Basic Supplement Recommendations From My Integrative M.D. (Interview)

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Hi Sweet Friends,

This week I’m introducing you to one of my personal doctors. Kenneth Bock, Integrative M.D., is the captain of my healing team. Dr. Bock’s expertise and advice are essential to my wellness and so is his lovely friendship. I’m lucky enough to have Bock Integrative in my backyard, but for those of you who do not have a Dr. Bock of your own (I’ll tell you how to find an integrative practitioner later in the blog), I’ve brought him to my home and yours with this Chat & Chew episode to discuss supplements.

Over the years, I’ve received thousands of questions about supplements. Here’s the sitch, there is no one-size-fits-all supplement prescription, but there are some basics that will help to get you started. In addition to the three supplements I talk about with Dr. Bock, I’ve included additional recommendations below.

You might be asking yourself, why can’t I get everything my body needs from a well-balanced diet? I sure wish we could. Unfortunately, that often isn’t the case in today’s world. Modern farming practices and environmental issues have depleted the vitamins and nutrients in our food. Plus, everyone’s nutritional needs are unique, especially when facing a health challenge.

Think of supplements as your insurance policy. This is why I completely agree that the best way to proceed with creating a supplement program is with the guidance of a trained professional. Magazine articles and cleansing fads can lead you down a confusing road that wastes your time and money. A trained professional will look under your hood (so to speak) and carefully analyze where you’re deficient and why. They’ll also offer nutrition advice to complement your protocol. After about 3-4 months you’ll want to schedule a follow up to see how it’s all working. Quick story: A few years ago I was deficient in CoQ10, even though I was taking the proper dosage. Turns out my body didn’t like (or absorb) the brand I was taking. Once I moved to a new brand, my levels balanced out. I never would have known if I wasn’t under supervision.

Word to the wise (and let’s take a deep breath together): It’s easy to get overwhelmed by supplements, but integrating them into your life doesn’t need to become a second job. I may take a lot of supplements today, but I didn’t start full tilt boogie. My supplement routine has built up and changed over time and yours can too (if you’d like). Plus, you may not need to take it to the lengths that I have. Sister Kris is one complicated broad and like it or not, I need more help than the average (yet stunning) Jane.

It’s all about turtle power. Slow and steady. Take your time, choose quality over quantity, and figure out what works best for your beautiful bod. Flexibility helps too. I’m not perfect (surprise!). I forget to take my supplements and sometimes I’m naughty about going to the doctor regularly, but on the whole, I try my best to prioritize my health and adjust my routine to life in the present moment.

For example, when I’m on the road, I don’t carry every single supplement known to man. While traveling, I pack my B12, Vitamin D, probiotic, adrenal herbs, magnesium (helps keep the trains moving on time, AKA travel constipation!), omega 3’s and green powder (I like Amazing Grasses brand–for when I can’t get fresh green juice). Use the information in this blog and my Chat & Chew conversation with smarty-pants Dr. Bock as your stepping stone. Ready? I truly hope this post helps you on your quest for sound advice and answers.

Here’s an overview of my supplement showdown with Dr. Bock:

Dr. Bock Tip: If possible, get tested by an integrative MD who can tailor a supplement program for your unique needs and prescribe pharmaceutical-grade supplements. If this is not possible (location or finances), make sure you choose high-quality supplements at the store or online. They may be more expensive, but your long-term health is worth the investment. And in case you’re interested, Garden of Life and Pure Encapsulations are a couple other over-the-counter supplement brands I trust.

How can you find an Integrative Doc? It’s always ideal to get a referral from a pal or family member, but when that isn’t possible, the world wide web offers some great resources. Check out the directories below and interview your doctors to make sure they’re the right fit for your healing team. Another bonus to seeing an experienced integrative MD is that they have vetted supplement companies for you and selected the top quality brands.

Starter Supplements:

Omega 3’s (brain & heart health): Dr. Bock recommends high-quality fish oil or flax oil. There are also algae-based, vegan brands such as Life’s DHA and Dr. Ohirra’s Essential Living Oils. (Fun side note: Dr. Oz introduced me to Life’s DHA when he dropped by my home for some green juice and conversation and filmed a “house call” for my Oprah appearance.) If you’re taking flax oil, keep in mind that B vitamins and zinc aid omega-3 absorption. And if you take fish oil, consider taking a Vitamin E supplement to neutralize free radicals. You can read more about omega-3’s in this Harvard University article.

Vitamin D (bone health & immune system support): Vitamin D is responsible for hundreds of functions in the body, from healthy immunity to healthy bones, and is fat soluble (not water soluble), which means that taking too much of it can actually be toxic. A general guideline is 1000-2000 IU’s per day. If your Vitamin D levels are low or if you have cancer, you may need to take more (under the supervision of an integrative MD or naturopath). It’s also important to make sure that the brand is high-quality by checking the label for the word “gamma” (not just alpha). Unfortunately, I can’t give you a definitive answer as to whether vitamin D2 or lichen-sourced D3 is as usable by the body as animal-based vitamin D3. For more info on plant-based vs. animal-based vitamin D, check out this Vegetarian Resource Group article. You have to do what feels right for you. If possible, consult a knowledgeable physician who understands your needs.

Full disclosure: I take the non-vegan D3 prescribed by Dr. Ken Bock, which is made by Prothera (5,000 IUs). I used to take 10,000 IU’s because my Vitamin D was extremely low. Because I was taking such a high dose, I had to get my blood tested every 3 months. Now that my levels are where they need to be (between 70-90 for a cancer patient), I don’t need to be tested as much. It’s best to get tested before supplementing so that you know how much you need. Ask your doctor to have your 25,OHD level checked. An ideal test result should be between 40 and 80.

Probiotics (digestive system & immune system support–approximately 60 percent of your immune system lives in your gut!): Quality is queen as always, especially for probiotics. Dr. Bock suggests that you get your probiotics through an integrative MD, but he also recommends Dr. Ohirra’s brand as an over-the-counter option (you can find Ohirra’s on Amazon.com). Look for a probiotic that offers 20-25 billion (not millions!) of CFUs (colony forming units). I recommend finding one that has (at the very least) lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Look for a vegetarian brand with enteric coating, which keeps the bacteria safe inside the capsule until it reaches the small intestine.

B12 (nervous system support): Although Dr. Bock did not mention B12 during our Chat & Chew, it is a crucial supplement for vegans. It may surprise you that B12 is naturally produced by microorganisms in soil and water. When animals eat and drink water from the earth, they ingest these B12-producing microorganisms. Vegans don’t reap the benefits of these microorganisms because of modern hygiene and thorough washing of produce. Most practitioners recommend 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day. Dr. Bock gives it to his patients subcutaneously (injection) or as a nasal spray. If taking B12 orally, he recommends taking it sublingually (under the tongue for quick absorption into the bloodstream). Lastly, make sure you choose a B12 in the form of methylcobalamin (check label), since this form of B12 is absorbed best in your body.

Again, this information is just a push in the right direction–not a prescription. These general guidelines and tips are here to encourage you to put your health first. Pay attention to the points that resonate with you and start there.

Your turn: In the comments below, add your take on supplements. I want to hear from you. If you have any tips, please share. Let’s create a bevy of knowledge that brings our understanding and wellness to the next level as a community.

Peace & patient progress,

Kris Carr

P.S.