A guide to herbs and supplementsSep 08, 2021
Recently, herbs and supplements have been increasingly growing in popularity. And while a lot of the work that I do is talking to clients about integrating these items into their lives and how helpful they can be, it’s important to really understand what you are putting into your body and why. There is a massive difference between therapeutic supplementation and supporting slight imbalance in the body.
I think that for most people, it's safe to say that more than 5 supplements at a time are too many unless you're working with a practitioner on a therapeutic protocol. Every pill that we take is processed through our digestive system and liver, and it is possible to overburden your system. When we eat fruits and vegetables, we get small amounts of vitamins and minerals each day that are broken down and distributed through the body. On the other hand, when supplementing with pills, creams, and liquids, we get a much stronger concentration of these vitamins and minerals at one time, which can be difficult for the body to process or even too much. I always like to note that the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, ones that you have to eat with fat for absorption, accumulate in the body faster and, over time, can lead to toxicity. I have seen vitamin D toxicity because a doctor wasn't paying close enough attention to a client's levels over time, and that is not something to mess around with.
When starting new supplements, you always want to be sure that there are no contradictions with your current condition, other supplements, or any prescription or over-the-counter medication you're taking. Through my work with many different clients, I have learned that it can be easy for them to get carried away with supplements. Like I said, taking too many supplements can often cause more harm than good, so if you’ve got blood work back from your doctor that shows some sort of imbalance or a vitamin and mineral deficiency, I would recommend working with a health coach or even taking my online course so you can better navigate the situation. This will help you to look for contraindications, potential risks, and interactions between supplements and medications.
The best way to incorporate supplements is with herbs spices while cooking. Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil are packed with nutrients, and aromatic spices like thyme, oregano, and sage turn your meals into healing dishes. These plants help to nourish the system, heal the liver, and work as antimicrobials.
Cinnamon– balances blood sugar and improves blood flow and circulation.
Add cinnamon to your smoothies, oatmeal, or tea.
Turmeric– is an anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is best known for having the compound curcumin, which is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Try: making golden milk with turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, monk fruit, and coconut milk. Turmeric can also be added to roasted veggies, soups, and smoothies.
Ginger– is excellent for improving digestion and relieving gastric upset.
Try: making my detox water with fresh ginger root or grate fresh ginger, lemon, and cayenne pepper.
With vitamins, it is really important to check blood work first to make sure you're actually treating a deficiency and not overdoing it. Below are some of my favorite vitamin supplements for certain conditions.
During times of illness and inflammation, you may want to supplement with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E. Antioxidants can also be obtained easily by eating vegetables and fruits that are colorful, like greens, carrots, yams, and blueberries.
For clients dealing with high amounts of stress, B vitamins are very helpful to supplement with because they support adrenals and healthy hormone production and help break down fats and carbs to use for energy.
In the darker months of the year, supplementing with vitamin D can help with energy levels, mood, and immunity. Most people are vitamin D deficient.
It’s also important to note that genetics can play a role in deciding whether or not we need supplementation and how they respond to certain vitamins. For instance, I have the genetic mutation MTHFR, so I need to take methylated folate where someone who doesn't have the gene wouldn't need that.
For sleep support - I recommend starting small and with herbs before moving to hormones and stronger supplements. Try something simple like lemon balm or chamomile tea before bed, and then maybe moving to take magnesium citrate. For insomnia, you may need melatonin, passionflower, or valerian.
Probiotics -a supplement I recommend to everyone - They help to ensure a healthy microbiome that impacts a number of body systems, including digestion, immune function, and hormone balance. The best way to get probiotics is through foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and coconut yogurt. You can also take a probiotic capsule with lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains is a good alternative starting with a 10-25 billion CFU capsule to avoid bloating and digestive distress.
For Constipation - magnesium citrate is the most helpful supplement I use in my practice. You can try chia seeds for something more natural -simply add a tablespoon of chia to water and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes and then drink the mixture to help move things along.
Omegas - Both omega 3 and 6 contain anti-inflammatory properties and support various functions in the body. Most people consume an overabundance of omega 6 and lack omega 3’s. When these are in proper balance, they can reduce inflammation. But it is important to note that too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3 can actually increase inflammation. Your body does not make omegas on its own, and it is really hard for your body to convert the plant sources like avocado, so they have to come from the diet through things like fatty fish or supplementation.
Protein Powders- I am a big believer that less is more is best when it comes to protein powders. The fewer ingredients, the better. You want to find something clean and straightforward, containing only a handful of basic ingredients. Basic proteins like sprouted brown rice, hemp, and collagen are all great options. I also like the moon juice mushroom protein!
Iron deficiencies are common among women with heavy menstrual cycles due to the heavy loss of blood. I know that last time I checked my iron levels, I was deficient because it's common among plant-based people. Start by adding in more iron-rich foods like lentils, beans, and leafy greens. If that's not enough, you can use a non-constipating iron supplement formula; reacted iron is best.
Make sure you're only choosing high-quality, reputable supplement sources. You can check out my post on that on the blog too! Not all supplements are made alike, and many often contain fillers or unknown additives. Since the FDA does not regulate supplements, it’s important to look for clean brands that are transparent about their ingredients and if they've been tested.
I hope this one was helpful to guide you into supplementation and healing any deficiencies you may be struggling with!