“What supplements should I take?” is a common question, and between marketing and the mish-mash of supplements recommended in articles and books, choosing the right vitamins and supplements can cause a serious headache. But whether your goal is optimal body composition, improved resistance to stress, better bloodmarkers, or all of the above, it’s possible to come up with a strategy for getting what you need–and much better than taking the shotgun approach. To help you build a regimen that makes sense for you, let’s go over the bare minimum, plus formulations for five common hormonal imbalances that can be improved with a good supplement regimen:
The Bare Minimum
Regardless of which hormone is high, or low, there are a few key supplements that I recommend all my patients take to support optimal health. These include:
- High potency probiotic (look for one with 14 billion cells per capsule). Take 1-2 upon wakening and/or before bed on an empty stomach.
- Extra strength fish oil. Take 2 capsules or one teaspoon twice a day with food.
- Non-psyllium fiber supplement, chia seeds or ground flax seeds. You can add this to salads, entrees or your smoothies to get your optimal 25-35grams of fiber per day.
- Vitamin D3. Take 4,000-5,000iu per day with breakfast.
- Magnesium (glycinate or citrate form). Take 200mg – 600mg before bed or to bowel tolerance (reduce the dose if you develop loose stools).
Symptoms: belly fat, love handles, cellulite, burning feet at night, abnormal hair growth on face/chin, hair loss, cravings for sweets/carbs
A signal in the body which allows glucose from the food consumed to enter our cells to be used as fuel. These sugars, if not used or burned off, will be stored as fat. In this sense, insulin tells our body to store fat. When insulin levels are too high, weight tends to accumulate in the “love handles” area around the waist. This poses a serious long-term health risk as excess weight around the middle is associated with increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. A fasting insulin and glucose test is a good test to have completed by your doctor if you suspect you may have abnormally high insulin levels causing weight gain. High triglycerides, cholesterol and/or blood pressure may also accompany this picture of imbalance.
Your supplement solution:
- Take CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), 1500mg twice per day. This supplement improves the body’s response to insulin, thereby lowering insulin levels.
- Consider a supplement of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) 200mg twice per day and have a whey protein shake for breakfast most days of the week.
- Balance your protein, fat and carbohydrates for three meals and two snacks each day and consider a fiber supplement to improve insulin sensitivity.
- Increase cinnamon in your diet, it’s great for insulin response.
- Drink 2-4 cups of green tea each day to improve fat burning and glucose regulation in the body.
Symptoms: Weight Gain/Inability to Lose Weight, hair loss, fatigue, doughy abdomen, constipation, depression, elevated cholesterol, poor concentration
The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the metabolism of every single cell in the body. If thyroid levels are low, metabolism will be slower and there will be a tendency to gain weight and body fat—sometimes even with proper diet and exercise. TSH, Free T3, Free T4 and thyroid antibodies are the tests that should be completed by your doctor to determine a deficiency of thyroid hormone.
Your supplement solution:
- Tyrosine 1000–2000mg per day may increase the level of thyroid hormone, as it is necessary for the production of the hormone in the body.
- Selenium 200mcg per day is essential for thyroid hormone action in the body. Other antioxidants such as vitamin E, zinc, magnesium and vitamin A are also important for healthy thyroid function.
- Ashwaganda 750 mg 1-2x per day also helps to improve thyroid hormone levels as well as balance stress hormones. High levels of cortisol inhibit the function of thyroid hormone in the body.
Symptoms: PMS, heavy menstrual cycle, fluid retention, headaches, anxiety, weight gain, irritability, fatigue
Estrogen naturally causes water retention and increased body fat, especially around the hips and thighs, whereas progesterone has the opposite effect.
Women suffering from PMS, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast, abnormal pap smears, ovarian cysts, stress, anxiety or depression may have abnormally high estrogen levels compared to levels of progesterone. It is essential that abnormal levels of estrogen are addressed early, as menopausal changes may be problematic and also contributes to an increased risk of breast cancer and other hormonally related cancers.
Your supplement solution:
- Indol 3 carbinol—200mg twice per day with meals. This product assists with healthy hormonal balance by reducing the amount of harmful estrogen metabolites in the body.
- Calcium d-glucarate—500mg twice per day. This product is essential for the proper breakdown and elimination of hormones in the liver.
- Consider a natural progesterone cream to boost progesterone levels. This should be used in the second half of the menstrual cycle only (from ovulation at day 14 to the first day of bleeding on day 28). See your MD or ND to properly diagnose a deficiency of progesterone and for the prescription of the cream.
- Ensure adequate fiber intake, replace healthy bacteria levels by taking acidophilus supplements and consume 2 -3 tbsp of ground flaxseeds each day. All of these are crucial for healthy estrogen levels in the body as the bacteria and fiber in the bowel are involved in the process of estrogen metabolism.