There is no substitute for a healthy and balanced diet that supports your lifestyle, genetics and biochemistry. Nevertheless, the chances are that if you want to optimise your health and body composition, you are open to targeted supplementation that addresses the major systems of the body. These are the supplements that could be said to be foundational to our health and wellness and from which almost anyone could benefit.
Even if you eat a varied diet filled with loads of whole foods, there are certain nutrients that you probably lack. This can be simply because you are a higher user due to your lifestyle. It could be genetic, which could require you to investigate your complex biochemical network for the best health outcome. We all mention good and bad genetics but we don’t give much thought as to how this may really affect our health and well-being on a daily basis.
It can be difficult to know where to start. For me, there are a few essentials that I fall back on to boost basic needs. The four basic supplements that are the cornerstone of good health are a multivitamin with methylate B12 and folate, vitamin D3, omega-3 fish oil and a probiotic.
A multivitamin helps protect your body against small vitamin and mineral gaps that can occur during times of dietary shortfall. They boost cellular function and supply a little of the essentials for everyday health. I tend to look for a brand that has methylated B12 and folate as well as 30mg of zinc for children and women, and 50mg for men. Vitamin B6 as P-5-P is a bonus as well as added antioxidants CoQ10, NAC and alpha lipoic acid.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D works with many proteins, enzymes and DNA, and plays an essential role in almost all disease prevention pathways. It boosts the immune system, builds bone density and muscle, supports neurotransmitter activity and mood, and is anti-inflammatory. Food sources are very limited and mostly it is absorbed from midday sun exposure through the skin and often referred to as the sunshine vitamin despite it actually being a pro-hormone.
The daily requirement is much more than is recommended but guessing your intake can lead to toxicity as recent studies have shown impacting bone, joint issues and leg pain. Ideally, your levels should be in the range of 50 to 80ng/ml.
3. Omega-3 fish oil
Fish oil contains essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and is absolutely necessary for good health as well as the outside lipid layer of all cells to allow for better signalling between them. This is tied up with insulin sensitivity, which is when cells lose touch with glucose uptake, causing glucose damage to haemoglobin and increasing fatigue. Fish oils support your body’s ability to prevent chronic diseases and help protect it against inflammation. It is involved in all aspects of health and wellness. In short, fish oil is seriously good stuff, but as with vitamin D, you cannot make your own omega-3 fatty acids, making it an everyday food.
A level to aim for is between 1 to 3g per day, and depends on how much oily fish you are eating. There are a number of options from omega-3 oil, cod liver and krill oil. Cod liver also has vitamins A and E and is a great choice but it can be a little fishy. I tend to buy whatever I feel like at the time and mix it up a bit.
Probiotics are the commensal flora that live in your gut and play a significant role in overall wellness. When you are in good health, your intestinal tract has a harmonious balance of trillions of friendly bacteria busy helping with digestion, maintaining intestinal cell wall integrity, boosting your immune system and overpowering bad bacteria. Good bacteria manufacture key nutrients and limit the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria — and in their spare time, they can improve tolerance to certain foods, digestion and normalise bowel movements.
A robust army of good bacteria can help make up for minor attacks from a poor diet, stress, environmental toxins and antibiotics. They are a fantastic way to significantly move your immune health and digestion up a level, no prescription required.
The two most common and effective beneficial bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, in a dose of between 10 and 30 billion per day. There may be some gas at the start but persevere as the good guys take over. Take a break every now and then and mix up the strains rather than sticking to one brand.