5 Best Supplements for Health

July 28, 2017
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

The supplements aisle. Hundreds of bottles of pills, powders and extracts stacked on top of each other. Each one promises something different than the other while claiming how important they are for your health. Where do you begin? Which supplements do you really you need? I hear these questions a lot in my practice. So, I’ve whittled the list down to my top five—the ones that not only give you that extra edge on a daily basis, but can serve as a preventative barrier to a host of diseases and ailments.

Before talking about these supplements, there is another common question that is just as important: Why should you take supplements? The truth is that even if you eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, your body still isn’t getting all the nutrients it needs to fire on all cylinders. This was not the case decades ago, but over-farming has depleted mineral levels in soil, reducing the amount of nutrition in today’s produce. On top of that, pesticides and herbicides can break down vitamins while also adding toxins to your food. Suddenly, that salad you are eating isn’t as healthy as you think it is.

This is the world we live in, but your health and livelihood do not have to be a victim to it. The following five best supplements are designed to help you overcome nutritional deficits in your food and give your body the boost you need to help fight off serious ailments like heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and more.

1. Curcumin: A super spice of life

Curcumin is the active ingredient in the yellow spice turmeric, which has been used as a medicine for centuries. That was before clinical research, but now curcumin’s health benefits are tested and proven.

First and foremost, curcumin is an inflammation fighter. The importance of this cannot be understated because inflammation is the genesis of nearly all diseases. By reducing and reversing inflammation, your body as a whole is more flexible, more comfortable, and better protected.

Studies have shown that curcumin can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, improve circulation, slow the effects of aging, help detox your body, protect against cognitive disorders (i.e. Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s), and support healthy kidney and liver function. And scientists are still uncovering more possible health benefits of curcumin. Continuing research is even testing curcumin’s cancer-fighting ability and showing great promise.

I recommend taking 500 mg of curcumin up to three times daily. Look for curcumin supplements with high bioavailability (better absorption into your body). I caution my patients that curcumin can thin your blood, which is mostly a concern for people who are already taking blood thinners. If that’s your case, talk with your physician or pharmacist before adding curcumin to your daily regimen.

2. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – Another shield against inflammation

Omega-3s are called essential fatty acids before they’re essential to life and your body cannot manufacture them on its own. And literally thousands of studies have proven that omega-3s help protect the body from a wide range of conditions. A steady supply of omega-3s can:

  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Protect against the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Lower triglycerides (blood fats)
  • Regulate heart arrhythmias
  • Protect and fortify the immune system
  • Protect against certain types of cancer
  • Balance insulin resistance (pre-diabetes)
  • Reduce the symptoms of asthma and allergies
  • Protect against unhealthy blood clots
  • Enhance memory, focus, and attention
  • Create healthy new cells while repairing old ones

And like curcumin, omega-3 is a proven anti-inflammatory. As such, it can reverse inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Also like curcumin, omega-3 EFAs can thin your blood. So, talk with your physician or pharmacist if you are already on a blood thinner

Before taking omega-3s, I have some advice about another EFA, omega-6. Most people get too little omega-3 and too much omega-6. Many health experts, myself included, believe that the most common inflammatory illnesses are a result of this EFA imbalance. By taking 3,000 mg of omega-3 EFAs daily and cutting back on omega-6 intake (commonly found in vegetable oils, cereals, most nuts, crackers and snacks), you can maximize the ability your omega-3 supplement to provide all of those wonderful protections listed above.

3. Berberine: A powerful natural medicine for more than a millennium

Goldenseal and poppy plants are the common source for this naturally occurring alkaloid. The herbs of these plants have been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. More recently, it was used by Cherokee, Catawba, Iroquois, and Kickapoo nations (and later adopted by European settlers in the 18th century).

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Berberine does four things and does them well: fight infections, fight fat cells (and suppress appetite), fight high cholesterol levels, and work similarly to insulin by regulating your body’s glucose levels.

To call it an aggressive supplement would be an understatement. Its potency is not a good fit for everyone, though. Berberine can cause jaundice in newborns, and therefore it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or nursing. It should also not be taken with cyclosporine or other drugs that are metabolized by the liver. If you are on multiple medications, talk with your doctor to learn if taking berberine is safe for you.

If it is, I recommend taking up to 1000 mg daily.

4. Probiotics: Good Bacteria for Good Health

The digestive health benefits of probiotics are recognized even by conventional doctors. That’s a good thing, but probiotics do a lot more for your body than just improve digestion. Simply put, by increasing the amount of good bacteria in your body, the more balanced and strengthened your body becomes.

For example, probiotics are a natural boost of energy without jitters or crashes. They can lower bad cholesterol and reduce incidence of asthma and allergies. And they can strengthen your immune system and improve your weight loss efforts.

Probiotics have no known side effects or drug interactions. Begin feeling the effects of this good bacteria by taking a broad-spectrum product that contains at least 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) with several strains of both acidophilus and lactobacillus. You’ll also want a probiotic that’s either enterically coated or microencapsulated, ensuring these live bacteria survive your stomach’s acids and make it into your intestines where they’re needed most.

5. Vitamin D3: A vital vitamin

It’s common knowledge that our sun is a great source of vitamin D. But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are two forms of the vitamin–vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. While vitamin D2 isn’t necessary bad for you, vitamin D3 is far and above one of the most vital nutrients.

Studies have shown that a lack of vitamin D3 actually increases the risk of dying early. Other studies have shown that it supports your immune system, and keeps your bones, heart, eyes and lungs strong. Researchers at Stanford Medical School have recently concluded that a deficiency of Vitamin D increases the risk of developing cancer. That same study also showed that – pound for pound – a vitamin D3 supplement is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent and reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Though the sun is a bountiful source of vitamin D3, it doesn’t shine 365 days a year. Plus, sunscreen prevents the absorption of beneficial UVB rays, which your body uses to create D3…we also know that too much sun exposure can damage your skin. So, I recommend a daily dosage between 1,500 and 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3. Talk with your doctor if you have hyperparathyroidism before taking this as a supplement.

A lifelong commitment to a longer, healthier life

As a rule, these supplements are safe. But before you spend a dollar, do your homework and buy supplements from companies with a solid reputation. A good indicator of this are companies that back up their products with money-back guarantees. If you are still unsure, talk with your doctor.

As with all supplements, don’t expect results on the first day or the first week for that matter. It could take as long as four to six weeks to for these supplements to reach therapeutic levels in your body, but it’s worth the wait. And if you want to accelerate the benefits of these supplements, continue eating well and staying active. Healthy habits are fuel for these supplements, and vice versa.

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