A peek inside your medicine cabinet may reveal “pill creep,” a phrase coined by Alan Christianson, NDM, a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, AZ, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease. “People add in the new thing of the week each week, and suddenly they’re on 75 pills and it gets to be counterproductive,” he says. “And they often miss the thing that’s most important for them.”
Although there are many supplements targeting specific issues, these, says Christianson, are basics that are often overlooked:
A Good, High-Quality Multi
To absorb and utilize nutrients optimally, take a high-quality product. These are some ingredients to look for, with beneficial amounts per daily serving:
• Instead of “folic acid,” a more absorbable form called 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate), sometimes described as “active” or “optimized” folic acid (200–400 mcg daily).
• Forms of calcium that are soluble, meaning your body can use them well and needs less: citrate malate (180 mg daily) or citrate (400 mg daily). If a multi doesn’t contain enough calcium, get an additional supplement to make up the difference.
• Vitamin K2 (80–100 mcg daily).
• Vitamin C in a calcium ascorbate, mineral ascorbate, or Ester-C form, which is less acidic and gentler on your digestive system.
Recognized as essential for overall health, Americans typically fall short because of lack of sun exposure and a poor diet that reduces our internal production of the vitamin when we do get sun. Have vitamin D levels tested by your doctor or take 2,000 IU daily.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Essential but lacking in our diets, supplements of omega-3 fatty acids should contain EPA and DHA from fish oil or algae. On products, look for the amounts of EPA and DHA on the "Supplement Facts" panel on the back of the label, and get a total (EPA plus DHA) of 800–1,000 mg daily.
For anyone with thyroid disease, Christianson cautions against taking iodine, because it can aggravate certain thyroid conditions. Other people may benefit from iodine, found in some multivitamins.
How to Organize Your Supplements
Get two or more baskets or containers and sort supplements into these categories:
• Supplements for daily use. If different people in your household take different daily supplements (or want to, but forget), designate a container for each person.
• Supplements for special situations, such as a cold or flu, or for flare-ups of any condition you or other family members may occasionally experience.
Once you have a container in each category, see what is and isn’t being used, and what may be missing. Dispose of unused products and make a shopping list for missing items. Make a note of any supplements you would like to take but don’t because it seems inconvenient or unpleasant. For example, if you find big fish oil pills hard to swallow, note it on your shopping list and look for an alternative form, such as liquid fish oil or a flavored smoothie version.
Shop for the missing products and “file” them in the appropriate container. Each morning, pull out your supplement container and get your daily nutrients.
Supplement Cheat Sheet
To get what you need, start with these simple steps to declutter your supplement cupboard:
1. Check expiration dates and dispose of any products that have expired.
2. If you have probiotics, liquid fish oils, or other supplements in the fridge that have be opened but not used for some time, dispose of them if the expiration date has passed. Otherwise, if you want to continue taking them, check with the manufacturer to find out how long they keep once opened.
3. Organize the remainder.
Naturalize Your Medicine Chest
Want to ditch over-the-counter drugs for pain, heartburn, and other mishaps? Dave Forman, RPh, ND, known as the Herbal Pharmacist, started out as a traditional pharmacist and now educates both consumers and health professionals about natural healing. Here are his favorite remedies:
High-potency supplements have become all the rage, as consumers demand products containing higher, therapeutic-level dosages. Extra-strength supplements are an ideal way to upgrade your health regimen, especially if you are addressing a particular condition. More potent versions of popular nutrients—including fish oils, enzymes, probiotics, and superfoods—are labeled as such; check the front of bottles when shopping.
BARLEAN'S Ideal Omega 3 is a "one and done" solution—each softgel packs a high-potency dose of purified, pharmaceutical-grade fish oil with 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA. Great if you don't like taking a lot of pills.
FLORAUdo's Choice Advanced Adult Enzyme Blend is a new, high-potency enzyme that delivers a full-spectrum of vegetarian enzymes to aid in the digestion of fats, proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, and dairy.
THE VITAMIN SHOPPE Ultimate Man Gold and Ultimate Women Gold Multivitamins include high doses of essential vitamins and minerals, plus enzymes, herbs, and antioxidants to address individual health concerns.
VIBRANT HEALTH Maximum Vibrance is an organic multi-mineral complex with vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes, amino acids, and seven servings of fruits and veggies per 2-scoop serving. It mixes easily in water.
WAKUNAGA Probiata Critical Care takes on troublesome digestive issues with a high-potency formula of pure-strain probiotics—each dose delivers 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units). Great for those with constipation.