Supplement Recommendations on a Budget

Supplements

Story at-a-glance -

  • Unless you’re addressing a specific disease condition, if you’re on a budget the most important and valuable supplements to consider are vitamin D, probiotics, omega-3, ubiquinol, and astaxanthin
  • Optimizing your vitamin D levels through sun exposure requires you to be diligent about getting outside typically from 1-3pm when the sun peaks during daylight savings time. During months when there’s insufficient UVB penetration, you can either use a safe tanning bed or take oral vitamin D3
  • The most cost effective alternative to high potency probiotics is fermented vegetables. A two to three ounce serving can have 10 trillion beneficial bacteria or 10 percent of your gut flora. Making your own fermented vegetables using a probiotic starter culture can also provide additional benefits, including optimizing your vitamin K2, which is created by intestinal bacteria and is necessary to balance your vitamin D.
  • Most commercially available fish are contaminated with environmental toxins, making them unsuitable as primary sources of omega-3 fats. Krill oil is an ideal replacement, as the DHA and EPA are esterified as a phospholipid, which maximizes absorption and metabolic efficiency
  • Ubiquinol and astaxanthin are typically in a higher price range, but if you can afford them, they offer profound support for general health and disease prevention. Human growth hormone is also important. You can easily replace age-related drop-off of HGH by engaging in high intensity interval exercise and/or in conjunction with intermittent fasting

By Dr. Mercola

First of all, it is vital to understand that the most important strategy you can implement for your physical health is to eat the right foods and commit to an exercise program. Supplements are only complementary to a phenomenal diet, and should never be used in place of nutritious foods.

That is one of the reasons I have spent over 30 years refining my comprehensive Nutrition Plan that goes into extensive detail on how to eat properly. It is available for free and has been recently updated to include loads of important new information on how to stay healthy with the foods you choose to eat.

1 69 percent of American adults take supplements. There's a plethora to choose from out there, from vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to herbs and various combinations thereof.

But which ones might you really need?

Unless you're addressing a specific condition, and if you're on a tight budget the most important and valuable supplements to consider are:

  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotics / Fermented Veggies / Vitamin K2
  • Omega-3
  • Ubiquinol
  • Astaxanthin
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur

Are You Getting Enough of the Sunshine Vitamin?

Vitamin D is really one of the most important nutrients that you can optimize. I have discussed its many health benefits for the last 10 years. Research shows you can cut your risk of dying from any cause by about half just by optimizing your vitamin D levels.2 Not only is vitamin D deficiency associated with several cardiovascular-related diseases, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, and diabetes, but it's also a strong independent predictor of all-causes of death.

The ideal way to get it is for free. I personally have not swallowed any oral vitamin D for years now, yet my levels are in the excellent range. Of course, I'm talking about sun exposure.

However, there are some important caveats. Optimizing your vitamin D levels through sun exposure requires you to be diligent about getting outside typically from 1-3pm in Daylight Saving Time when the sun peaks. Also, for six months of the year in most of North America, there are not enough UVB rays penetrating the atmosphere to cause your body to make vitamin D.

During the times of the year when UVB rays are not present where you live you essentially have two options: You can use a safe tanning bed or oral vitamin D3. Most adults require around 8,000 units per day, but if you decide to take this much it is very important to make sure you are getting enough vitamin K2, as that will minimize any potential vitamin D toxicity and also work synergistically with it. Read on to learn how you can optimize your vitamin K2 without spending any extra money.

Guidelines for Safe and Effective Sun Exposure

While sun exposure is your best source for vitamin D, it's important to understand that not all sun exposure will allow for vitamin D production. Sunlight is composed of about 1,500 wavelengths, but the only wavelength that makes your body produce vitamin D are UVB-rays when they hit exposed skin. The UVB-rays from the sun must pass through the atmosphere and reach where you are on the earth in order for this to take place. This obviously does not occur in the winter for many of us in the U.S., but the sun's rays are also impeded during a fair amount of the year for people living in temperate climates.

Due to the physics and wavelength of UVB rays, they will only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is above an angle of about 50° from the horizon. When the sun is lower than 50°, the ozone layer reflects the UVB-rays but let through the longer UVA-rays.

So how do you know if you have entered into the time of year for your location where enough UVB is actually able to penetrate the atmosphere to allow for vitamin D production in your skin?

The first step is to determine the latitude and longitude of your location. You can easily do this on Google Earth, or if you are in the U.S. you can use the TravelMath Latitude Longitude Calculator to find your latitude and longitude. Once you have obtained that you can go to the U.S. Navy site to calculate a table to determine the times and days of the year that the sun is above 50 degrees from the horizon.

Translated to the date and time of some places on the globe, it means for example: In my hometown of Chicago, the UVB rays are not potentially present until March 25, and by September 16th it is not possible to produce any vitamin D from the sun in Chicago. Please understand it is only theoretically possible to get UVB rays during those times. If it happens to be cloudy or raining, the clouds will also block the UVB rays. For a more detailed understanding of this, please view the following video, and/or read through the corresponding article.

Beneficial Bacteria are Essential for Optimal Health

Science is finally starting to realize the crucial health impact of beneficial bacteria (probiotics). Your gut health, it turns out, can have a profound effect on your physical health, weight, psychological state, and behavior.

Forget about nearly every commercial yogurt and kefir product sold in conventional grocery stores however. They are close to worthless and don't have significant quantities of bacteria. You have 100 trillion bacteria in your colon, so taking a supplement with only a few million bacteria is not likely going to provide you with much benefit.

If you are going to supplement with an oral preparation, look for probiotics with at least 50 billion per dose and a wide variety of beneficial strains.

A more cost effective alternative is to use fermented vegetables. A two to three ounce serving can have 10 trillion bacteria or 10 percent of your gut flora. Using a probiotic starter culture can also provide additional benefits.

We now know that vitamin K2 is crucial when optimizing your vitamin D levels if you want to minimize your risk for heart disease and cancer. Vitamin K2 (not K1) is produced by your intestinal bacteria. Most fermented vegetables have very small amounts of this nutrient. However you can use a starter culture that has specific strains designed to produce vitamin K2, which will provide you with more than enough K2. Typically, vitamin K2 is a very expensive supplement – it can easily cost nearly $10 a day in high doses, but you can get it for free if you use bacteria to make it for you...

We have been developing a starter culture strain that is designed to produce these high levels of vitamin K2 and hope to have it available in the near future. It is useful to view the starter culture as seeds that you plant in the veggies and they multiple millions of times to create a bountiful harvest of beneficial bacteria and their useful byproducts like vitamin K2 and many of the B vitamins.

Additionally, avoiding all sugar and processed foods, and limiting grains – which is essential for optimizing your gut health – will allow your gut bacteria to produce many other vitamins as well, such as biotin, folic acid and B12, thus minimizing your need for a multi vitamin.

Fermented foods are also some of the best chelators and detox agents available, meaning they can help rid your body of a wide variety of toxins, including heavy metals. For example, research3 published in 2009 found that the lactic acid bacteria formed during the fermentation of kimchi may actually help your body break down and eliminate organophosphorus pesticides.

Fermenting your own vegetables and other foods like raw milk kefir is the most cost effective route of all, and it's actually a lot easier than you might think. To learn more, please listen to the following interview with Caroline Barringer, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), and an expert in the preparation of the foods prescribed in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional Program.

Download Interview Transcript

Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats

Everyone, regardless of age, needs a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fats rich in DHA and EPA. Omega-3 fats are essential for heart and brain health, among other body systems.

Omega 3 fats affect cellular health and DNA chiefly by how they influence your cell membranes. It is these cell membranes that are critical in switching your genes on and off, because cell membranes contain receptors that respond to hormones and other agents, and these are affected by the fatty acids on their surface. Your cell membranes contain EPA, DHA and phospholipids, and all help to shuttle molecules into and out of your cells. So, having adequate fatty acids in your system is crucial to keeping your cell membranes working properly.

Most people today are deficient in omega-3 fats and consume far too many damaged omega-6 fats, which are found in vegetable oils and processed foods. The ideal ratio is 1:1, but the average American's ratio is more like 20:1, or even 50:1 in favor of omega-6.

You can get omega-3 fats from your diet, but it would have to be relatively expensive sources like wild Alaskan salmon, which typically runs $20 a pound. Sadly, while fish used to be an ideal source for these critical fats, the world's oceans and waterways are now so polluted with industrial waste that most commercially available fish have become little more than carriers of toxins – especially mercury – which accumulates throughout the fat and tissues of their bodies. Smaller fish, such as herring, sardines, and anchovies fare better than larger fish since they don't have time to accumulate much mercury in their tissues.

The most common contaminants found in fish include:

  • Mercury
  • PCBs
  • Toxic metals such as cadmium, lead, chromium and arsenic
  • Radioactive substances

A far more cost effective alternative is to use an omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil, in which the DHA and EPA are esterified as a phospholipid, which maximizes absorption and metabolic efficiency. Studies have confirmed that krill contains the identical fats as fish oil but is a far higher quality source due to astaxanthin protecting the perishable fats from oxidation. Typically, most adults only need 1-2 capsules of krill oil per day to achieve their omega-3 needs.

Plant-Based Omega-3's Cannot Replace Your Need for Animal-Based Omega-3

Keep in mind that while there are both plant and animal sources for omega-3 fats, there are differences between them. All have different ratios of three important omega-3 fatty acids – ALA, EPA and DHA. DHA is the most important for your brain. EPA is also required by your brain, but in smaller amounts.

Plant-based omega-3 sources like flax, hemp and chia seeds are high in ALA, but low in EPA and DHA. Although ALA is an essential nutrient, the key point to remember is that the conversion of ALA to the far more essential EPA and DHA is typically quite inhibited by impaired delta 6 desaturase, an enzyme necessary for you to convert the ALA into the longer chain EPA and DHA. Elevated insulin levels impair this enzyme, and more than 80 percent of the U.S. population has elevated insulin levels. So from that perspective alone, it is important to include animal-based sources of omega-3 fats in your diet.

Human Growth Hormone for Health, Fitness and Longevity

While human growth hormone (HGH) isn't a vitamin, it is an important hormone your body requires. As you can see on the graph below, your HGH levels dramatically declines with age.

Although it's banned in sports, many athletes inject this hormone daily for its benefits at a cost of about $1,000 a month. But you can easily replace this hormone by engaging in Peak Fitness exercises two to three times per week. Using intermittent fasting, especially in conjunction with Peak Fitness exercises, will also increase the levels of HGH and testosterone that your body produces. I included it in this article as it really does not cost you any money, just an investment of your time.

Ubiquinol – Not Just for Those Taking Statins

Another nutrient that tends to follow the same decline as shown in the HGH graph is ubiquinol. As you can see by the graph, if you are below the age of 25 there really isn't a need to use this supplement. But as you age it becomes more important to consider replacing your declining levels.

Although the topic of this report is supplements on a budget, if you can afford it, it would be wise to consider adding this one in. And, if you are like one in four Americans over 45 who is taking a statin drug, it is absolutely imperative you take ubiquinol to prevent the serious side effects caused by statins.

Ubiquinol is the reduced form of Coenzyme Q10, and virtually all studies done so far agree that ubiquinol is far superior than CoQ10 in terms of efficacy, primarily due to its superior bioavailability as it's identical to the ubiquinol produced by your body.

CoQ10 is required for your cells to produce energy, and is an integral part of helping cells take fat and other substances and convert them into usable energy. CoQ10 can also help protect your body from free radical damage. Free radicals are oxygen atoms deficient in electrons that become highly reactive. This in turn causes potential damage to your tissues and DNA. It is because of its powerful antioxidant protection that CoQ10 is often recommended for a wide variety of heart-related conditions, such as heart attack, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, which require extra protection from free radical damage. CoQ10 has actually been the subject of thousands of research studies, and may:

Help you produce more energy for your cells Reduce the risk of fatty liver in people with obesity Boost your heart health
Act as an antioxidant to protect you from free radicals Help you reduce the signs of normal aging Help you maintain blood pressure levels within the normal range
Provide a boost to your immune system Support your nervous system Reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease

Money-Saving Tip for Buying Ubiquinol

CoQ10 is found in certain types of food, including fish, organ meats (such as liver, kidney and heart), and the germs of whole grains. However, food concentrations are not well documented, so it is difficult to determine how much of this nutrient you can get from food alone, and it may be difficult to achieve therapeutic levels from dietary sources.

Astaxanthin – the Most Versatile Antioxidant of All?

Lastly, another more expensive but really crucial supplement to consider is astaxanthin. This little-known carotenoid is now believed to be the most potent antioxidant nature has to offer. It's FAR more potent than other members of its chemical family, such as beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, lycopene and lutein.

Astaxanthin exhibits VERY STRONG free radical scavenging activity and protects your cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage. Its unique "antioxidative artillery" provides for an impressive array of health benefits, including improving cardiovascular health,4 stabilizing blood sugar, boosting your immune system and limiting DNA damage, reducing inflammation, improving eye health – and even helping protect you from sunburn and damage associated with smoking and air pollution.

There are only two main sources of natural astaxanthin – the microalgae that produce it, and the sea creatures that consume the algae (such as salmon, shellfish, and krill – it's what gives these animals their pinkish coloring). Synthetic (laboratory-made) astaxanthin made from petrochemicals is now commonly used worldwide to supplement fish feeds in order to obtain the desired pinkish to orange-red color. Fortunately, synthetic astaxanthin has not yet been permitted to be sold for human consumption, so all astaxanthin supplements on the market contain natural astaxanthin.

One of the reasons I am such a fan of krill is that it naturally contains astaxanthin. Still, new research suggests you could enjoy even MORE benefits by further increasing your astaxanthin, even if you are already taking a krill oil supplement.

If you decide to give astaxanthin a try, I recommend starting with 2 mg per day. If you are on a krill oil supplement, take that into consideration; different krill products have different concentrations of astaxanthin, so check your label. However you can increase the dose to 8-10 mg if you want to use it for athletic performance or some of the other anti-inflammatory or eye benefits. Natural astaxanthin is very safe and non-toxic; no adverse reactions have been found for people taking astaxanthin.

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