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Dietary supplements – in my book, they’re essential health-boosters that can help fill in nutritional gaps and protect your body against the occasional diet slip-up. While they won’t make up for a bad diet, think of dietary supplements as your nutritional pit crew, standing at the ready to make those quick adjustments, tweaks and fixes to your internal engines and get you back out on the road, raring to go. 

Fact of the matter is, with so much of our food grown in soil that’s depleted of nutrients, it’s tough to get the necessary nutrition from food alone. Furthermore, if your meal features foods that have been genetically modified, sprayed with pesticides, processed, packaged and trucked long distances, most of the nutritional value has been lost by the time it hits your plate. So our bodies wind up being overfed with empty calories – and starved of nutrients. 

While I recommend everyone should eat whole, preferably organic foods or from farmers’ markets, I also believe that supplements are important as well. So where to start? Here’s my list of supplement superstars that just about everyone can benefit from – and the vita-must-haves that do wonders and help make wellness sustainable. I’ve broken my favorites into three groups, so you can discover the supplements that best suit your needs. They are:

  • The Everyday Fab Four – the four basic supplements that are the cornerstone of good health.
  • The Supportive Six – the six ‘problem solver’ supplements, that are there when you need them.
  • The Fascinating Five – my five favorite supplements you may not be familiar with – but should be!

The Everyday Fab Four

At minimum, I recommend taking these 4 supplements every day: a multivitamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and a probiotic. Why? Because the Fab Four covers a lot of health bases. Together, they can help keep your gut and insulin levels on an even keel, keep energy levels high and even help reduce cancer and heart disease risk.  

1. Multivitamin

We have a huge need for protective, health-supporting nutrients to help us combat the daily assault of living in a polluted and stressful world. It’s also why I put a good multivitamin at the top of my “vita-must” list. Think of a multivitamin as a little insurance policy to help protect your body against the vitamin and mineral shortfalls that can occur even in diets that are rich in healthy foods. By gifting your body with a multi, you’ll also be optimizing cellular function, which helps make all your systems work consistently at their peak, instead of sputtering through the day. 

Be Well Tip:
  • When buying, look for multis in capsule form with an easily absorbed enteric coating versus harder-to-digest tablet versions.
  • Always take your multi with food to assist with absorption and prevent the queasiness that can sometimes occur on an empty stomach.
  • If you’re on medications, review your multi’s contents with your doc to make sure there aren’t any contraindications.
  • As there is currently little regulation of supplements in the US, be sure to buy from a reputable company.

2. Vitamin D3

Vitamin D, actually a pre-hormone and not a vitamin, is like the office busy body – it’s involved in just about everything – playing an essential role in the making of hundreds of disease-preventing proteins and enzymes, and affecting more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength, builds bone, has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and bolsters the immune system. Come up perpetually short and over time, you could be leaving your body vulnerable to scourges like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Here’s the tricky part: it’s virtually impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food, so you have to get it from supplements and sun exposure.

Be Well Tip: 
  • Generally 2,000 – 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 is a typical maintenance dose, but if your levels are low, you may need more – but don’t DIY it or guess your appropriate dose. Have your levels checked by your doc at your annual physical to determine your needs. Here is the Vitamin D3 (2000) that we use often with patients as a maintenance dose.
  • Ideally, your levels should be in the optimal range of 50 to 80 ng/ml.

3. Fish Oils

Fish oil supplements are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are vital to good health. They support your body’s ability to prevent chronic diseases and help protect it against inflammation. They also promote a stronger immune system; cardiovascular, joint and vision health; strengthen skin, hair, and nails; and enhance nutrient absorption, metabolic function as well as attention, mood and memory skills. In short, fish oil is seriously good stuff, but as with Vitamin D, you can’t make your own omega-3 fatty acids, so you’ve got to get it from outside sources. Fatty fish and fish oil supplements are your best sources – so I urge everyone to indulge!

Be Well Tip:
  • I recommend a dosage of 2 to 3 g of EPA and DHA (combined) daily, but make sure you choose a good quality fish oil to ensure purity and the removal of heavy metals, pesticides, PCB’s and other contaminants.

4. Probiotics

Probiotics are the naturally occurring “good” bacteria that live in your gut and play a significant role in your total wellness. When you’re healthy, your intestinal tract hosts a battalion of more than 100 trillion friendly bacteria, who spend their days aiding digestion, boosting your immune system and consuming bad bacteria. They manufacture key nutrients and limit the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria – and in their spare time, they also help inhibit bouts of lactose intolerance, poor digestion and diarrhea. But as strong as your belly battalion might be, poor diet, stress, pollution and antibiotic use can wipe out the good guys – so it’s up to you to fortify and repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria – which is where probiotics come in. A daily dose of probiotics is a fantastic way to swiftly and significantly improve digestion and strengthen immunity – no prescription required! 

Be Well Tip:
  • Look for probiotic capsules or powders with the two most common and effective beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
  • The daily dose for both should be 10-30 billion viable or “live” units of bacteria a day.
  • Side effects are rare, although some people may initially experience some gas and bloating, which usually subsides within a few days.

If you’re looking for an easy way to get these four supplements at once, the Be Well Daily Dose includes a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D and probiotic.

This post originally appeared on DrFrankLipman.com.

Dr. Frank Lipman is an internationally recognized expert in the field of integrative and functional medicine. He is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and the developer of a line of leading-edge supplements, Be Well by Dr Frank Lipman.

He is the author of “REVIVE: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again“; and “TOTAL RENEWAL; 7 key steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health.” Visit his blog, follow him on Twitter or join his Facebook community today.

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