Until recently, my Father required an entire cupboard in the kitchen to house the collection of tablets and potions from which his daily supplementation was administered. My relentless re-education campaign is paying off: we are now down to a single shelf.
Over the years I went from no supplementation to lots of supplementation then finally to judicious supplementation. I'd like to spare you the effort of making the same journey.
First of all, a couple of assumptions to make clear.
- I eat a Paleo diet (most of the time.) Thus, the nutrient density of my food is high and well proportioned. My meat is mostly wild or organic / grass fed / free range. My fruit and veg is mostly organic. Yes, the nutrient density of modern fruit and vegetables, organic or otherwise, is lower than those our ancestors gathered; and yes, modern life throws at us additional toxins such as pollution. However, I doubt our ancestors had consistent access to the volume of fruits and vegetables we do. I believe this offsets the reduced nutrient content and additional toxin load.
- I have no special requirements. I am not pregnant (and barring some kind of unwelcome miracle, never will be) and I am not aware of any congenital deficiencies. My research has been based on my requirements as a normal healthy male.
What Supplements do I Take?
Vitamin DI have read a lot about this (see the articles in my bookmarks under the vitamin D tag.) There is a growing consensus that it's a crucial ingredient to our wellbeing, and one whose healthy levels have been underestimated. People mistook average levels for healthy levels. Modern man spends much less time in the sun, so our bodies are not able to make what they need; and since it's almost impossible to compensate for this via diet, we have a problem only supplementation or regular holidays can solve (unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere sunny.)
I have written about how I got tested, revealing a significant deficiency, then supplemented to achieve improved levels.
I buy this product.
Summer: 3000 iu per day when I do not sunbathe. Zero iu when I do.
Winter: 4000 iu each day.
I get tested every 6 months, and adjust supplementation accordingly. I am still learning.
PriobioticsI don't agree with everything Mark Sisson says about supplementation, but there's no doubt he knows his stuff, and it's his views on probiotics in this post which have driven my policy. The key points I have learned are:
- We need healthy bacteria in our guts.
- Some things we do in our life kills the friendly bacteria (e.g. antibiotics, illness, stress.)
- Unlike our forefathers, we are very hygienic. So the friendly bacteria does not tend to get replaced naturally.
- Once re-introduced, friendly bacteria can grow and flourish by itself.
I buy this product (but not from this shop)
Once day per month: 36 mg Lactobacilli culture x 4.
SerrapeptaseI have my Mother to thank for this one. Several years ago she noted I was taking ibuprofen tablets like smarties. I was playing a lot of sport and constantly had sprains or muscular issues to combat.
Since then I have learned how bad Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) - of which ibuprofen is one - can be. They mess with your stomach in a way which (to a layman like me) sounds a lot like the impact grains have.
What are the alternatives? Well, many of the healthy foods I am already consuming have anti-inflammatory effects. Omega 3 fatty acids, for a start; and apparently cherries have excellent anti-inflammatory effects - but how many jugs of cherry juice would I need to combat a sprained ankle?
Bottom line: serrapeptase is a naturally occurring substance with a long track record of largely side-effect-free use as a powerful anti-inflammatory. So when I am injured, I take that.
I buy this product (but not from this shop)
When injured, I take 60,000 or 120,000 iu 3 times per day. I have no real basis for this dosing other than the knowledge that side effects are rare even at high doses, and I have never experienced any.
What Supplements would I Consider Taking?
Omega 3 OilI have read a fair bit about this too, but don't seem to have bookmarked anything. The key point is that the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids in our diet is very important to health. As hunter gatherers this was not an issue. Wild food is high in omega 3. However, processed food and industrially farmed animals are high in omega 6. Supplementation with omega 3 can therefore be a good idea to combat the modern diet.
Nevertheless, I do not supplement with omega 3 because:
- You can get omega 3 from foods. Oily fish is an excellent source. I eat sardines, mackerel and herring by the bucket load. These are small, wild-caught, oily fish. Size is important because small fish have not lived long enough for significant quantities of cancer-causing toxins to build up in their fatty tissue. I also eat tinned salmon.
- As I mentioned, most of the time I don't eat modern or industrialised food anyway, so my omega 6 intake is generally low.
- I don't like spending money I don't have to.
Why Won't I Take Anything Else?I will preface my final point with the following statement: I am always learning and certainly do not know it all. A year ago I would have written this blog post and not even mentioned vitamin D. Next week I may read an article that convinces me I should supplement with something else. For now, my views on further supplementation are as follows:
Mankind barely even 'gets' the human body at the moment. We are about as good at knowing the full effects of a supplement as we are at predicting the weather beyond next week. This is a good analogy because like the body, the weather is an immensely complex system in which everything interacts with everything else.
We run crude tests where we change one variable out of billions, then draw our conclusions from a few measurements over a few months.
We evolved to receive our nutrients from food, which is also a complex combination of many substances. Yet we identify single molecules in that food and think that by supplementing just that molecule we can compensate for eating material that barely qualifies as food.
So I will continue to 'supplement' with real food, except in cases (like vitamin D) where I am convinced this is not possible and where I am willing to take the gamble of consuming an isolated substance that crudely approximates what nature intended.