Saturday, April 2, 2011

Supplements: What I'm taking and why

I realized despite a pretty decent handful of pills I swallow a day I haven't really mentioned it here. Since I just revamped this yesterday, now seems a good time to talk about it. Pull up a chair-- this might take awhile!

First of all, I discovered on Friday a number of my supplements had rice or corn flour in them. Given that the whole point of this paleo experiment is to completely eliminate grains, taking even the small amount in a couple capsules seems like not the best plan, so I exchanged a few bottles yesterday for brands without flour (thank goodness for liberal return policies!)

First group:

These two have to be refrigerated, so I admit I am not as consistent with taking them because I forget.

Fish oil: Concentrated of Omega 3s, important to combat inflammation and balance the Omega-6s we get from nuts, grain fed meat and polyunsaturated oils-- all of which are pro-inflammatory. I take a 1/2 tablespoon which has around 3g omega-3. Based on this calculator I probably need more, but not only is it expensive but I HATE swallowing it. It doesn't really taste that bad but the texture of swallowing straight oil is absolutely vile. (This is partly a mental aversion because I once got car sick on a bus right after taking some and threw it back up). I usually chase it with some sparkling water or tea to get it out of my mouth. Why not take capsules you say? Because it would take something like 8 or 10 capsules a day to equal the same amount of omega 3 which is expensive. My parents take 1-2 tablespoons a day of this and put in on their oatmeal and don't find it gross at all; I struggle with getting it down. I use either this Pharmax Finest Pure Fish oil brand or Nordic Natural's Pro line, both of which are very concentrated so I can get the most omega 3s for the least amount of oil, but they are practitioner level brands, meaning you can pretty much only either buy them from an ND/Nutritionist who buys it wholesale, or from a store like Pharmaca. (Incidentally, if you live near a Pharmaca, they are a great resource for supplement questions as they have highly trained staff (NDs, Nutritionists, herbalists). I worked at one last summer and learned a lot about supplements from my co-workers. They also have higher quality brands than some of the other supplement stores.) If you don't have access to this, regular Nordic Naturals or Carlson's are also good brands that are more widely accessible. I don't recommend you take Cod Liver oil in large quantities due to the large amount of vitamin A which can be toxic in excess-- stick with the regular fish oil.

Probiotics: I take Pharmax brand for this also. There are other good brands out there (Jarrow is one). I have to be extremely careful about getting one that is not dairy based since I'm so allergic and I've used this one on and off for a long time. When I'm consistent with it I do notice my digestion is better.

Group two: You'll see the first three are NOW brand, largely because they didn't have any grain based ingredients and were inexpensive.

From the left:
Thyroid Energy (NOW brand): I just started taking this about a week ago. Mainly I was looking to supplement iodine, since in many of the Robb Wolf podcasts he says that women who have mild hypothyroid symptoms (which I have had for years) but normal labs can benefit from a RDA dose iodine supplement, as unless you eat a lot of iodized salt or seaweed even a paleo diet can be a bit deficient. My local supplement store didn't have plain iodine. I originally bought another brand supplement that was almost identical to this except it contained an adaptogenic herb called Rhodiola. It was way too stimulating for me and made me shaky and feel horrible (ginseng does that to me too), even at a half dose. This has a different adaptogen called Ashwaganda that is a more calming herb I've had good luck with in the past, as well as a few B vitamins, zinc, L-tyrosine (an amino acid). This seems to have made a dramatic difference in my energy. So much so that I'm wondering if it might be the cause of my recent sleep issues-- I was taking 2 caps twice a day but today I'm just taking it once to see if I sleep better.

B-6 (NOW brand): Up until yesterday I was talking a B-complex instead of the plain B6. I have been taking a large dose-- 100mg a day for the past three months and then I upped it to 150mg this month. A number of sources I've read (including the absolutely wonderful book Taking Charge of your Fertility which I can't recommend enough) suggest that higher dose B6 can help lengthen the luteal phase (basically the number of days between when you ovulate and when your period starts-- generally a symptom of low progesterone or too much estrogen), which is something I have struggled with. I don't really understand the mechanism of this-- I keep meaning to look into it. You CAN overdose this stuff-- over 200mg a day can lead to nerve damage. When I started taking this my luteal phase went from a solid 7 days to 10-11 days (normal is 12-14 days). I bumped it up this month to see if that helps any more, but given that I'm trying to do more with just food & exercise I'm looking to wean off this soon.

Super Enzymes (NOW brand): I started taking these because Robb Wolf recommends them as an inexpensive supplement for digestion. They contain Betaine HCL (basically, the same acid as in your stomach) and some pancreatic enzymes. He says to start with one and increase with each protein and fat meal until you feel a "warm" feeling, then back off by one. Eventually as your digestive tract heals you should need less and less. I'm taking 2-3 per meal and it really seems to help.

Chaste Tree Berry/Vitex (Vitanica brand): My naturopath recommended this back in December to help with my irregular cycles. For several months I was taking a tincture form (which is a liquid suspended in alcohol) but it tasted horrible and I had to mix it with something sweet to get it down. I recently switched to pills since I'm avoiding sugar and it was too gross to keep swallowing it, and a pain to take on a plane. While this hasn't completely solved my cycle issue, I have noticed I get less PMS for the most part, and my skin stays clear during my period. Apparently it can take 3-6 months to have an effect so I'll keep taking it for the time being.

Prenatal (Thorne brand): I honestly am not sure I really need this, and I wasn't taking it when I was taking the B complex. I eat a lot of leafy greens so I probably am getting the folate I need. The recommended dose is 3 caps and I take 2 (Thorne tends to put a ton of every ingredient in their supplements). I figure better safe than sorry. Thorne is another pro-line brand. I also like the more widely available Rainbow light prenatal. When I worked at Pharmaca a lot of pregnant women told me the Rainbow light (which has a one a day version) was the only one they could keep down during morning sickness.

Vitamin D3 (natural factors brand): I think it's pretty widely known at this point that most people are D deficient, especially if you live North of the 45th parallel (which is around San Francisco). Up here in the Pacific Northwest we don't get enough UV from the sun to make vitamin D 8 months out of the year. M in particular has been pretty deficient-- I haven't had my levels tested in awhile but since I supplement more consistently it hasn't been as bad. We both are taking 5000 IU a day-- if we miss a day I give him two to make up. That's the only supplement he takes right now. I think brands of vitamin D are pretty interchangeable-- this was the best priced one at the time I bought it. In the summer I'll probably cut us back to every few days if we are getting consistent sun exposure.

Magnesium (natural calm): I've used this stuff for years-- I switched briefly to a capsule form of Mg and it just wasn't the same. Magnesium is a mild muscle relaxant, is important for cell signaling, and it can help your bowels move if they are like mine and are sluggish (watch out if you tend in the opposite direction!) This brand is effervescent and either lemon or raspberry flavored. Taking it at bed time is relaxing and yummy. Even my guru of the month Robb Wolf is all over this stuff!

That's it now. I admit I have a full spice rack of other supplements that I've taken on and off. When you are steeped in this stuff it can either turn you totally off of it or make you kind of a supplement junky (I obviously, fall into the latter camp). I feel like this is my bare minimum at the moment-- when I go on vacation or do business travel I tend to not take anything except the vitex and when I remember the digestive enzymes. I think it's good to give your body a break from supplements sometimes.

This was like a novella of information! I'm nothing if not through!


Tina said...

Hi Laura, I came upon your blog while trying to find others requiring gluten-free diets. My daughter my have Celiac's Disease and we are on a 3 week test gluten free trial. We live in Vietnam, so... without the modern conveniences of the US, I am feeling bit overwhelmed as we rethink our diet for her. We won't know for a while, but going gluten free is a bit hard, especially in south east asian developing country.

Sabrina said...

Hi Tina- my name is actually Sabrina. I think you actually should have an easier time in an Asian country since rice is a staple and doesn't contain gluten. Stick with meat, vegetables, fruit and maybe a little rice and you should be set!