My supplement plan has changed over the past ten years as many times as my wardrobe. It’s not a one-size-fits-all fixed approach, which can make supplement selection a bit daunting. As always, I recommend that you work with a holistic practitioner or functional medicine MD to find the right supplements for your needs. And of course make sure you’re getting most of your vitamins and minerals from whole foods, but if you’re going supplement there are some general guidelines.
I may be a nutrition and science nerd, but I’m not a MD. So I reached out to one of my trusted friends, Aviva Romm, Integrative MD, and asked her to weigh in. Aviva uses her combined skills as a Yale-trained MD and Board Certified family physician, midwife, and herbalist to help women not only heal their bodies and minds, but transform their lives. Our conversation walks you through how to choose supplements whether you’re a college freshman, mother, busy biz maven or world-traveling retiree. Let’s get started!
KC: How do you begin building a supplement plan that meets your needs?
AR: Supplements come in handy because they bridge the gap between your diet and your phytonutrient needs—helping you feel on top of your game. But standing at the shelves in a health food store can be overwhelming when you’re trying to add supplements to your life. There are so many choices!
Here are a few tips to make choosing supplements easier:
- Seek guidance from a professional first: Rather than just buying a bunch of random supplements, make the investment in an appointment with an integrative or functional medicine doctor, a naturopathic physician, or a savvy nutritionist to hone in on your specific needs. You can find a functional medicine doctor here. This will actually save you time and money. Ideally, she will give you a detailed plan of the best supplements for YOU, along with brand recommendations.
- Go to the right place: You can often find better quality, organic, non-GMO, food-based supplements at higher-end natural foods stores.
- Ask for directions while shopping: Natural food stores have staff dedicated to helping you, which comes in handy if you haven’t had a consultation with a health professional yet or have additional questions. They are paid by the store, not the supplement companies. While they are not experts and should not be giving medical or health advice, they can help you narrow down the choices and make an educated decision.
- Pick a few companies you like and stick with them: Most companies carry a large product line. So once you’ve found a company you trust, they’ll probably offer what you need. A few I use are Rainbow Light, New Chapter, and Jarrow. There are also many quality brands sold only by licensed physicians. For example, Designs for Health, Metagenics, and Integrative Therapeutics.
- Avoid unnecessary ingredients: Many supplements contain fillers, binders, colors, flavors, and other additives. Some of these might be necessary to hold the pills together, but go for the simplest products with the fewest additives.
- Avoid products with “miracle claims.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
KC: What are the basic supplements you’d recommend women take daily?
AR: I recommend the following basic supplements for all women:
Multivitamin: Taking a multivitamin daily helps make sure you have the bases covered. I prefer Rainbow Light Women’s One, which is whole foods based, and only requires taking 1 pill daily. But any whole foods multi is usually a good bet. Go for non-GMO, organic, and free of dyes, additives, and colorings.
- Vitamin D3, 2000 units: D is responsible for hundreds of functions in the body, from healthy immunity to healthy bones. An alternative source: Vitamin D2 or lichen-sourced D3 (plant-based). 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. Although you do get vitamin D from sun exposure, it may not be enough. 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.
- Fish oil, 1-2 capsules daily: Omega-3 fats are important for reducing inflammation, heart health, mood, mind, hair, and maintaining healthy weight. An alternative source: DHA and/or EPA (Plant-based Omega-3s). Vegans can take algae-sourced DHA, such as Life’s DHA. Just keep in mind that DHA is not as easily converted to EPA, so you’ll need to take a higher dose. Rejuvenation Science Labs has a vegan DHA and EPA supplement, which covers both bases, although I have not personally tried this brand.
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground flax seed daily: Supports healthy elimination and helps keep hormones balanced. Ground flax seed can be added to a smoothie, sprinkled on salads or grains, mixed into nut butter and spread as usual, or even baked into cookies or crackers.
- Magnesium glycinate, 600 mg daily (most women are low). Magnesium supports healthy bones, restful sleep, relaxed muscles, and balanced mood.
- A broad spectrum probiotic that contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterum strains, daily if you have gas and bloating, or a few times weekly to optimize digestion.
In addition, you may want to consider these supplements depending on your personal health goals and needs (once again check with your doctor). For example, if you’re vegan you should consider B-12. If you’re having adrenal issues, you could take adrenal support. Please note that these supplements may not be necessary for everyone and this is not a comprehensive list. These are just a few ideas to get your wellness wheels thinking…
- Magnesium citrate, 300-800 mg before bed if you are constipated.
- Iodine: Many women are deficient and it’s needed for healthy thyroid function. Only a tiny amount is needed so you can take a multivitamin that contains trace amounts, or add dulse seaweed flakes, 2 teaspoons daily, to your food.
- A digestive enzyme if you have gas and bloating—though it’s best to figure out the underlying causes.
- B-12 (2.4 micrograms per day, especially important for vegans since B-12 is not found in unfortified plant-based foods): If taking B12 orally, take 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.
- Adrenal support blend: If you’re experiencing chronic stress, fatigue, foggy thinking and sleep issues, you may have an adrenal imbalance. It’s good idea to meet with your healthcare provider if these symptoms sound familiar. I recommend the following adrenal support blend supplements to my patients: Stress Manager (Herb Pharm), Adrenal Support (Gaia Herbs), Vital Adapt (Natura Natural Products), and HPA Adapt (Integrative Therapeutics).
KC: How can women shift their supplement plan to meet their needs throughout the years?
AR: Here’s what I’d recommend right before, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.
Take a prenatal multivitamin, get 400 mcg of folic acid, or if you have the MTHFR genetic mutation, 800 mcg of methylfolate daily. MTHFR is a gene that allows us to use our folate from veggies or folic acid from supplements, which is important for heart and blood vessel health, the nervous system, and detoxification. Folate is critical for the health of pregnant women and for baby’s growing brain and nervous system. Thirty percent of us have a genetic mutation that prevents us from using the folate in green veggies so the methylfolate provides extra “health insurance.”
Get at least 800 units of Vitamin D3 in pregnancy and while breastfeeding to prevent problems like gestational diabetes, and to make sure baby gets enough vitamin D through your breastmilk. Vegan moms can take vitamin D2, but given the benefits of vitamin D, including lower risk of gestational diabetes in pregnancy, this might be a time when it’s worth considering the non-vegan form if possible. Most pregnant women are low in Omega-3 fats, so taking a daily fish oil supplement is important (or plant-based options mentioned above). Nordic Naturals makes a nice one for pregnant mamas.
In addition to my basic recommendations for all women, I recommend considering these supplements for women in their 50s and beyond:
- Accumulated oxidative stress: The impact of the environment on our body from years of just living and being exposed to the toxins in our world. This means being really mindful to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants, and taking a multivitamin as well as taking 500-2000 mg/day of Resveratrol (talk with your doctor first if you are on blood thinners).
- Our bones: As we age we can lose bone density, especially if we’re not doing regular weight-bearing exercise, so it’s important to get daily vitamin D3, at least 1000 units, and approximately 800 mg of calcium citrate, 400 mg of magnesium citrate, and vitamins K1 and K2 (about 50 mg combined). Also boron, about 0.5 mg/day.
- Nutrient absorption: Stomach acid, which breaks down nutrients in the digestive process, declines with age. I recommend that women in their late 50s, and any women with bone density problems, take 1-2 capsules of betaine HCL with meals. This is especially important for women taking a PPI like Prilosec for reflux. However, check with your doctor before taking betaine HCL if you have stomach ulcers.
- Inflammation: As our estrogen declines, we’re more susceptible to problems due to inflammation. A favorite supplement for this is turmeric in its concentrated form called curcumin. I recommend 1000-2000 mg of curcumin daily. I use a product called Meriva, and also like Turmeric Supreme by Gaia Herbs.
- Heart and general muscle vigor: CoQ10 is essential to take if you’re using a statin drug, or even red yeast rice, or high cholesterol, as these use up CoQ10 and can affect your heart and muscle health. A typical dose is 200 mg/day.
- Premature aging: Resveratrol is the nutrient that makes red wine, grapes, and many dark colored fruits act as antioxidants, keeping us from aging prematurely. Food sources are important, and in addition you can supplement with 200 mg daily.
KC: Thanks, Aviva!
I hope these tips and recommendations give you the information you need to work with a practitioner and create a supplement plan that will fit your unique needs. Even though I eat a nutrient-dense diet and drink plenty of green drinks, I’ve seen a huge difference in my health since refining my daily supplements.
Your turn: What supplement have you found most beneficial to your health?
Peace & vitality,
Check out my best selling book, Crazy Sexy Diet, for more tips for getting back on track to vibrant health and happiness! Get Crazy Sexy Diet here.
Hi thanks for your guide of taking supplements – I’m a woman of 57yrs and I do take them i.e. omega 3 plus oil, cal mag, Tree-en and full motion caps from GNLD and i’m also on gym 4 days per week. I’m now going to start with 2 glasses with lemon in the morning.
So happy you found this blog helpful. Thanks for sharing, Onica! xo
It bothers me that there is a list of supplements that women should take daily. It goes completely against the idea that we should see a physician FIRST in order to find out if we are even deficient in anything.
What if we’re not deficient in any of those things? Then we’re wasting money and potentially causing more harm then good. Supplements are such a big craze these days that a majority of women are going to read this article and just go out and buy all of the supplements you listed because well, they trust you. I wish this article was more about how important it is to see a physician FIRST so that we do not assume we are deficient in anything in the first place. Supplements are only for those who have a deficiency/absorption problem. For those who have adequate/normal stores, supplements either have no effect or a negative one by interfering with other nutrients. =
I believe the first tip suggested is seek guidance from a health professional first.
That’s what she said; consult you MD!
But unless you’re eating a perfectly balanced diet, you’re not touching anything GMO’d or inflammatory foods like grain fed meat…or meat all together (to name a few) you’re body isn’t balanced. Some people are sensitive and start to react – as soon as I turned 30 my body ‘told’ me to stop eating certain things – other people’s body can endure it but then get things like ‘the big C’ later in life. No ones perfect, supplements just help suppliment what you’re missing. Go see your doctor but he/she may not have the answers. A naturalpath will. My doctor called me ‘relatively healthy’ when I was in her office, meanwhile I had inflamed cracking lips, sudden acne and was routinely in the hospital for my bladder…does that sound healthy to you?!
I thought this was a great article, in fact I shared it on Facebook. But I have to respond to the “physician” comment from Shiela. Some of us don’t go to “physicians”. I don’t. I dislike them, they have not been able to help me with anything, only prescribe dangerous drugs which make us sick. I have never had a physician say, “Gee Donna, maybe you should try supplements” or, Ya know, Donna, I think I will test your blood for vitamin deficiencies, I am detecting signs of a B3 deficiency.” Have you? Didnt think so. Doctors havent a clue about nutrition, dont learn about it in med school, never suggest any type of nutritional healing. Nothing. In fact they tell people that it is OK to drink diet soda and use artificial sweetener! A doctor told my mother that she should drink diet soda to avoid diabetes! When I disagreed, she kicked me out of the room so she could continue her crusade. So no, dont ever get nutition advice from a doctor. A naturopath or homeopath, yes, but an MD? Never.
Hi Donna. Love your passion and can relate. I wanted to add there a MD’s that have added nutritional training to their repertoire and are committed and open to nutritional healing. I have experienced both. Until I found them I only used physicians for diagnosis and I tell ya I did go through a few archaic scenarios! After not going to physicians for years I was surprised by some of their rigidity and lack of knowledge. It was a great education. Aren’t we so blessed that we have all these options and have access to this education Via Kris and others! All the Best! Joy
Hey there, just want to share that our physician does NOT pass out a perscription just because you go in to see him. He did take a blood test and saw that I was deficient in several areas and told me which ones to get. Not all physicians do but there are a few. And his partner left the firm and started her own practice using mostly natural medicine. That’s two doctors that I know of in our area.
I’m going to echo the thoughts of many others and say that I’d prefer to get all my nutrients from foods. The problem is that a portion of my calories will always be from “junk” so I have to make up that nutrient deficiency somehow so I take multivitamins so I found this article really useful. In an ideal world I’d eat nothing but health food but hey, I’m not perfect!
Since 2001, Planet Nutrition Pvt Ltd has been proudly serving over 1,000,000 Indians, Providing the best in Sport Supplements at the lowest prices. Ph:- +91 9560504696
I always struggle with getting so many stuff in one day… how can we rationalize it or can we get all that in a multivitamin? Pls help! :/
Candy have you considered taking E3live? It’s a Natural Aqua Botanical with over 65 different vitamins and minerals. That is what I personally take. I read about it on one of Kris’s books 🙂
Getting your vitamins and minerals through a plant-based supplement is probably the safest way to go. Try Juice Plus!
But even Juice Plus has some limitations. you will still need to add the D3 and vit B12
Kris, Love your website Lots of great information ….glad I saw this blog, regarding supplements.
I Have been hearing alot of great things about juice plus.
I am taking juice Plus. I have Rheumatoid and Interstitial Lung Disease. I am adding Calcium, D3, B12, Turmeric with Curcurmin and Fish Oil. I just wonder of all this is necessary. I am going to see my Rheumatologist for follow up blood work.
Harriet, I love your site! and am always copying and pasting parts to save as helps for best diet choices. I experienced breast cancer 5 yrs ago, so I am esp interested in your comments about methylation and iodine. The methyl thing is such a craze right now, it’s an eye opener that you noted it can turn ON the genes we want turned off! I’ll add that for cancer peeps, too much iron is to be avoided as well. thanks again for http://www.zesterdaily.com !
What multi vitamin brand do you take ?
Instead of a multi-vitamin, take a look at http://www.sfrilot.juiceplus.com better than a multi for many reason, safety for one, whole food vs synthetic, not only are you getting the widest array of vitamins and minerals, you get phytonutrients and enzymes too! LOTS of scientific research done on this product, in humans, not animals, using the product itself to show that it goes to work in your blood! If you are going to take something, make sure it is doing something good for you!
Yes! Any way to get clarification for post-menopause ladies like me?
Just this morning the Today Show reported a massive recall of supplements from big stores like Walmart and Target because they do not contain any of the ingredients listed on the label!!! So this article comes at a perfect time. Thanks!
This is a great, comprehensive article. However, I wonder what you think it says to women – – like me – – who are over 50 and read recommended supplements for women in their “20s, 30s and early 40s” and a separate recommendation for pregnant/breastfeeding women. Should those of us over 50 simply curl up and die or just conclude that this blog isn’t meant for us at all? I’m fairly certain you don’t intend either of those messages (the former’s sarcasm particularly), but it’s really what jumped out at me – – that there’s no place for or interest in my age group here. The “early 40s” seems to be a clear indicator that supplement needs change and to simply end the discussion to the groups specified is hurtful, to say the least. I see from the comments that I’m not the only one who found this age group lacking. It’s a shocking oversight and, if deliberate, even worse. You could have addressed its absence if there was a specific reason and indicated you’d post an article targeted to perimenopausal and menopausal women, but there was simply a glaring omission that speaks volumes. So much for the sisterhood…..
There was a section devoted to women in their “wisdom years” as Aviva called it. Re- read a little closer!
We’ve spoken with Aviva for clarification and updated the blog. Thank you for your feedback. I am deeply committed to helping women of all ages and sisterhood matters deeply to me. Please check in with yourself the next time you post a comment here. The negativity and accusations surrounding your constructive criticism really bring your point down.
Amen Kris. Thank you for today’s post. Love & light (also for your sweet dog). Femke
Thank you for the clarification and for updating the blog. It is much appreciated. As I said at the very beginning of my prior comment, it’s a great and comprehensive article.
I am really surprised with the recommendations in this article. We need to quit wasting our money on so many supplements and eat real food. Need Omega 3? Flame seed and chia seeds, not Mercury contaminated fish oil. Multivitamins? They are man made and our bodies have no idea what to do with them. If vitamins were the answer, we wouldn’t be an obese and chronically ill nation. Supplement with a high quality whole food supplement that doesn’t have added vitamins. The ingredients should be recognizable as food. Ask what research publications their results have been published in. We need to be way more careful about what we put into our bodies.
Eating whole foods is the foundation of my diet and lifestyle philosophy and something I teach daily here through my blog, books, on social media and while speaking at events. As mentioned in the blog, I recommend working with a functional medicine MD to determine your supplement needs and stress the importance of high-quality supplements. These recommendations should all be taken into consideration with your individual needs in mind and are meant to go hand-in-hand with a whole foods diet.
I’m wondering if those recommendations are for healthy women or women with cancer, I understand that B12 promotes gene methylation, and because you can’t control which genes get methylated, you should perhaps not supplement with B12 if you have cancer–or at least use the inactive B12 supplement. I also understand there’s some research showing that people with cancer who have low thyroid function have better survival rates than those with full thyroid function–although that could be association and not necessarily cause. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23319493.
Would it be possible to ask Dr. Romm if these suggestions are just for healthy women?
I suffer from migranes and in my quest to find what may trigger them I took the GENOVA food test. Found out I am highly sensitive to curry, less so to garlic, cinnamon, and a few others. Taking supplements I have to keep this list in mind so that I don’t add to my system components that actually do more harm. I would recommend everyone get a test first before making a plan for supplements. I find for me that fish oil and iodine are very beneficial!!! Although I do not have the MTHFR mutations, I have a problem with B12 absorption so switching to sublingual supplements has helped tremendously. I test my blood every 6 months and adjust supplements as needed.
Hi Ana, It’s great to hear that you’re being tested and finding the right supplements for your needs. Cheers to your health! xo
Great information but is really important and is only given a little attention to ~ is to get as much of our nutrient needs from our foods! This requires careful and selective shopping due to the GMO’s, processed, etc. but can be done! And how about those of us in our 50’s and up? We are all still vital, contributing beings who are going through, or are post, menopausal! I’m pretty supplement savvy but always like to keep my eye(ears) out for the latest research.
I Love this article Kris, I personally take E3live because it has over 65 different vitamins and Minerals. Surprisingly enough it has Folic Acid and I was able to take it during my pregnancy. I First read about this product in your Crazy Sexy Diet book and fell in love with it ever since. Thanks for always sharing great Information.
Hi! Thank you so much for this! I just started taking supplements because I became vegetarian 6 months ago but didn’t know I should be taking vitamin B and lost a lot of hair as a result. I’m still new to it all and it is pretty overwhelming. My question is is it safe to take all of these supplements at one time? Should you take each one every day or spread them out a bit throughout the week?
Hi Lauren, I checked in with Dr. Romm about your question & here’s what she had to say:
“Hi Lauren, Great question. It is generally safe to combine all of the supplements recommended in this article, and take them daily. However, you want to make sure your combined supplement plan doesn’t exceed the daily max dose for any single nutrient. This is usually a risk with zinc (max dose 60 mg/day), vitamin B6 (max dose 100 mg/day), selenium (max dose 200 mcg/day), and you want to be careful with iodine, though usually low combined doses are ok. It’s also ok not to take every single supplement every day — I like to follow the 80% rule — if you’re getting them 80% of the time, that’s usually gonna’ do the trick.
Hope this helps! – Aviva”
Happy to see I’m taking most of these. I take half the recommended dose of D3 though, and my last blood test showed I was deficient – I’m not crazy about the idea of increasing the dose, maybe I should just get more sunshine and hopefully it will help 🙂
For some reason I keep
Getting bladder infections. It was such a problem that I was in the hospital almost monthly and then on antibiotics (BAD). So now I’ve been trying to figure out what’s causing the bladder issues while trying to fix the problems the antibiotics cause (oh brother). Probiotics are good for me right now. I’m also taking supplements for my angry liver & intestine and vitamin A for my skin…let’s hope
I had the same problem. To the point where I was put under antibiotics for six months (taking it every other day). Two things solved the problem: cranberry capsules (this works wondefully! I took them for 3 months) and not forgetting to go pee right after having sex. Never had one since.
yes, I can vouch for Cranberry Capsules also when my sister recommended them to me for a constant irritation….was surprised at how quickily it resolved itself…she was using it for a more intense infection and they cleared it up also.
I used to have regular bladder infections a few years ago and found that uvae-ursi tincture really helps, even after only two or three doses you can notice the improvement. But I also believe that mind & body are tightly linked, so looking into yourself and checking where in your life you might be ‘pissed off’ (literal link!) and working on clearing it, that helped me clear them for good (haven’t had a relapse in 3 years).
I believe in empowering the body to function as the perfect machine it is. I agree with her statement about reducing oxidative stress, but she doesn’t state anything about the pathway to turn in your own antioxidant enzymes to reduce the cellular stress. I personally do not take any multivitamins or specific vitamin/mineral supplement because of the research showing that they can be carcinogenic in the large doses that are sold on the market. My blood has never been more balanced since giving up those vitamins and addressing the underlying concern of cellular stress. I only take one scientifically-validated herbal supplement that turns on the body’s survival response. Make antioxidants, don’t take antioxidants.
Hi – thanks for the list! I’m curious as to why you recommend ground flax seed as opposed to whole flax seed. I usually sprinkle whole flax seeds on my food as I enjoy the crunchiness but now I’m curious if there is a nutritional difference between whole and ground?
My understanding of flax seeds is that our bodies cant truly break them down unless they are ground up. Here’s a more in depth breakdown from MayoClinic:
Thank you Kelly – that’s super interesting. I guess I’ll ground some of it up.
I use Usana supplements they are top of the line and pharm grade. Using the best of natural resources in everything!! Love them all
Thank you, Kris, for this article. It was really helpful to me. And thank you for the service you always bring to so many. ( I follow you from Buenos Aires, Argentina)
(Love your doggies)
What happens if I am allergic to fish? Should I take the fish oil?
And something that always bothers me about supplements, it is that a good and healthy diet should be goood enough to get all my vitamins and minerals, if is not, then it is not a good and “healthy” diet