing Medicine. There is a case to be made for using both, daily, and I do just that. There are a number of supplement companies which offer outstanding turmeric and/or curcumin products. Let’s look at some of them.
For a turmeric supplement, I like New Chapter’s Turmeric Force, which uses the full spectrum of phytonutrients inherent in the turmeric rhizome. With a Supercritical CO2 extraction method, New Chapter believes in a “whole food” approach, concentrating nearly 4000 milligrams of whole turmeric into one 400 mg liquid vegetarian v-cap. New Chapter’s Turmeric Force is also Non-GMO Project Verified.
I also use and recommend Garden of Life’s myKind Extra Strength Turmeric. Its Turmeric Root Extract is standardized to 95% curcuminoids, with added Fermented Turmeric (yielding 100mg curcuminoids), Fermented Ginger, Black Pepper, and a special Probiotic Blend. This too is Organic, Vegan, and Non-GMO Project verified. And at over 600mg per tablet, one a day ought to do it.
Gaia also has some wonderful offerings, as well as Himalaya. Oh, and Oregon’s Wild Harvest. In fact, all of the turmeric supplements we carry are worthy of their real estate shelf space, and each one is a little bit different. Experiment. Enjoy. Discuss.
Now, let’s talk about curcumin. The great thing about curcumin is that it is one of the best anti-inflammatories and powerful antioxidants on the planet! (And remember, it’s been said that at least 95% of all disease starts with inflammation!). The trouble with curcumin is that it is very hard to absorb. Supplement companies try everything to make it more bio-available, from adding BioPerine, (a so-so solution), mixing it with lots of solvents like Polysorbate 80, (maybe not such a good idea, really), or binding the molecules to lipids like phosphatidylcholine (effective, but rather old school).
Terry Naturally CuraMed uses the patented BCM-95 form of curcumin, which takes the concentrated curcumin extract and adds essential oils of turmeric into it. This enhancement not only improves absorption, but blood retention as well (about 12 hours), and gives the body a context for what to do with it. It also delivers turmerones, compounds found in the oil that are beneficial for your health in a variety of ways. BCM-95 is the most clinically studied enhanced absorption curcumin in the world. It is the one that is featured in all Terry Naturally curcumin supplements because it delivers consistent results, again and again.
Take CuraMed for any inflammatory state, including all types of arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis, bursitis… in fact, just about anything that ends with “itis.” It is also well documented in support of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other brain disorders. It is also useful for lung and liver disease, IBS, and other digestive disorders. The studies and research of curcumin are ongoing, and BCM-95, (soon to be rebranded as “CurcuGreen” in North America), is leading the way.
If it’s pain relief we’re talking about, as in joint pain from osteoarthritis, or from “over-doing it,” or just the aches and discomforts that can come with “growing wiser,” (ahem), then Terry Naturally Curamin is the optimal choice for supplementation. I take 3 a day, every day. And in times of injury or really bad inflammatory flare-ups (hip pain, knee pain, back pain, pain pain), you can take 6 a day (2 with each meal) for 4 to 6 days to really target the source of inflammation and get things under control. Keep in mind, Curcumin is fat soluble, so always take either your CuraMed or Curamin with a meal that contains fat. (If you are fasting or skipping a meal, then just have a piece or two of cheese or a couple nuts. You don’t HAVE to, but it’s absorbed better if you do.) In addition to the curcumin and turmeric essential oils in Curamin, Terry Naturally adds boswellia, nattokinase, and DLPA (an amino acid that helps with endorphin production in the brain.) Simply put, there is nothing quite like it. And it works.
Probiotics. They are so much more than just bacteria for your digestive system. The quick takeaway: They help break down and digest food and improve the absorption of nutrients in that food. Think of the bacteria in your gut (and your entire body, actually), as one of the most important connections we have to the biological ground of all being. This idea has been labeled “The Human Microbiome.” It is a vast and evolving collection of hundreds of trillions of microbial organisms living in and on the human body. A mysterious collective of communication between our bellies and our brains, our hearts and minds, between one another, even between the animals and plants around us. These bacteria are a constantly changing micro-universe which has a profound influence on our biological and psychological systems. It is real. It is amazing, and it is happening all the time.
Poetic license aside, Probiotics demonstrate the delicate relationships between our digestive health, our immune system functions and the optimum health of our brains. I can’t say enough about this important, intrinsic balance.
Post-World War II, with the increase of hospital births, cesarean births, and the over-use of antibiotics and pesticides, there has been a documented decrease in our over-all digestive bacterial amounts. In fact, the guts of the average American can contain as little as half the bacteria found in the guts of contemporary tribal cultures. This is not a good thing, and can only lead to more and more digestive disorders, if not an outright zombie apocalypse. (Okay, I’m kidding. A little…) And eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kefir is good, but not good enough. Again, we need therapeutic amounts and strains of bacteria which can survive our harsh stomach acids to make it into the intestines where they can thrive.
Which brings us to Just Thrive Probiotics: 4 amazing strains of Bacillus “spore” bacteria, (spore referring to their outer shells, which keep them alive but dormant until they wake up in our intestines, which is their home). Those who have heard me speak of Just Thrive Spore Probiotics know I can go on and on, so here are the facts:
- They survive the stomach acids over 1000X better than probiotic foods and the leading probiotics.
- Once in the intestines, they seek out “bad” bacteria and pathogens, which they can neutralize. They also seek out the “good” bacteria, which they nurture and support and give hugs and hi-fives.
- They deliver beneficial antioxidants directly into the bloodstream. And not just trace amounts: Measurable, therapeutic levels of CoQ10, alpha and beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, astaxanthin, and zeaxanthin, and more.
- Just Thrive reduces gas production in the presence of fiber by 50%, and converts that fiber into short-chain fatty acids, dramatically expanding its nutritional benefit.
- Increases our T-regulatory cells which help suppress unfavorable immune reactions, like allergies and autoimmune diseases.
- Helps elevate serotonin levels in the gut, where 90% of serotonin is produced. That means taken regularly, they can help manage stress, anxiety and improve mood.
- After 21 days or so grooming and cleaning and thriving, they find themselves in the colon where once again their shells emerge and they go dormant, ready for their next big adventure as they exit our bodies.
One Just Thrive a day with food can make all the difference, whether it’s supporting leaky gut syndrome, IBS, or any number of digestive (and other) issues. In times of serious distress, like food poisoning or a stomach virus, or after taking rounds and rounds of antibiotics, you can take 3 at once every day for a few days, and send battalions of Bacillus Cells into the gut to address what’s going on. No refrigeration is needed. They can survive upwards of 455 degrees. In fact, you can even bake with them!
I also really like Dr. Ohhira’s, which are probiotics fermented for 3 years in cultures of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and seaweeds. They also do not require refrigeration, can be chewed and swallowed to bring immediate relief to the stomach or taken once a day with water for a more gradual intestinal release, and are an absolute must when traveling. They contain a patented blend of prebiotic whole foods, 12 select strains of living probiotics (serenaded by Mozart. Seriously. These are some cultured bacteria), and postbiotic metabolites, which include amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, all of which provide added nutrition and digestion assistance.
Harvest Market carries over 60 probiotics of various strains, strengths, sizes and formulas for men, women, seniors, children, and infants.
Vitamin D-3. Our planet revolves around a star. We are stardust. We are golden. Yes, to all that Age of Aquarius transcendence. What it really means is that we are built to take in some sunshine now and then. We are made for it. The best way to get Vitamin D is to spend 20 minutes a day at high noon completely nude basking in the sunlight. However, this can be a little difficult to achieve if its cloudy or during the dead of winter. And it’s not easy the further away from the equator you live. (It also depends on what kind of neighbors you have.) Therefore, supplementation is highly recommended.
Vitamin D-3 can help build and support bone strength by enhancing calcium absorption. It helps to regulate mineral concentrations of calcium and phosphorus in the body while supporting muscle health and the immune system. D-3 can also help with depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), heart disease, immune system support, improve memory, lower blood sugar, keep mothers and babies healthy during pregnancy, and even increase HDL numbers and lower LDL numbers for cholesterol. Recent studies suggest it can reduce the risk of cancer because it decreases cell multiplication and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
The only way to tell if you are deficient in Vitamin D-3 is to have your doctor order a blood test to measure your D-3 levels. That being said, it is no surprise in this age of office jobs and indoor exercise that many people find themselves falling short of ideal D-3 levels. In fact, 93% of Americans are failing to consume adequate vitamin D-3 from food sources (including fortified foods), and this shortcoming has led to approximately 1/2 (I would argue upwards of 75%) of Americans having insufficient or deficient vitamin D-3 levels. This is an important nutrient gap issue impacting individuals of all ages, from children to the elderly.
Nearly all supplemental Vitamin D-3 comes from sheep’s wool, or lanolin (which is called cholecalciferol in supplement form), and we have many such formulas to choose from. We also carry plant-based vegan D-3 sourced from lichen by Garden of Life in a vanilla flavored 1000IU spray. I usually recommend Solgar Vitamin D-3 2200 IU, twice a day, or the 5000 IU from Bluebonnet once a day. Also noteworthy (and vegetarian) is Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw D-3, a whole-food based D-3 supplement made with a raw organic fruit and vegetable blend, along with chlorella, probiotics, and enzymes. The “raw” means no high heat, no synthetic binders, fillers, artificial flavors, colors or additives. And definitely no sheep. (And be sure to get some Vitamin A, maybe from your Multi, when taking Vitamin D-3.)
So, there you have it: The Top 5 Supplements worthy of your consideration which can help you to feel a little bit better, maybe even a lot better, and may improve the quality of your overall health and well-being.
There are a few additional supplements which were in the running for this short list, and deserving of our further attention:
- There’s the popular adaptogenic root ashwagandha, good for helping the body adapt to stress and build vitality. I love Organic India and Garden of Life’s offerings.
- Fiber is a good idea too. It helps you, well, you know; go. If doing Low-Carb or trying Keto, a fiber supplement is almost mandatory. Harvest Market has many options here. Find one that works for you, and keep taking it. With plenty of water.
- There’s magnesium, which everybody seems deficient in these days, due in no small part to the depletion of minerals and nutrients from the soil. 400mg daily is about right. Again, we have many to choose from. Divided doses are probably best to consider rather than taking 400mg all at once, unless that’s your thing, in which case, go slowly or you’ll “go” quickly.
- A comprehensive immune system boosting mushroom supplement can be a good addition. I like Host Defense MyCommunity, which contains 18 different medicinal mushrooms such as chaga, maitake, reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail, and lion’s mane. Two a day, divided. Or, during periods of seasonal challenge (i.e. everyone around you is sick and you’re starting to feel “funny”), try 4 to 6 a day.
- And one might consider supplementing with some high-quality grass-fed collagen peptides like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes Collagen Hydrosolate. These collagens are processed in such a way that makes their molecules smaller and more absorbable than the collagen you would get from homemade bone broth. Unflavored, they mix easily into your smoothie, coffee, or golden milk. Great for the daily support of hair, skin, and nails, as well as joint and digestive support. (Not that there’s anything wrong with drinking bone broth, mind you!)
- Of course, Vitamin C (remember Linus Pauling?) is an old stand-by and deserves to be in everyone’s supplement cabinet in amounts of 1000mg or more daily. Ester-C® uses its patented Ester-C® which is known for being gentle, pH balanced and effective with absorption. This product is also formulated with a citrus bioflavonoid complex to assist the body’s utilization and absorption of Vitamin C. I take 1 twice a day with food, especially during cold and flu season.
Oh, and then there’s… No. Wait. I’d better edit myself a little here. This list can go on and on. Just come in and look around. Ask our friendly and knowledgeable staff members your questions. If we don’t have the answer (or the supplement), we will do our best to find it. We’re always here to help.
Before we’re done, there is 1 more thing you can do, starting right now, today, to improve the quality of your life:
Take your sleep seriously.
Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. Give yourself the gift of sleeping 6 to 8 hours a night. If you are having trouble sleeping (the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic), make it a priority to find out why and fix it. (You might have to really work at this. It’s okay. It will be worth it.) Avoid sugar and large meals late at night. Turn off the screens. Don’t take your phone to bed. That’s just weird. And please, don’t watch the news before bed!
No supplement or exercise regimen will ever have as much of a dynamic impact on the quality of your health as a good night’s sleep and a satisfied mind. Happy dreaming!
-Henry, Former Wellness Manager