The principles of naturopathic medicine decree that naturopathic treatments should always be uniquely tailored to work with each individual patient. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) look at patients holistically and believe in addressing the root cause of each person’s disease. It’s incredibly powerful to treat based on this principle, but after years of practice I find there are some basic health-promoting staples that are important for almost every person I see, regardless of their health affliction. I call these the “foundational five” and use them as a platform to build structural health. It is important to then build upon this for each person’s individualized treatment. The five essentials are probiotics, an immune supporting vitamin, omega 3 fatty acids (i.e. fish oil), a multi-mineral, and a multi-B vitamin. When I first saw Dr. Abram Hoffer, I left his office with a long list of nutrients I had to start taking. I explain to my patients that it takes a lot of fuel to get a plane off the ground, but once we get to cruising altitude, we can pull back. This is akin to me taking many supplements at first to get well as my nutritional foundation had deep cracks in them. Now that I am healthy, happy and well, I continue the foundational five, to maintain my good health.
Probiotics: Taking probiotics is a way to help your internal gut environment, or microbiome, to be as healthy as possible. Having a microbiome that is balanced in lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and other “good” bacteria has been shown to benefit both local and systemic conditions. In other words, taking probiotics can help digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diarrhea, constipation, and poor nutrient absorption, while at the same time it can benefit whole-body conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, depression, nasal congestion, oral health/dental cavities, and acne. A healthy microbiome also supports your immune system as good bacteria prevent toxin invasion in the gut from food-borne pathogens. So many illnesses begin with poor gut barriers and poor nutrient absorption. This can be reduced significantly by adding probiotics to your health regime and by continuing to rotate the probiotics introduced into your digestive tract – there is much more to probiotics than just taking acidophilus and bifidus. Eating fermented foods is also beneficial to support gut health.
Immune-support: Vitamin C and/or Vitamin D: One of the simplest ways to make a big change in your overall health is to take a daily vitamin that supports general immune system function. Vitamin C and vitamin D have both been shown to improve immunity when taken on a daily basis. Vitamin C is needed by immune cells to function, and research shows that when taken consistently it can reduce the duration of the common cold. Vitamin D is deficient in many people, especially in Canada, and this low vitamin D status can lead to decreased immunity, more frequent colds, and even increased risk of autoimmune conditions. Vitamin D works to turn on key genes in your body that trigger a strong anti-microbial response, helping you fight infections for the common cold to more serious infection. Vitamin D also plays a role in mental health and is recommended in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids are important for the every-day function of many parts of your body. They are highly concentrated in the brain and help memory and cognition. This also helps them be effective at reducing ADHD symptoms in adults and children. Furthermore, omega 3’s reduce overall inflammation in the body and help reduce the risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and even some cancers. What is also important is not just how much omega 3 you get, but the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids in your body. Some omega 6 foods like peanuts and canola oil increase inflammation and raise the risk of some of the above mentioned conditions. So reducing your intake of omega 6 fatty acids while supplementing with omega 3s can improve your ratio and make a big impact on your brain and body.
High-Quality Multi-Mineral Supplement: Unfortunately, today’s standard diet is lacking in many essential nutrients. Some of these essential nutrients are often forgotten about but they are no less important; I’m talking about minerals. Minerals are essential building blocks for teeth, bones, muscle, soft tissue, nerve cells and the blood. Without a proper storehouse of minerals, we are at increased risk of conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease, muscle conditions, abnormal fat and sugar processing, hormonal imbalances, and fatigue. Most are concerned about calcium as it helps the development and maintenance of teeth and bones, but all the minerals are important. Also, calcium needs vitamins K and D to help direct it to bone and it needs to be consumed in the correct form for maximum absorption. An often-overlooked mineral is phosphorus, which is a participant in many chemical reactions in the body. Iron maintains healthy red blood cells and is required for oxygen delivery. Copper contributes to the health of skin and nails. Chromium is important in blood sugar regulation. Zinc is essential for a properly functioning immune system. Other important minerals include manganese, iodine, magnesium, potassium, and molybdenum. Some poor quality multi-mineral supplements contain very low amounts of key minerals in the incorrect form so it is important to talk to your ND about selecting high-quality supplements with bioavailable forms of these key nutrients.
Multi-B Vitamin: The family of B vitamins needs to be looked at just as that: a family. It is important to take a multi B vitamin that contains the entire family (in the correct forms) as they work together. B Vitamins are critical for the most common condition affecting most of us: STRESS! B vitamins are used up when the body is under stress. Vitamin B5 and B6 are particularly helpful in modulating the body’s response to stress and not letting it take such a high toll on us. B12 deficiency is common among vegetarians and vegans, which contributes significantly to fatigue and some types of anemia. Vitamin B6 is needed to support the formation of progesterone and prevent PMS symptoms. Folate (B9), niacin (B3), thiamin (B1), and riboflavin (B2) are all important in countless body processes and we should not rely on our diet alone to provide us with the required amounts of these nutrients. They need to be included in a multi-B vitamin supplemented on top of your diet. And if you’ve heard of the importance of properly functioning methylation pathways, you know that B vitamins are indispensable for this. To get proper amounts of each of these, ask your Naturopathic Doctor about how to choose a high-quality B vitamin supplement. Your ND will help you select one tailored to your body’s needs. At our clinic, we also recommend you do a diet analysis (cost $150). We analyze the information from three perspectives: a macronutrient, micronutrient and environmental perspective. This way, you know what you are deficient in, how much supplementation is required and the dietary changes you can make to support optimum health.
Taking these supplements daily will build a strong foundation on which your health will grow. I recommend these five foundational supplements to every patient and their families for the best support for their overall health. If you would like further information on how to support your health with diet, nutrition and supplementation, please call the clinic at 587-521-3595 to schedule an appointment.
- Probiotics: https://chriskresser.com/5-uncommon-uses-for-probiotics/
- Vitamin C: Ströhle, A., & Hahn, A. (2009). Vitamin C and immune function. Medizinische Monatsschrift fur Pharmazeuten, 32(2), 49-54.
- Vitamin D: http://www.amymyersmd.com/2016/06/vitamin-d/
- Vitamin D & Seasonal Affective Disorder: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/02/14/seasonal-affective-disorder-vitamin-d.aspx