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Should I take supplements?


This question came from a reader.  Thank you for that.

 

Forty years ago, the answer to the question would have depended on each person, their diet and lifestyle.  Today, in most cases the food we eat is not as nutrient dense as it was because of the farming methods used. The soil has been leached of many of its nutrients, chief among them is magnesium.  The answer now is probably ‘Yes’.

 

If you are a healthy adult omnivore, you may want to consider three supplements.  Magnesium, vitamin D3 and a multi-vitamin.

 

Magnesium:

It is estimated that 70% of American adults are magnesium deficient.

 

Magnesium helps with cellular function.  The list of things magnesium effects is almost endless. 

Taking a magnesium supplement may help:

·         brain function, including reducing migraine episodes,

·         muscle contractions, including reducing muscle cramps,

·         reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure,

·         some studies showed that magnesium supplementation improved blood sugar levels in people with type II diabetes,

·         magnesium supplementation may improve sleep by increasing melatonin production,

·         one large scale study showed that magnesium was as effective at reducing depression symptoms as antidepression drugs,

·         some studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium reduced the incidence of heart attaches and strokes due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

 

What kind and how much?

Some of the studies suggested doses as low as 100 milligrams and some as high as 400 mg.  I take 350mg daily.  Depending on what type you take, the pills may be large.  The two most common types are magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate.  Magnesium glycinate absorbs better but is harder to find.  I cannot find it locally and order it on the internet.  The 350 milligrams I take is 4 large pills and for some people can cause constipation.  If it causes constipation for you, go with magnesium citrate.

 

Vitamin D3:

It is estimated that 35% of American adults are vitamin D3 deficient. 

 

Vitamin D3 helps with:

·         bone growth,

·         muscle contraction,

·         conversion of blood glucose and

·         absorption of other nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. 

 

When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D3.  Factors that influence your absorption of vitamin D3 from sunlight are the color of your skin, where you live and the season, how much skin is exposed and length of exposure.  You can also get a small amount from food such as cold-water fish or mushrooms.  A mid colored Caucasian person that spends 20 minutes outside midday in Missouri in May in a tank top will get more than the 600 IU’s.  600 IU’s should be sufficient for most people.  My problem is I am hit and miss on the sunlight.  There is a lot of debate on the amount to take.  Conservative sites list the safe upper limit at 4000 IU’s.

 

Multi-Vitamin:

This is a difficult one because there are so many different formulations available.  More well-respected people are starting to suggest taking a multi-vitamin.  I don’t currently take one but have been shopping for one.  Let me know if you think you have a good one. 

 

Others:

Omega.  You may want to consider this one if you don’t eat a lot of healthy fats such as avocado, cold water fish or nuts.  It may help if you have dry skin, nails or hair.  They are available in either fish or plant based.

 

Protein Supplements:  Usually in powder form and available in whey or plant based.  You can get it flavored, sweetened or unflavored, unsweetened.  The unflavored, unsweetened is harder to find.  It is what I buy.  I mix it with a glass of water to drink while I cook my breakfast as a pre-load.  It has a little bit of taste, but not much. One of the problems with protein powder is the expense.

 

For vegetarians or vegans:

In addition to the above supplements, vegans should take B12, calcium, iron, zinc and possibly protein.  My knowledge on supplements for vegetarians or vegans is limited.  You should do research if you follow these diets.

 

There are lots of other supplements to consider depending on your needs and situation. Some people are very much into taking supplements. Educating yourself on what you are taking is important.  Talk to your doctor.  Some supplements can help you avoid catching a virus such as zinc or elderberry.  Some supplements are good if you have a specific situation or take a certain drug.  CoQ10 is good to take along with a statin drug for example.  This list could go on.  I feel I am in the middle of the pack when it comes to supplements.  Put some of the supplements you like in the comments. 

 

Choosing a supplement.

You may have heard there is a very limited amount of regulation on supplements.  This can make the supplements you buy ineffective, a waste of money or worse of all dangerous.  You can avoid this by looking for an independent third-party testing label such as NSF or USP.  Not having one of these on the label doesn’t mean they are not good supplements or what’s on the label is not in the bottle, but it is a nice assurance if you can find one that includes third-party testing.

 

My suggestion is to stay away from multi-level marketing companies that sell supplements.  The supplements are only a vehicle for making money, not the main product. 

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