Navigating the world of supplements: Do I need to take them and how do I know if I do?

Should I take supplements?  Do I need them? Can’t I get everything I need from food?


These are questions my clients have asked me since my first days of nutrition consulting! And valid questions indeed!  Unfortunately, there is not one blanket answer. Your diet, lifestyle habits, stress levels, alcohol consumption, over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications that you take, gut health, and so much more influence the decision whether or not to supplement.  Thanks to better and better technology, we now have many methods to test for nutritional deficiencies and make decisions based on testing whether or not to supplement.


Certain symptoms also point to nutritional deficiencies…you just need to know what to look for. For example, symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency include dermatitis, cracked and sore lips, inflamed tongue and mouth, depression, and insomnia.  Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps, and in more severe cases abnormal heart rhythms.


When I work one-on-one with my clients, I assess current diet, lifestyle, past and current health conditions, medications, stress levels, and toxin exposure to determine whether supplementation is necessary.  I have witnessed so many people taking loads of supplements without really knowing why and with no real plan.  Assessing your current status, testing, and putting together a plan is the best way to go to restore balance and correct any nutritional deficiencies! You can check out my Targeted Nutrition programs here:


With that being said, I recently listened to a great podcast with guest Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an incredible physician and healer, on the topic of supplements. She pointed to the fact that MANY Americans are deficient in Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Essential Fatty Acids.  Women are twice as likely to be deficient in Vitamin B6 than men, especially if taking oral contraceptives. And guess what, vitamin B6 is required to make serotonin and melatonin.  And dopamine too!  So if you are depressed, anxious, or not sleeping well, be sure to get your vitamin  B6 levels checked!


Most OTC drugs and prescription medications deplete vital vitamins and minerals.  And sadly, most of the time these nutrients are not being replaced!  There is a really long list of medications that deplete nutrients; here are several more commonly prescribed and medications and OTC drugs that you should know about:


  • If you are on oral contraceptives, please be aware that they deplete vitamins B6, B12, folic acid, and magnesium. Note that these B vitamins are critical to positive mood, energy, good brain health, and proper cell division…very important in the child bearing years!
  • OTC non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Naproxen deplete folic acid. And aspirin decreases Vitamin C, folic acid, and iron!
  • Antibiotics wipe out your friendly gut bacteria, and general antibiotics deplete all B vitamins and Vitamin K.
  • Statins (which lower cholesterol )are notorious for reducing Coenzyme Q10, which is vital for energy!! Anti-diabetic drugs also reduce CoQ10.


Please email me at for a more comprehensive list of OTC drugs and prescription meds that induce nutrient depletions.


Although I prefer to work with you individually and test first, here are general recommendations to cover your bases when it comes to supplementation:


Take a quality multi vitamin mineral formula.  If you are a male or a female that is no longer menstruating, choose a formula without iron.  Take extra magnesium before you go to bed if you have trouble sleeping, your muscles feel tense or cramp, or if you experience frequent constipation. See the list of other magnesium deficiency symptoms above.

Have your Vitamin D levels checked by your primary care physician.  Do this first before supplementing with Vitamin D so that you know how much to take.  If you do not like fish or rarely eat it, supplement with a triglyceride form fish oil a few times per week.  I recommend eating fermented foods like kefir, unsweetened yogurt, and sauerkraut.  If you are not a big fan of fermented foods or they are not a regular part of your diet, choose a multi strain probiotic. We are still learning so much about the gut microbiome, but this is a good place to start!


Here are a few of my favorites:


Twice Daily Multi: does not contain iron so men and post menopausal women can take this multi.

Magnesium Buffered Chelate: one of the best absorbed forms of magnesium

OmegAvail Hi Po: true triglyceride form of fish oil (more easily digested and absorbed)

Probiotic Synergy Spheres: A multi strain probiotic that uses the most advanced patented delivery and shelf stability technology available to ensure maximum potency and viability.


I hope you find this helpful in navigating the world of supplements!



The ups and downs of SIBO

My gut has been acting up again. I went for a very long symptom free period. But SIBO (Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth) is back and it is time for me to reassess my diet, supplements, do some testing, and get a handle on it again. SIBO is very common and unfortunately has a high rate of recurrence. SIBO occurs when there is an excess of bacteria in the upper small intestine. These bacteria ferment the carbs you eat into gas and the gas causes pressure and pain usually manifesting in abdominal pain and bloating. Other common symptoms are gas, constipation, diarrhea, and malabsorption. The symptom that haunts me the most is uncomfortable bloating, and I know I am not alone, as this seems to be one of the predominant complaints I hear from my own clients.

The two processes that most commonly predispose you to bacterial overgrowth in the upper small intestine are diminished gastric acid secretion (acid that your stomach produces when you eat) and small intestine dysmotility ((muscle contractions in your GI tract are not working properly). Gastric acid produced in your stomach suppresses the growth of ingested bacteria, thereby limiting bacterial counts in the upper small intestine. Diminished acid production (hypochlorhydria) becomes more prevalent as you age and also occurs when you take PPI’s (protein pump inhibitors). Normal GI motility involves a complex, tightly coordinated series of events designed to move material through the GI tract. SIBO can also be caused by gastric bypass surgery, structural abnormalities of the GI tract, IBS, and narcotic use.

Other risk factors and signs/symptoms for SIBO:

You have recently taken antibiotics or have a history of antibiotic use.
You feel worse when you take probiotics with prebiotics.
Eating more fiber causes constipation, even when you drink plenty of water.
Your lab work reveals low ferritin levels without any apparent other cause.
You have experienced gut infections (especially h Pylori).

Why has my SIBO come back? Well, I don’t know for sure. But these are my best guesses:

I got lazy with taking my enzyme supplement that contains Betaine HCl (hydrochloric acid). Betaine HCl supports stomach acid secretion, which in turn suppresses growth of unwanted bacteria in the upper small intestine.
I was taking thyroid support for awhile, which I discontinued due to side effects. The thyroid gland, being the master gland of metabolism, helps to support normal GI motility (muscular contractions in the GI tract).
Summer came and I started eating more fruits like cherries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Great food for the bacteria!

SIBO is complicated and normally many steps have to be taken to address it and prevent its recurrence. In fact, I highly recommend that you work with a qualified nutritionist or practitioner to test for SIBO and other factors that may be contributing to it and create a plan to address it. However, here are five simple steps that you can take now to start tackling SIBO if you know you have it or suspect that you do:

1. Let at least 4 hours go by in between your meals. When you are fasting, you typically get a gurgling sound in stomach. This is good. This means that cleaning up is taking place. It should happen every 90 minutes when the stomach is empty. This is referred to as a small bowel cleaning wave.

2. Make or purchase bone broth and drink liberally to help decrease inflammation and heal up the gut.

3. Take a digestive enzyme supplement that contains Betaine HCl with your meals.

4. Restrict the amount of fermentable carbs in your diet until your SIBO is resolved. Then you can add them back in. Foods high in FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) should be avoided. These include garlic, onions, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, apples, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, and apricots.

5. Take a soil based probiotic supplement, which also acts as an antimicrobial to help kill off the unwanted bacteria.

NOTE: Work with a practitioner to test for other contributing factors to SIBO like a gut infection or hypothyroidism. There are also different types of SIBO, and your health care practitioner can help you put together a dietary and supplement plan that effectively addresses your type of SIBO.

If you think you have SIBO, please schedule a complementary strategy session with me to discuss! Complimentary Strategy Session