I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about what supplements I take and why. On my recent Monday Q+A Instagram post, it was a topic that was highly requested, so I thought a dedicated blog post would be the best way to share. This post contains loads of information – it was quite the beast to write. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful!
I would say that I’ve always been pretty open to supplements and homeopathy, even before my wellness and fitness journey truly began – below might seem a little overwhelming but for me, it is just part of my lifestyle now. And, I’m happy to say it’s working!
Not until recently, did I realize that supplements and vitamins should really be personalized to your own healthcare needs. Personalized healthcare, is super important and that is why I love functional medicine so much. Not every case is the same (nor is root cause) and while you may treat certain situations in a similar manner, the cases are different nonetheless and treated appropriately and individually.
In my specific case, I have symptoms like extreme fatigue, headaches, anxiousness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, body aches, cold hands and feet, weight gain in my lower-midsection, spotty periods etc. The initial analysis revealed a hormonal imbalance and elevated cortisol levels (outside the normal range). It is hard for me to describe the hormonal imbalance specifically because there were abnormal variances throughout my entire cycle. So a lot of the herbs I’m taking are timed specifically with my cycle to help at certain times of the month when needed. We also know that I have a pre-diagnosed gut issue – IBS. Knowing this, most of the supplements I take are to benefit my gut and to help aid hormonal balance. Supplements, herbs and adaptogens are part of my Adrenal Fatigue (HPAD) “treatment” plan.
I think it is important to note that you should never pre-diagnose yourself or self-supplement. While many can benefit from the supplements listed below, it should not be treated as a guide. (Main reason I didn’t add dosage!) I do think it is important to get your levels tested and see a doctor before you start an action plan. I also want to mention that herbs, supplements and adaptogens are only part of the picture – I also take things like nutrition, sleeping, exercise and stress-management seriously as part of my self-care routine.
There is some trial and error mixed in the process. For example, I was taking a B-complex. B vitamins are great for people battling fatigue. We also don’t get a lot of them naturally in our modern day diets. This is also true if you are vegan or vegetarian. It is possible to get B vitamins from plants but they are not absorbed efficiently in our systems without meat or fish counterparts. Today, it is not uncommon to have a B vitamin deficiency – it’s something worth looking into further if you’re curious yourself. After a few months on a B-complex, I started noticing that they were possibly making me more anxious. I felt a rise in anxiousness after taking them, which is a side-effect of B-complex since it is technically a “stimulant.” So, right now I am taking a break from B vitamins to see how my body reacts and to isolate that the issue is indeed B-complex, not environmental or some other unknown issue.
Most of the items below were prescribed by my naturopath or something I picked up from books like The Hormone Cure, Woman Code and Clean Gut.
Prebiotic & Probiotic: My morning routine wouldn’t be complete without my pre and probiotics. I take them first thing in the morning with my other vitamins. Prebiotics and probiotics boost immunity because they enhance our ability to absorb important nutrients and trace minerals from the foods we eat. They also effectively help lower the pH in the gut, which inhibits the growth of potential pathogens or damaging bacteria. I like the brand Life Equals.
Digestive Enzymes: I always take my enzymes before eating every meal. Digestive enzymes help heal leaky gut by taking stress off the GI tract. They assist the body in breaking down difficult-to-digest protein and sugars like gluten, casein, lactose and can greatly improve symptoms of acid reflux + IBS.
Vitamin C: Another morning vitamin, Vitamin C is beneficial in many ways to overall human health, including strengthened immunity, preserved vision, anti-aging and protection against heart disease. Vitamin C is a nutraceutical to help your body produce more progesterone. I burn through my progesterone to produce more cortisol so this is beneficial for me.
Vitamin D: Especially in the winter, Vitamin D is part of my morning vitamin lineup. The body can synthesize Vitamin D on its own from sun exposure, but a good majority of the population in North America is deficient (I have been in previous lab results). This is because we’re inside most of the time. It is also super rainy and cloudy in Portland so supplementing is smart for me.
Magnesium: I take magnesium with dinner or just before bedtime. The right proportion helps prevent constipation and promotes healthy sleep, plus so many more vital processes.
Omega-3: I take Omega-3 nearly every morning unless I know I can get a healthy dose of it naturally through my meals and diet. I’ve recently added fish/salmon to my diet a few times a week to help the cause and balance my hormones naturally. I also eat a ton of nuts and seeds.
Turmeric: I consume this almost daily either in pill form or via Turmeric & Ginger tea. Specifically, if my joints feel achy. See Tusli below.
TADS: This is another one I take in the morning with all my other morning vitamins. TADS Adrenal Extract by Seroyal provides freeze-dried bovine adrenal sourced from cows. According to alternative medicine‚ adrenal extract may assist the functioning of your own adrenal gland. I use Genestra Brands.
Collagen: Typically, I work collagen in my diet naturally. Because I use Vital Proteins (powder form), this is something I use in smoothies, tea or my baked goods. Collagen peptides are great for hair, skin, nail, and gut health. You can read all about Vital Proteins and collagen here in my recent blog post.
For most of my vitamins, I choose to buy Oregon’s Wild Harvest. You can typically find this brand at Sprouts, New Seasons or Whole Foods. You can also order them online.
Tincture 1: (Day one of menstruation until ovulation/day 14) – gylcyrrhiza (regulates cortisol), cimicifuga (regulates the hypothalamus-pituitary axis), leonorus (alleviates the nervous system), trifolium (regulates estrogen levels), rubus (helps to strengthen and tighten the muscles of the uterus and abdomen), chamaelirium (normalize the ovaries and ease hormonal imbalances).
Tincture 2: (Day 15 until day one of menstruation) – vitex (increases luteinizing hormone, modulates prolactin and aids in the inhibition of the release of follicle-stimulating hormone, which all helps balance out the ratio of progesterone to estrogen, slightly raising the levels of progesterone. It’s not actually a hormone, but rather an herb that helps the body raise its own levels of progesterone), saw palmetto (reduce toxic testosterone levels), panax (adaptogen used for stress management and anxiety), dioscorea (supports reproductive health), mitchella (relieves congestion in the pelvic organs and soothes general irritation of the nervous system from uterine or ovarian causes), alchemilla (It helps relieve mild aches and pains during menstruation. Also able to stop spotting between periods and lessening excessive menstrual bleeding).
Ashwagandha: I’ve probably been taking Ashwagandha the longest of all the adaptogens on this list. Adaptogenic herbs work with your body to bring you back into balance. If taken in the morning, it can help boost energy or if taken in the evening, it can help you wind down a bit. Ashwagandha, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of conditions, and is most well-known for its restorative benefits – reducing anxiety, helping the body adapt to stress, anti-inflammatory, better sleep, etc.
Maca: This adaptogen comes in powder form and is amazing in baked goods so I always use it when I make bites or protein balls. I always have these handy in my fridge to eat daily when hunger strikes. Maca is a pure and potent super root that may help the body adapt to stress. Traditionally, maca has been used to deliver abundant energy, increase stamina and aid in hormonal balance and improve moods. Beyond being nutrient dense and a rich source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids, maca has been known to help clear acne and blemishes too. I use the brand Terrasoul.
Rhodiola: One of my favorite adaptogens, rhodiola is something I take daily. This yellow-white flowering plant has the ability to boost energy levels, boost the immune system, relieve depression, strengthen the nervous system, improve cognitive function, aid in weight loss, and increase libido. Like Ashwagandha it comes in pill form.
Cordyceps: This one has an interesting taste (and comes in powder form) so I try to naturally work cordyceps in my diet when I can sneak it in without noticing. This is usually in baked goods, smoothies or in sauces used at dinnertime (like pasta sauce). I use the brand Sun Potion.
Tulsi: I drink this in tea form occasionally. I really like the Turmeric Ginger flavor. Tulsi is a power drink. Tulsi’s chemical compounds are highly complex and offer benefits that go over and beyond that of other teas. It contains hundreds of beneficial compounds known as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are active compounds found in plants containing protective and health-promoting properties. Regularly consuming Tulsi tea will increase resistance to stress, fatigue, anxiety and trauma, as it has a calming effect. It naturally pushes your body toward better health. I like the brand Organic India.
So there you have it. My long list of supplements. Some of them for maintenance and some of them therapeutic. For a good guide to supplements, I recommend this blog post by Chris Kresser. If you aren’t already, I absolutely recommend listening to his highly reviewed podcast on functional medicine. You can find it on iTunes. He has many episodes covering Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid Disorder.