Essential Nutrients: How to Get the Vitamins and Minerals You Need
Among the basic vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, there is an entire world of products out there to support your various health goals. How to decide if any of these are right for you? Trying to take them all can be overwhelming.
The first step is to decide what your goals are for any supplements you’d like to begin taking. Are you working on getting fit right now? Trying to reduce your cardiovascular risk factors? Or maybe working on hormone balance. Perhaps, gut health is your focus.
Alternatively, you can browse supplements in the shop based on category:
- Digestive health
- Weight loss
- Hormone balance
- Men’s health
- Immune support
- Children’s health
- Women’s health
You get many of your vitamin and mineral needs from a healthy diet, but due to processed foods and farming practices that deplete soil quality, most of us barely get enough to prevent vitamin deficiencies. Consider these stats (1,2):
- More 50 percent of people are vitamin D deficient, regardless of age
- 31% of all people in the U.S. are at risk for at least one nutrient deficiency
- About half of the population has inadequate magnesium intake
For better overall health, aim to increase food sources of vitamins and minerals by following a healthy diet. To bridge the nutritional gap in your diet, this is where dietary supplements come into play.
Looking for a high-quality multivitamin that doesn’t involve 4 or more pills to swallow? Try Dynamic Multi-Powder.
A closer look at fat-soluble vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins need dietary fat in order for the body to properly absorb them. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you eat a diet low in fat, have symptoms of malabsorption, or have any gastrointestinal issues, you may be low in some of these fat-soluble nutrients.
If you have any conditions that interfere with the health of your gastrointestinal tract or that make it difficult for you to digest fats, work with your provider to optimize your intake and absorption of these vital nutrients.
A closer look at water-soluble vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins are broken down in the digestive system with the help of water–which is normally abundant in the body. Generally, your body does not store water-soluble vitamins for long, and any excess is normally eliminated in urine.
Absorption of water-soluble vitamins can be affected by factors like stress, poor digestion, and of course a poor diet low in essential nutrients.
A closer look at major minerals
Your body requires the help of dozens of minerals to support metabolism, cellular health, nervous system function, and so much more. Low intake of these nutrients can leave you with low energy and even serious risk factors for cardiovascular issues or osteoporosis.
Magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron are just a few examples of major minerals your body needs.
Now that you know a little bit about nutrient groups, let’s find out which are the most effective to add to your daily routine.
The 9 Best Supplements for Overall Health
Where should you put your focus when it comes to dietary supplements? The following is a list of vitamins and minerals, plus other nutrients, that are lacking in many Western diets.
Individual nutritional needs are different for each person. Contact an integrative medicine doctor to discuss the best course of action for you.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids
A healthy brain and body need omega-3 fats like EPA and DHA. These special fats play a role in memory, learning, focus, vision, concentration, and your overall happy mood. Your brain needs essential fatty acids (EFAs) for proper serotonin function as well, and a low intake of omega-3 may contribute to rates of depression and anxiety in today’s society (3). Developing brains also need omega-3 fats, as they’re crucial for brain and eye development in children and babies.
Omega-3 fats also maintain cardiovascular health by supporting healthy arteries, normal blood pressure, and healthy lipid (cholesterol) levels. Your body also depends on omega-3s for a healthy inflammatory response.
Western diets typically contain a high amount of omega-6 fats from vegetable oils, like corn, soybean, and safflower oil. A recent study in the journal Endocrinology found that soybean oil in particular not only contributes to obesity and diabetes, but may also increase the risk of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and depression (4). All the more reason to decrease omega-6 fats and increase omega-3s.
How to supplement with omega-3s: Most people supplement with anywhere from 1000 to 2400 mg per day.
Special considerations: If your diet is low in fatty fish, or otherwise low in fat, consider adding an omega-3 supplement from a marine source. Flax and other plant-based sources of omega-3s are available, but unfortunately have a low conversion rate in humans, making them an inadequate source of DHA and EPA.
Vitamin D goes way beyond bone health. Vitamin D is crucial for “immune competence” or your body’s ability to maintain a balanced immune response. Adequate D3 helps ensure your immune system doesn’t over-or under-react when faced with an immune challenge such as illness or stress.
Nearly every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D, highlighting the importance of its function in maintaining health. Vitamin D controls the expression of more than 200 genes, some of which play a role in cancer risk and autoimmune disorders (5).
Optimal D3 levels vary quite a lot between populations, so it’s important to get your levels tested prior to supplementing to find out where you’re starting from.
How to supplement with vitamin D: The amount needed to maintain blood levels of 35-50 ng/mL varies, but it’s usually somewhere between 2,000 to 5,000 IU (6).
Special considerations: Vitamin D status is measured by 25(OH)D in the blood. Get your vitamin D levels tested prior to starting supplementation. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K work synergistically, and adequate vitamin A and K are important to mediate against the negative effects of vitamin D supplementation (7).
Is it time to test your vitamin D levels? Learn more about what your doctor should be checking>>
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Retinol is an important player in many biochemical processes in the body. It acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from free-radical damage and some cancers. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in reproduction, which includes promoting full-term pregnancy and proper development.
Vitamin A is only found in significant amounts in organ meats, which explains why many modern diets come up short. Adults may opt for adding a little liver to their diet, but for pickier younger eaters, a chewable multi-vitamin may be the answer.
The RDA for vitamin A (2,600 IU) may be inadequate, as recent research suggests. And beyond that, most people don’t meet even half the dietary recommendation. While it’s true that supplementing with high amounts of synthetic vitamin A does have the potential to be toxic, consuming whole-food sources such as liver or cod liver oil provide a balance of other fat-soluble nutrients which mediate this factor (8).
How to supplement with vitamin A: 10-15,000 IU per day, as a whole food source.
Special considerations: Cod liver oil is an ideal vitamin A source because it also contains vitamin D, which may mediate potential issues with supplementing with vitamin A alone.
Product matching using ZYTO Scan can help your integrative medicine physician determine which functional nutrients your body needs.
Zinc provides a wide variety of health benefits including immune protection and promoting normal testosterone levels in men. Zinc’s biggest role in the body is perhaps supporting the proper development and function of white blood cells which are essential for immune health (9). In addition, zinc has antioxidant capacity and helps protect the body from free radicals.
How to supplement with zinc: 15 to 30 mg per day (10).
Special considerations: If you’re consuming a well-balanced diet, you’re likely getting enough zinc to maintain healthy levels. You may need extra zinc if battling an illness such as a cold and can increase your supplementation for a short period. Vegans or those who follow plant-based diets should be mindful of their zinc intake.
Get over your cold faster with the Defender, containing zinc, astragalus, and vitamin C.
B vitamins play a significant role in your body, supporting everything from mood and mental health to detoxification and DNA maintenance. B vitamins like folate, B12, thiamine, and B6 are essential, meaning that your body can’t produce them, and they’re not stored in large amounts in your body.
A B complex supports an essential biochemical process called methylation. Fully methylated B vitamins support this process, as they’re in the active form your body can use–especially if you have a genetic MTHFR variant. When choosing a B vitamin supplement, look for ingredients like:
- 5-MTHF (active folate)
- Methylcobalamin (active vitamin B12)
- Pyridoxal 5’-Phosphate (active vitamin B6)
- Riboflavin 5’-Phosphate (active vitamin B2)
Digestive factors, like the regular use of acid-lowering drugs, bacterial overgrowth, gastric bypass, and following a vegan diet can also negatively affect B vitamin absorption (11).
How to supplement with a B-complex: 400 – 600 mcg folate. At least 2.4 mcg B12. Dietary reference intakes vary from person to person, depending on genetic and lifestyle factors (12).
Special considerations: Up to 60% of people have a genetic variation that makes it very difficult to convert synthetic folic acid to methyl folate–the active form. To find out if you have this variation, work with a CentreSpringMD provider. In the meantime, prioritize B vitamins from whole foods, and methylated B-complex supplements if necessary.
Learn more: The Micronutrient Elixir for Life–B Vitamins
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms found in your body. The majority of these friendly florae reside in your digestive system, helping to maintain the lining of your intestines, extract nutrients from your food, and neutralize harmful pathogens.
Probiotic supplements help bolster the digestive bacteria already present and support a healthy microbiome overall. To fuel a healthy microbiome, consume probiotic-rich foods like fermented vegetables, yogurt, or kefir. Get plenty of dietary fiber, which promotes the health of your microbiome.
How to supplement with probiotics: In general, at least 5-10 billion CFUs. Look for a probiotic supplement with beneficial strains such as Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces boulardii, or Bifidobacteria.
Special considerations: Taking an antibiotic? You may want a higher dose probiotic (50-100 billion for adults, 10-20 billion for children) to replenish gut bacteria. The best time to take a probiotic in this case is about 2-4 hours after you take an antibiotic. If you’re not currently taking an antibiotic, some evidence suggests it’s beneficial to take your probiotic in the morning, about 30 minutes before your first meal.
NEW: Add a probiotic to your daily routine for better gut health.
When magnesium is low, you’ll likely feel an uptick in stress, tension, and anxiety. Magnesium is essential for maintaining a healthy mood, circulation, and muscle health. It regulates more than 300 metabolic reactions, including those involved in heart health, blood pressure, healthy bones, respiratory function, blood sugar, insulin levels, joint health, and energy production–and this is the shortlist!
A lack of minerals in the soil, heavy metal contamination and a high intake of refined foods predisposes the majority of us to inadequate intakes of this mineral. A typical Western diet likely doesn’t provide optimal magnesium levels or adequate risk reduction from coronary artery disease and osteoporosis. According to one article, “approximately 50% of Americans consume less than the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for magnesium, and some age groups consume substantially less” (13)
How to supplement with magnesium: A long-term study lasting 50 weeks found that somewhere between 180 mg and 320 mg of magnesium/day is necessary to maintain healthy serum magnesium levels.
Special considerations: There are different forms of magnesium (magnesium oxide, citrate, taurate, etc.). The most bioavailable forms include magnesium bisglycinate, or a magnesium chelate. Many people take this in the evening, to help relax before sleeping.
Vitamin C is essential for immune function, skin health, and maintaining the health of cells all over your body. It also helps recharge glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant. Studies suggest that 43% of adults don’t get enough (14). This is especially true for the elderly and those experiencing a higher demand due to illness.
How to supplement with vitamin C: 500 mg to 1 g of vitamin C each day.
Special considerations: If you’re taking medication to manage ADHD symptoms, don’t take a vitamin C supplement an hour before or after you take your medication, as this can reduce the effectiveness of your medication (15). Also, look for a vitamin C supplement that contains bioflavonoids such as rutin, hesperetin, or rose hips.
Want to boost immune function without loading up on supplements? Find out if IV therapy is right for you.
IV Therapy – Intravenous supplementation with essential nutrients
Intravenous (IV) vitamin infusion therapy is a fast, easy, safe way to deliver nutrients straight to the cells that need them. When delivering nutrients via intravenous injection, vital compounds can bypass slow and inefficient digestion processes and become readily available for metabolic use.
Oral supplements are negatively affected by absorptions factors, such as:
- Binders, fillers, or additives
- Chemical form
- Your age
- Digestive function
- Acid balance
- IBS, IBD, or leaky gut
- Genetics or MTHFR
Dozens of different factors inhibit or altogether halt the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, but IV therapy drips bypass this process. They are delivered intravenously in your doctor’s office or integrative clinic, and they usually take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, you’ll be seated comfortably while the drip is administered.
How to Use Supplements with Functional Medicine
With so many supplements on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are right for you. The first step is getting a baseline of vitamin A, D, and C as well as magnesium and omega-3s. Once your nutrient needs have been met, then we would recommend branching out to other goals or working with an integrative medicine practitioner to determine what your body needs.
Integrative medicine is a holistic approach to healing that involves the support of supplements, herbs, and other practices that improve your health in combination with regular visits with your doctor. We offer all sorts of nutritional supplements and high-quality medical foods in our online store – shop now!