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Happy Tuesday. I decided that today, rather than show you what I ate, I would instead focus on what pills I took.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about whether or not vitamins are actually necessary. (For example, this recent article at Mark’s Daily Apple – Dear Mark: Are Supplements Useless?) I used to be a firm believer that vitamins were just “expensive pee.” At least that was the phrase I heard a teacher say once and I’ve been repeating it ever since.

The hope is that since you are eating real, whole foods, you are getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. It’s really only when your nutrition consists of empty bread, processed meats and vitamin-leaching soda that you should be worried.

I am, however, not a doctor. Or a nutritionist. Or even a scientist. All I know is what I’ve read online and my own self-experimentation.

I’ve finally settled on four important supplements that I feel make a huge difference in how I feel:

  1. Allergy medication, specifically Zyrtec (or the CVS generic)
  2. Digestive enzymes
  3. Vitamin D
  4. Magnesium

Allergy Medication

I’ve always had awful allergies. Sneezing, sinus pressure, even hives. When I was a child I had to take both prescription Claritin and Flonase. However as I got older, I started to question whether these medications were actually working.

The summer after my Freshmen year of college I suddenly got sidelined by migraines for a week straight. They were awful. The worst part was the nausea. I basically had to lay down and keep my head still, otherwise the world would spin.

Ever since then, this week of hell happens about twice a year. The good news is last year I finally made the connection to allergies. If I take Benadryl at the first sign of these migraines I can normally stop them before they get really bad.

However, I’d rather not have to keep a dose of Benadryl on me at all times. So I started to experiment. First it was with Claritin. And I was right. It did nothing. But then I decided to try Zyrtec. After about a week of taking it, I stopped, just to see what would happen. A few days later my headaches started coming back.

I decided then and there that I would continue to take it. Maybe it’s all in my head (no pun intended) but I decided it was worth taking just in case.

Digestive Enzymes

A lot of people take digestive enzymes to help digest gluten or dairy. Since I try to avoid both of those, you would think DE aren’t really necessary. But actually I take these to help digest uncooked vegetables.

Last year in an effort to eat more veggies, I decided to go a week just eating vegetables. No meat. (And of course no gluten, dairy or soy). This experiment ended after three days. It was horrible! My stomach was bloated and uncomfortable, I had terrible heartburn and to put it delicately…I was stuffed up.

I realized that unfortunately my body has a hard time digesting raw vegetables. So every once and a while when I eat a large salad, I take one of these.

If you’re looking for more information, I recommend you check out this article over at Whole9Life – Everything you ever wanted to know about digestive enzymes.

Digestive Enzymes

I just bought the generic brand by Vitamin Shopp. Mostly because it was gluten, dairy and soy free. And as you can see it’s also free of sugar, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.

Vitamin D

Three years ago I was dangerously low in Vitamin D. I went to my doctor for a check up, she took one look at me and immediately ordered blood tests to check. Sure enough I was at 9 ng/mL. Most treatments for low vitamin d start when a person is at 20 ng/ML. I was at 9!

At first I thought my doctor was a genius. Later I realized that most people are low in Vitamin D. And since I complained that I was feeling lethargic, it was a safe guess.

But ever since then I’ve tried to keep my eye on it. Interestingly, ever since going paleo, I haven’t been low at all. I hold steady at 30 ng/mL. Probably because most of what I eat is a great natural source of Vitamin D. For example, eggs (the yolk specifically) and salmon.

However, during the winter months, I still choose to supplement. Given my history, I don’t want to take any chances.

Obviously, the sun will always be the best source, but even Mark Sisson agrees that a supplement is helpful.

vitamin d

Now the word of caution. Every. Single. Brand. of Vitamin D I found at the drugstore contained soybean oil as the number one ingredient. It was incredibly frustrating. Since I have bad reactions to soy in food, there was no way I was going to take it in pill form.

I finally found the brand Country Life at Whole Foods. No gluten, soy, dairy, corn, sugar, preservatives or artificial color. And at under $8, it’s not that expensive either. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Whole Foods near you, I found it on Amazon. 

Magnesium

I typically don’t take this supplement every day, but you could if you wanted to. I’ve read a number of articles that suggest taking magnesium, for example this one by MDA or this one by Whole9Life. There are a number of benefits from magnesium supplementation. A lot of people say it relaxes them and helps them sleep. It’s also supposed to be great for those with migraines or restless leg syndrome.

And…::drum-roll:: it helps fibromyalgia! I got your attention now. Mark Sisson shared this link to a post by Emily Deans, MD, that spoke about the effects that magnesium could have on those with Fibro.

It makes a lot of sense. My muscles tend to freak out and contract while I sleep. So maybe if I took a supplement that is supposed to help you relax before bed, my muscles would listen.

Currently I’m still undecided whether or not my magnesium supplement actually helps my fibro. Which is why I don’t take it every night. I do, however take it to treat one other problem of mine….constipation.

Sorry, sorry TMI. But I know some of you out there suffer from the same stupid problem. Two tsp of this and I’m finally heading to the bathroom a few hours (or the following morning) later.

magnesium

The best part is the ingredient list. I take a powdered magnesium supplement by Nutrina. I’ve taken so many different laxatives in the past (to varying degrees of success) and I much prefer taking a supplement that’s good for me rather than a drug with who knows what chemicals. The one by Nutrina unfortunately isn’t available on Amazon but I’ve also heard that Natures Calm is a good choice.

One piece of advice. The powdered magnesium has a sour taste. At first I mixed it with a little apple juice. But I found the best way is to dissolve it with a little boiling water, then fill up the rest of your cup with cold water. The sour taste isn’t that bad when you’re drinking it cooler.

Do you take any supplements? If so, which ones and why?

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