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Top 5 Supplements Everyone Should Take

Jan 28, 2014 12:45AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

These days supplements are advertised for everything from keeping your heart healthy to helping your hair and nails grow faster. The amount of information can be overwhelming—and even subject to change! That makes it easy to lose track of which vitamins and minerals are most important to your health. Most of the nutrients our bodies require for optimal health are available by eating a well-balanced diet, but people with certain conditions or at certain stages of life may need more of certain ones. Pregnancy and lactation, for example, require additional nutrients, and aging sometimes impairs the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients. In addition, many older people have smaller appetites that may not supply sufficient vitamins and minerals. And then there are some nutrients that diet alone may not be able to supply. Read on to find out about five supplements that almost everyone should be taking. Of course, you should consult your health care provider before adding any supplement or medication to your regimen, as even nutritional supplements can interact with certain drugs and alter their efficacy

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)

Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in many processes within the body. Omega 3s support not only heart health by lowering triglycerides but also brain, central nervous system, and eye health. If you already have normal triglyceride levels and are in good health in terms of your heart, taking an omega-3 supplement can help to maintain that and may even reduce your risk of heart disease later in life. This supplement also works to decrease inflammatory processes in the body, including vascular and joint inflammation. Many professional health-care organizations recommend 500 mg per day of EPA/DHA (another name for omega 3s). If you normally eat fatty, coldwater fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines a few times a week, you may be getting enough in your diet. But if you are like most of us who don’t eat much fish, talk to your health care provider about how much fish oil you should take in supplement form.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is involved in just about every process in the body from producing disease-preventing proteins and enzymes to acting as a cofactor for numerous genes. It’s also necessary for the proper absorption of calcium from food, a mineral that contributes to strong bones and teeth. Studies have also shown that it supports breast, ovarian, prostate, heart, and colorectal health. And because of its role in disease prevention, it contributes to the health of the immune system. Most of us are deficient in this vitamin, since one of the primary ways our bodies make it is through exposure to sunlight (the other is through fortified food products). Those with darker skin, those who wear sunscreen regularly, the elderly, and those living in either heavily polluted areas or Northern regions where sunlight exposure is minimal may not get enough. Talk to your doctor about having your vitamin D level assessed with a simple blood test to help determine the dose of this vitamin you should take.

Probiotics

Many Americans have poor gastrointestinal health for a multitude of reasons, and many suffer constipation, gas, bloating, or other GI discomforts. A number of factors (including antibiotic use, a poor diet, and even stress) have a negative effect on the “friendly” bacteria that live in our gut and help us to absorb vitamins and nutrients. Therefore, a large part of the population could benefit from taking a type of supplement known as probiotics. These are live bacteria that repopulate your GI tract with the good bacteria that help boost immunity, absorb nutrients, and benefit our bodies in other ways that are the focus of current research. While probiotics are found in kefir, yogurt, and some other foods, you would have to consume very large amounts of them to increase the good bacteria in your gut. They play a big role in your overall health and wellness, not only by aiding digestion and nutrient absorption but also by boosting your immune system and restricting the growth of yeasts and bacteria that cause diarrhea and other GI symptoms. A great deal of research is underway on probiotics and which exact strains can address particular health problems. Check your local health food store for different products and ask your doctor for recommendations

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and one that is needed for strong bones and teeth, especially for those of us who are getting a little older. Children and adolescents, in particular, need adequate calcium, since bone density is built during childhood and peaks around 20 years of age. Research has shown that a higher peak bone density reduces the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Calcium also plays a role in nervous system function, muscle function, and even blood vessel function. Calcium is found in dairy products and other foods, but depending on your age, your diet, and your stage of life, you may need more. The recommended daily dose for those over 18 years of age is 1,000 mg split into two 500 mg doses (absorption is best if the dose is around 500 mg). Consult your doctor to find out if you should take this mineral in supplement form, and if so, when to take calcium, since it can interfere with the absorption of some prescription medications.

Folic Acid

While deficiencies of this nutrient don’t usually pertain to men, folic acid is important enough to include. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is needed to make DNA and other genetic materials, and is needed for the body’s cells to divide. And though it is naturally present in foods, and a number of food products are fortified with folic acid, women who plan to conceive, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age (including teens) should be taking 400 to 800 micrograms of supplemental folic acid as well. Women who don’t have enough folic acid are at risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (spina bifida) as well as a premature or low birth-weight baby. If you are past childbearing age or a male, folic acid is still a nutrient your body needs, and deficiency could result in a type of anemia. Consult your doctor to determine how much folic acid you should be taking, depending on your own health profile and other medicines you take.

Which supplements would you recommend?

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