As a physician and someone who cares passionately about contributing to my health, I know that my daily choices make a huge impact on my wellness over time. What I choose to eat for breakfast, whether I get outside and move, how much sleep I get, and how I manage stress all influence how I feel and function. My body works hard for me, and it does so willingly because I nourish it with a wholesome, plant-based diet and a few, select supplements. I am a believer in eating real greens over powdered greens, and getting as many vitamins from whole food sources as possible. That said, there are some nutrients that are not easily available in dietary form, or at least in a high enough quantity to be practical.
Here is my daily supplement diary, with a little bit of the science behind my decision to incorporate these additions to my diet - you know I don’t do much without some science to back up the plan!
1) BLACK SEED OIL (Nigella sativa)
This ritual is a bit like the Vitameatavegamin episode of I Love Lucy, or at least it was when I started. I take a spoonful of this oil on an empty stomach every day, and it’s got a spicy, peppery hit that makes me shiver just a smidge as I swallow. Oddly, though, I’m starting to crave it first thing in the morning, and now I chase it with a sip of tea.
MY BRAND: Alive Herbals Black Seed Oil
MY DOSE: 1 teaspoon on an empty stomach daily OR blended in with my MUD/WTR drink.
MY REASONS: Black cumin seed oil is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial (works against bacteria, certain viruses, and fungi), aids in wound healing, promotes collagen production, and has some analgesic effect (pain relief). It is one of the most extensively studied plant oils, with over 200 clinical studies investigating its use for various conditions, both when taken orally and applied to the skin. Black cumin seed oil is rich in a component called thymoquinone, which is a powerful antioxidant, and even has some activity against certain types of cancer cells.
Black cumin seed oil is useful for acne-prone skin types, as well as those with eczema and psoriasis. I chose it for our Balance Serum because acne is primarily an inflammatory condition, and the data about black seed oil and inflammation is remarkable. It also shows notable activity against the bacteria that cause acne, propionibacterium acnes.
COOL FACTS: The ancient Egyptians, who seemed to have all the most important beauty secrets, believed in the anti-inflammatory power of the oil over 2000 years ago - King Tut even took a bottle of it with him to the grave! The prophet Muhammad allegedly stated that “there is healing in black cumin for all diseases except death” (Sahih Bukhari 7:71:592). Today, black cumin seed oil is also referred to as black seed oil, kalonji, black caraway oil, and nigella sativa, the botanical name for the plant.
2) B COMPLEX
MY BRAND: MegaFood's Balanced B Complex
MY DOSE: 1 tablet per day
MY REASONS: I've been a vegetarian for 20 years because I decided that if I couldn’t pull the trigger myself, I didn’t want to let someone else do it for me. I eat organic farm eggs occasionally, but I don’t drink milk, so I take this vitamin to make sure my body has enough energy to thrive throughout the day.
COOL FACTS: B vitamins are water soluble, which means that they are not stored in the body’s fat cells, but eliminated via the urinary tract, and need to be replenished daily. Vitamin B6 is helpful in mitigating the symptoms of PMS (raise your hand if you want a double dose!). Vitamin B12 is found in animal-derived food sources, so it’s the one most likely to be deficient in vegans or long-term vegetarians.
3) SUPER SPECIAL B3
MY BRAND: TruNiagen
MY DOSE: 2 capsules per morning
MY REASONS: There is a ton of emerging science on Niagen, which is a special form of Vitamin B3, and a precursor to something called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). NAD is essentially an external power source for our cells, and it naturally declines as we age. Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of the “anti-aging” concept, because I think it makes aging into something negative, instead of the privilege it actually is. But, I am a fan of helping our bodies age as happily and healthily as possible, and increasing your NAD is one way to do that. Improving your supply of NAD by supplementing with Niagen can help with so many things: muscular recovery in athletes; sharp, clear thinking; better sleep patterns; hormone regulation; even cellular recovery from sun damage over time. As with black cumin seed oil, there are quite a few medical studies about niagen, and almost all of them show that having more NAD in our systems is beneficial. I notice increased mental clarity and general energy levels when I’m taking niagen, and getting rid of brain fog is always a good thing!
COOL FACTS: Unfortunately, sun exposure, overeating, alcohol, and travel - things we are all guilty of some days - are all ways in which we decrease our supply of NAD. Fortunately, you can make more NAD, especially if you give your body one of the critical building blocks in the form of niagen.
4) EVENING PRIMROSE OIL
MY BRAND: Deva Vegan Evening Primrose Oil
MY DOSE: 1-2 vegan capsules per day
MY REASONS: Evening Primrose Oil is full of fatty acids called gamma-linoleic acid, or GLA. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, renowned holistic health and integrative medical doctor, "as we age, our bodies get drier inside and out. Evening primrose oil nourishes the skin, hair, nails, even the joints. The GLA it contains strengthens the skin barrier and reduces moisture loss." In my case, I was struggling with perioral dermatitis when I started taking it, and noticed that my skin seemed much less fragile once I started EPO. I did some research, and found that EPO can be helpful in eczema and atopic dermatitis also, though the evidence is still equivocal. It can also be helpful in managing PMS symptoms, so it’s a win-win situation for me.
COOL FACTS: Native to North America, the Evening Primrose plant was used by Native Americans to treat hemorrhoids, heal wounds, and soothe sore throats. In 17th century England, the herb was also considered a “cure-all” and used to treat a broad range of ailments.
5) PMS “COCKTAIL”
MY BRAND: I take a supplement called Oona Type 1, and I LOVE it, but it’s out of production, which makes me want to cry more than PMS does. Once I run out of my (admittedly stockpiled) supply of Oona, I’ll switch to the DIY version I came up with, based on the label of my Oona supplement.
MY DOSE: One Oona pill per day, with the extra passion flower pill for the week before my cycle. If you’re out of Oona Type 1, here’s how you recreate it with the individual components:
- One Black Cohosh pill daily
- One Chaste Tree Berry pill daily
- Two Passionflower lozenges daily from ovulation to the second day of your cycle
MY REASONS: When I stopped taking hormones about six years ago, it was the worst roller coaster ride I’d ever experienced. It was even worse than the time I rode Space Mountain with my dad and he did this fake-fading-scream thing like he had fallen off the ride to his death in the pitch black darkness. So, I was on the hunt for something to take the edge off my mood swings and cramps, and reduce my bloating and breast tenderness.
6) TRACE MINERALS
MY BRAND: ConcenTrace Mineral Drops
MY DOSE: 6-8 drops per 20 ounce bottle of water
MY REASONS: I live in rural Colorado, and we drink well water. We filter the water with a reverse-osmosis system, which removes EVERYTHING from the water. We have to do it this way because of the high iron content of our water, but it leaves us with “dead water” - no minerals whatsoever. Additionally, much of the US soil in which our vegetables are grown has been depleted of its minerals, so even the healthy raw foods we eat may not be as rich in minerals as they once were. As someone who does something athletic most days of the week, it’s especially important for me to replenish electrolytes and minerals to maintain hydration, energy levels, and proper cellular function.
COOL FACTS: This product is harvested from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, considered a sea with no outlet. If you notice that your pet eats lots of grass, he might need a few extra minerals as well - you can add a few drops to his water, too!
MY BRAND: There’s only one brand!
MY DOSE: One generous tablespoon a day.
MY REASONS: Can a chocolate-y chai drink be called a supplement? If it has four kinds of adaptogenic mushroom and turmeric in it, I believe it can. I’ve been drinking MUD/WTR for a few months now, and look forward to it every morning. To make yourself a delicious cup of health, heat the following ingredients to a very low simmer, but do not allow to boil:
- One tablespoon of MUD/WTR
- One teaspoon of ghee (I use this brand) or coconut butter
- One teaspoon of black cumin seed oil
- 8 ounces almond milk (I make my own with the Almond Cow!)
- 8 ounce of water
I transfer the mixture to a blender, and add an optional 1-2 tablespoons of raw, organic honey, blend for 20 seconds, and enjoy slowly over the course of an hour or two.
COOL FACTS: A lot of thought went into developing this product! I find that because it has a bit of healthy fat in it, I can use it as my breakfast most days, and I feel satisfied until lunch time. Also, one serving has just 17 mg of caffeine, about 1/5th the amount in a cup of coffee.
MY BRAND: Natural Vitality Calm Gummies
MY DOSE: 400-600 mg magnesium per night (I usually have seven gummies - it’s my dessert!)
MY REASONS: Magnesium is a mineral found in a lot of foods - think almonds, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and avocados. Most people either don’t get enough magnesium in their diets, or they deplete their levels with caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. Low magnesium levels can result in fatigue, arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm), poor sleep, constipation, and anxiety.
I started taking magnesium as a sleep supplement, and the results were impressive. I have no trouble falling asleep, but if I wake up at 2am, Monkey Brain Syndrome goes into full effect. With magnesium on board, I wake up less frequently, and fall back asleep quickly if I do wake. I have also had occasional episodes of an arrhythmia called SVT (supraventricular tachycardia), but it seems to be almost non-existent when I’m taking magnesium regularly.
COOL FACTS: Choosing a menu with more magnesium may be beneficial in reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Other foods rich in magnesium are tofu, black beans, and dark chocolate, so maybe you need to make a batch of black bean brownies to go with your vitamins?
With love and a handful of health from us to you,