Supplementation is a major, yet confusing aspect of functional medicine. Are supplements necessary? Is supplementation safe? Which supplements and vitamins are right for me? Will they improve my health?
Truth is, in addition to adopting a nutrient-dense diet and implementing other lifestyle changes, supplementation can be a beneficial and effective method to optimize health. However, there is a right and wrong way to incorporate supplements and vitamins into a healthy lifestyle. For example, blindly supplementing with vitamins, minerals, and herbs is an unwise approach. It’s important to test, not guess, when it comes to supplement use. Utilizing functional testing provides an inside look at what the body specifically needs. It reveals deficiencies, infections, and more, paving the way to the most useful supplements for each individual.
Not all supplements are created equal. I’ll say it again: not all supplements are created equal. Despite popular belief, over-the-counter supplements at your local drug store are likely not the safest or most effective options available.
When choosing your supplements and vitamins (and brand), it’s critical to check the safety, purity, and potency. To do so, look for one of the following labels on your supplement bottle: GMP or USP. These stamps prove that the supplement has been 3rd party-tested for safety, purity, and potency.
In addition, when trying new supplements, it’s always best to do so under the care of a functional medicine professional. They can guide you to the right supplements for you, while giving access to professional-grade supplements.
Implementing various supplements, like vitamins, minerals, and herbs, can play a major part in healing illness or preventing it. However, as with everything, it’s important to be aware of the risk and reward of supplementation.
On one hand, supplements can reduce risk of nutrient deficiencies, by providing a convenient and efficient way to consume more nutrients. They can also provide the body with potent amounts of essential nutrients to fight infection or disease. As a result, supplementation can naturally support a healthy body.
That said, there are contraindications to consider with most supplements. Also, toxicity can be a concern when supplements offer extremely high doses. So, it’s wise to work with a health professional who is aware of these risks and can provide bioindividual guidance.
When it comes to autoimmunity, supplements and vitamins aren’t a quick fix. If you are dealing with autoimmunity, it comes down to inflammation and your immune system mistakenly attacking your own body due to that inflammation. The inflammation typically stems from an imbalanced gut and intestinal permeability.
While supplements are not a cure all, they do have an important role in reversing autoimmunity. In order to heal from your autoimmune condition, you must heal the gut. This is where the strategic use of supplementation comes in. In functional medicine practice, we use specific supplements to support the natural healing of the gut microbiome. The supplements used are highly dependent on each individual’s unique microbiome. And as we know, a healthy microbiome leads to less inflammation, which in turn marks the start of reversed autoimmunity.
While supplementation is largely based on an individual’s needs, there are five supplements that can be helpful, in general. They lay the foundation for a healthy and balanced microbiome, while supporting a strong immune system. Here are the best supplements and vitamins to improve health:
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid. It’s effective in strengthening the gut lining and improving gut integrity. As a result, glutamine can support healthy immune function and cytokine production to fight off pathogens. I recommend Vital Nutrients Glutamine Powder.
Spore-based probiotics are the most effective and beneficial probiotics available. They successfully replenish the good bacteria in your gut, while preventing overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. Until you have a thorough understanding of your unique gut microbiome (via a G.I. Map test), spore-based probiotics are a good option. In fact, one study shows that oral consumption of spore-based probiotics is linked to reduced symptoms of leaky gut. I recommend Microbiome Labs MegaSporeBiotic.
Vitamin D is the most common vitamin deficiency in Americans, specifically among those with leaky gut and autoimmunity. It’s important to always combine Vitamin D with K2, as it aids in vitamin D absorption. As a result, the vitamin D + K2 power duo leads to improved immune function and increased levels of serotonin (the happy hormone). I recommend Seeking Health Vitamin D3 + K2.
Even when consuming a nutrient-dense diet, it can be very difficult to receive all the vitamins we need for optimal health. A high quality multi-vitamin, without added fillers, is the best option. And, as with all supplements, it’s critical to find a multivitamin with bioavailable nutrients (those that are easily absorbed and used in the body), instead of their synthetic forms. For this reason, I recommend OrthoMolecular Alpha Base Capsules without iron.
Protein powder is a great way to ensure adequate protein consumption on a daily basis. It’s essential for maintaining and healing the gut lining, while also building new tissue. Bonus: protein powder is fairly versatile, so you can add it as a protein boost in your pancakes, oatmeal, baked goods, and more. Unfortunately, not all protein powders have quality ingredients. Many are filled with gut-irritating additives and gums. For this reason, I always look for protein powders with minimal ingredients. My recommendation is Designs for Health Pure Paleo Protein Powder.
While supplements can be a necessary tool, they are only a small part of healing the gut and reversing autoimmunity. No supplement should serve as a “magic pill.” In an effort to help clear up any confusion around supplements, I’ve created a specific protocol with the recommended foundational five supplements. Access the FREE protocol here: The Foundational Five Protocol.
To further improve your health, you can also download this Starter Kit. It provides three daily habits to improve leaky gut and autoimmunity that you can start right now and includes my 7 step process for healing the gut + so much more!
"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."
-Nikki Yelton, RD
If you are ready to stop wasting precious time, get off the never-ending hamster wheel, and finally surrender trying to figure things out on your own—this is your moment.
You don’t have to settle for just getting by and hoping tomorrow is a better day. We both know you are a woman who deserves better and are made for so. much. more.