5 Must-Have Supplements for Basic Wellness (+ why everyone needs supplements)
With depleted soils, stressful lifestyles, and constant exposure to toxins, it’s important that we support our bodies’ best health. So, here are my top 5 Must-Have Supplements for Basic Wellness, plus why everyone needs supplements! And, you might be surprised at what supplement DIDN’T make my list.
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Play this game with me for a moment…
You’re going to be stranded on a desert island, and you can only take 5 books or movies or foods or (fill in the blank). What do you take?
It’s hard, isn’t it! Just when we think we can live without a certain book or movie or food, we realize how important it is to us — because we’d take it to a desert island!
So, I polled my Instagram audience recently, asking them if they’d like a post along the lines of “If I Could Only Take 5 Supplements, Here’s What They’d Be”.
Except… Have I ever showed you my supplements cabinet?
Honestly, it’s more of a supplements pantry, not just a cabinet.
I’ve got supplements scattered all over the house — in the actual pantry, in the bathroom, in the hall closet, in the basement, and sitting out on the kitchen counter.
They’re ev-ery-where. If supplement-hoarding is a real thing, then I’m raising my hand.
Why Everyone Needs Supplements
I think everyone needs supplements.
Bold statement, huh?
Let me explain…
#1 — Soil depletion.
Our food is only as nutrient-dense as the soil in which it grows.
Crops grown decades, and certainly centuries, ago were much higher in vitamins and minerals because the soil in which they grew was higher in vitamins and minerals.
Through time and environmental changes (such as GMOs, monocultures, pesticides, herbicides, erosion, etc.), our soils are depleted of nutrients — making our food less nutrient-dense.
#2 — Stress and anxiety.
Never in the history of mankind has their been a more stressed-out civilization than ours.
And, I’m not even talking about “mentally ill” people.
Working while juggling family responsibilities, environmental stressors like EMFs and toxic air, water, and food, social media, the news, political unrest — it’s all causing stress and anxiety for everyone on some level.
Stress depletes valuable mineral stores in our bodies, which must be replaced. Because our food is less nutrient-dense, per point #1, supplements can help fill that gap.
#3 — Not everyone eats organic. No one eats organic 100% of the time.
And if you’re eating mostly non-organic/non-grass-fed foods with lots of processed foods (a SAD diet – Standard American Diet), you are definitely getting fewer antioxidants, polyphenols, fat-soluble vitamins, Omega-3s, and other really important stuff.
Truth: You can’t out-supplement a poor diet.
I don’t care how many supplements you take, if you eat like crap, those supplements are doing you very little good.
If you’re eating mostly organic/grass-fed, great.
However, your life probably still has stress and anxiety, per #2. And even many organic foods are grown in depleted soils, per #1, unless you’re growing it yourself or getting it from a local farmer with top-notch soil.
#4 — Toxins.
Our bodies are exposed to more toxins than any other bodies in history.
Toxins come from car exhaust, paint fumes, office buildings, air fresheners, cleaning products, off-gassing of furniture and mattresses, chlorinated and fluoridated water, vaccines, xenoestrogens, EMFs, poor air quality, and yes, our food.
Also glyphosate is freaking in almost everything (source).
Having the right supplements can assist your body in detoxifying more efficiently.
#5 — Exercising depletes nutrients.
Especially if you’re doing really intense workouts or working out daily.
That doesn’t mean exercise is bad — it’s not; it’s GOOD! But, you still have to be mindful of your body’s nutrient and mineral stores.
There are many more reasons why we need supplements and why they should be part of our lives — not as a once-in-a-while thing, but as a regular part of our lives, like brushing our teeth or going to work.
So, if I could only take 5 supplements for basic wellness, what would they be?
Whew, this is a hard question!
I polled my Instagram audience and 100% of responders said they wanted to know what my top 5 must-have supplements for basic wellness are.
So, in my imaginary scenario, I’m assuming that I’m in great health. I wouldn’t be addressing any health issues like I am now, such as hormone imbalances or HPA axis dysfunction or anxiety.
Because right now, I take way more than 5 supplements — and, I feel, all of them are necessary at this time.
I’m also going to assume, in my imaginary scenario, that I can’t afford a bunch of fancy supplements. (Honestly, we spend an arm and a leg on supplements as it is. And yes, I know this is first world privilege speaking here.)
Many people believe they can’t afford supplements at all, which isn’t true.
My 5 must-have supplements for basic wellness — the ones I’d take to a desert island with me — are NOT pricey.
These are simply my go-tos — the 5 I would take anyway, even if I was in perfect health.
That’s how important these supplements are to me.
Please note: these are NOT in order of importance. In my opinion, they’re all equally necessary and important. 🙂
#1 — Magnesium
According to several naturopathic doctors, including one of my hormone heroes, Dr. Lara Briden, magnesium is the “master mineral”.
Hormone issues like PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, or perimenopause? Magnesium.
Unable to get into a parasympathetic nervous system state because you’re so revved up? Magnesium!
HPA axis dysfunction, evidenced by a “wired but tired” feeling, insomnia, and weight gain around your middle? Magnesium.
Magnesium, is where it’s at, y’all.
I’m going to make a bold statement again: EVERYONE NEEDS MAGNESIUM.
This is one of those minerals that we used to get from our food because our food was grown in magnesium-rich soil. Well, that’s no longer the case. Our soil is depleted of minerals like magnesium, making our food deplete of magnesium.
We all need magnesium.
According to Dr. Briden, magnesium…
- Calms the nervous system and regulates cortisol
- Reduces blood sugar and normalizes insulin
- Is essential for the production of thyroid hormone and can help regulate thyroid conditions
- Aids us in getting a good night’s sleep
- Fuels cellular energy
- Supports healthy estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone
- Activates Vitamin D3; without enough mag, D3 can’t do it’s thing (see more about Vitamin D3 below).
In Dr. Briden’s book The Period Repair Manual, there is not a single female cycle issue for which she does not prescribe magnesium! That’s how important this mineral is for us, ladies!
There are soooooo many different forms of magnesium: magnesium citrate (which is useful if you’re constipated), magnesium l-threonate, magnesium chloride, magnesium… well, you get the point.
Note: mag citrate is a calming mineral, but it can cause loose bowels. I have used it for stress, anxiety, and constipation. My go-to magnesium supplement now is this magnesium glycinate complex.
The type I use and the type recommended in The Period Repair Manual is Magnesium Bisglycinate (or magnesium glycinate — the type joined to the amino acid glycine). This form of magnesium has the least laxative effect (unlike mag citrate) and is the most absorbable.
The added glycine has the extra benefit of calming GABA receptors (goodbye, anxiety!). I take this magnesium glycinate complex that has added B6 for additional mental health support.
I also take magnesium citrate when I’m constipated, which isn’t often. It relaxes smooth muscle, like the colon, and draws water into the colon, allowing for better regularity.
#2 — N-Aceytl Cysteine
To simplify things, let’s call this supplement NAC. So, what does NAC do?
Here’s what I say in this post, 6 Ways to Support Gut Health While Taking Anti-Anxiety Meds (beyond bone broth, probiotics, & ferments):
With regards to leaky gut specifically, NAC helps to detoxify toxins produced by intestinal yeast/bacterial overgrowth and stimulates immune function in the gut lining, increasing white blood cell numbers. This detoxifying action also helps beneficial bacteria to establish themselves in the gut if NAC is taken concurrently with a probiotic supplement.
Another benefit is that NAC powerfully enhances liver function through production of glutathione and other conjugation enzymes by supplying vital sulphur molecules. This helps heal a leaky gut as the liver can cope with toxins better and hence spills fewer into the bile therefore irritating the lining of the small intestine to a lesser extent.
Research has shown that oxidation may play an impoirtant role in increased intestinal permeability and that treatment with NAC can prevent this damage due to it being a powerful antioxidant. (Source.)
Bonus: NAC is also helpful in the treatment of anxiety and depression!
By balancing brain glutamate levels (an excitatory neurotransmitter), reducing inflammation, and increasing the growth of new brain cells, NAC reduces oxidative stress in the brain. In studies of over 500 people, NAC improved symptoms of depression and overall functioning after 3 to 6 months. (Source.)
Other benefits of NAC and why I would take it even if I was in perfect health:
- It’s great for protecting the lungs, brain, kidneys, brain, and liver.
- NAC protects us from toxins, like heavy metals, pesticides, and even chemical warfare (source).
- It’s a great biofilm disruptor. (Biofilm is what bad bugs in your gut secrete around themselves that makes them impervious to treatment.)
- NAC improves fertility in both males and females.
- Boosts the immune system and helps protect against the flu.
- Fights free radicals.
- May help with muscle fatigue and inflammation after exercise.
See, NAC is a superhero!
#3 — Methylated B Complex
I’m not talking a singular B vitamin, like niacin, folate, or B12. This is a B complex — a balance combination of B vitamins in methylated* form so they’re more bioavailable for the body. This is the one I take.
*Methylated B vitamins are especially important if you have or suspect you have a variant of the MTHFR mutations.
There are 8 different B vitamins:
- B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B7 (biotin)
- B9 (folate – NOT folic acid which is synthetic)
Their benefits range from helping to form blood and nerve cells to keeping our metabolisms healthy, from helping to balance blood sugar to maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails.
B vitamins are necessary for cellular energy production, synthesis of serotonin, adrenal health, breaking down carbs for energy, and more.
You literally can’t do life without B vitamins.
Food sources of B vitamins include: grass-fed beef/bison, organic chicken, raw milk and cheese, shellfish, eggs, sunflower seeds, almonds, dark leafy greens, and avocados.
But, the body actually doesn’t store B vitamins well. If you eat a primarily plant-based or vegan diet, you’re likely to be deficient in one or many B vitamins, especially B12 — which is ONLY found in animal protein.
If you frequently feel weak or tired, it’s likely that you’re lacking in B vitamins. (Fatigue is related to other things, but this is a good place to start.) Because B vitamins are energy vitamins!
A Methylated B Complex insures that you’re getting those B vitamins in correct ratios. And, it’s one of the most inexpensive supplements you can find!
The potential downsides to taking a methylated B complex?
- Your urine will turn neon yellow or green. This isn’t cause for concern and is normal.
- A detox reaction called a niacin flush can occur. You may feel hot, itchy, or even have redness or hives on your extremities or face. This doesn’t mean you’re allergic to B vitamins. To avoid a niacin flush, you may wish you take part of your B complex first thing in the morning and the other part after lunch. Or, avoid taking it on an empty stomach.
Purchase methylated B complex here.
#4 — Probiotics + Prebiotics
I consider these 1 supplement, and here’s why:
We need good bacteria and yeasts (probiotics) for proper gut function.
Without them, our bodies can’t protect us from disease (because over 70% of our immune systems are found in our guts), can’t regulate our mental health (because our gut is the second brain), and can’t digest our food (which causes all sorts of issues).
I’m a firm believer in getting as many strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast as possible, which is why I take 2, sometimes 3 probiotics at once. And I rotate my probiotics so that my gut is getting a steady supply and variety beneficial microorganisms.
But here’s the deal…
We need to be thinking of probiotics like little pets that we feed our guts. And our little pets need food, too.
Prebiotics are defined as such:
[A] prebiotic is any substance used by microorganisms inside the body that confers health benefits. Translation: prebiotics are beneficial microbes’ food. (Source.)
Prebiotics are specific types of dietary fiber — a carbohydrate that we don’t digest but that is essential for gut health, bowel regularity, blood sugar balance, and more.
The soluble fibers that are metabolized by beneficial gut microbes are considered prebiotics. Inside your gut, prebiotics stimulate beneficial gut microbes to grow, improving gut health—and other areas of health, too. (Source.)
You certainly can get probiotics from fermented foods, but you’d have to make a big commitment to consume a LOT of ferments on a daily basis. Supplementation is easier, in my opinion.
And, yep, you can get prebiotics from food, too. Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, cassava flour, onions, green plantains, and green bananas are all good sources of prebiotic fiber.
But again, how often are you eating Jerusalem artichokes or green bananas??
Probiotics and prebiotics are BOTH necessary for optimal gut AND brain health. Which is why they’re part of my must-have supplements for basic wellness!
Probiotics I rotate:
- Catie’s Whole Food Pro Flora (<– Save 10% with my discount code ALLTHETHINGS.)
- Just Thrive (<– Save 10% with my discount code NOURISHING10.)
- FemEcology by Vitanica
- Hyperbiotics Pro-15 (pictured above)
If you can’t commit to daily consuming prebiotic foods, it’s ok to use a supplement. I use this one, Hyperbiotics Prebiotic Blend, which is easily added to smoothies or stirred into porridge, pudding, or yogurt.
#5 — Liver Detox Support
Did you know that, even if 75% of your liver is gone, the remaining 25% can regenerate into a whole new liver?? And that our livers are detoxing heavy metals, pesticides, excess hormones, endocrine disruptors like BPA, and more for us 24/7?
They NEVER stop working for us.
In our modern world of pesticides, GMOs, glyphosate in everything, cytochrome P450 and MTHFR gene mutations, fluoride and chlorine in our water supply… it’s never been more crucial to support our livers!
Liver-loving herbs, like those found in Perfect Liver Detox Support, get the job done. (Save 10% with my discount code ALLTHETHINGS)
Perfect Liver Detox is a natural, doctor-formulated herbal blend of artichoke leaf, turmeric, chlorella, milk thistle extract, schisandra berry, and broccoli sprout powder. This blend enhances and supports both Phase 1 and Phase 2 liver detoxification, so our bodies can deal with the constant bombardment of toxins they encounter daily.
No cleanses, detoxes, juice fasting, or other nonsense required.
BONUS! 4 More Supplements to Consider, Depending on Your Health Needs:
Ok, the truth is that we’re not stranded on a desert island. We DO have access to more than just 5 supplements.
Depending on our health needs, many of us may very likely require more than 5 supplements for basic wellness.
So, here are 4 MORE supplements to consider adding to your arsenal, if you haven’t already.
#1 — Ashwagandha
Have your thoughts ever resembled a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter? Have you ever felt “tired but wired”, possibly unable to fall asleep no matter how exhausted you are?
Brain fog and insomnia, along with other symptoms like hormone imbalance, insomnia, imbalanced blood sugar, anxiety, and depression are symptoms of (what could be several) underlying causes.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb — meaning it does what the body needs to help it adapt to stress better. This results in better sleep, more balanced hormones and blood sugar, improved cognitive function, and better mental health.
I’ve used ashwagandha off and on many times, and it’s never let me down! Learn all about ashwagandha, plus how to make your own ashwagandha tincture here.
Or buy it here.
#2 — Collagen and/or Gelatin
For the health of your gut, joints, hair, nails, and skin, you can’t go wrong with collagen and/or gelatin from grass-fed cows. (You can read about the differences between collagen and gelatin here.)
Personally, I use and value both.
And they both have different uses in the kitchen. For instance, gelatin is ideal for adding to hot drinks, making gummies or marshmallows, or any dessert that you want to “set”.
If I had to pick just 1, I’d go with Perfect Collagen because it’s easily added to both hot and cold drinks or even into baked goods for an added boost of protein, amino acids, and skin, hair, and nail benefits. (<– My discount code ALLTHETHINGS will save you 10% on my favorite collagen and gelatin!)
#3 — Aquatic Greens
A 50/50 blend of spirulina and chlorella (both algaes), Perfect Aquatic Greens offers a potent punch of protein, vitamins, minerals, liver support, and more in just a tiny scoop. And goodness knows, we can all benefit from more greens in our diets!
It detoxes and alkalinizes the body, providing liver support and a healthy daily dose of greens.
It’s super easy to add to smoothies or drinks, like my Aquatic Greens Lemonade.
As always, save 10% on ANY Perfect Supplements purchase with my discount code ALLTHETHINGS!
#4 — L-glutamine
L-glutamine is considered a conditional essential amino acid because your body uses so much during times of intense physical stress. It is essential for maintaining the health and growth of enterocytes in your gut since it is the preferred fuel of these cells. So if you want to win the battle against leaky gut syndrome, L-glutamine should be a go-to resource in your toolbox. (Source.)
L-glutamine helps to strengthen the lining of the gut so it doesn’t become permeable (aka “leaky”).
Unlike many other amino acids, your cells easily absorb l-glutamine because it is the primary fuel used by the cells of your gut lining (source). A generous supply of l-gluatmine will help repair and maintain a healthy small intestinal lining (source).
When the cells of your gut lining are strong, inflammation in your body decreases as fewer and fewer toxins enter your bloodstream via leaky gut.
L-glutamine also supports the removal of waste (read: toxins) from the body, synthesize proteins, and even help you maintain a stable blood sugar.
Here is a great resource to learn more about l-glutamine and dosing recommendations.
Purchase l-glutamine here or here.
What About Vitamin D3?
We think of Vitamin D3 as the “sunshine vitamin” because our own bodies convert sunlight into bioavailable Vitamin D3.
However, Vitamin D3 acts more like a hormone in our bodies than a vitamin. In fact, it’s a prohormone.
Here are just a few things that Vitamin D3 does for us:
- It helps the body absorb calcium for strong mineralization of bones.
- Vitamin D3 boosts the immune systems. Individuals with low levels of D3 are more prone to sickness.
- It regulates hormones and neurotransmitters like adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. Studies show that a person is more likely to experience depression as a side effect of low Vitamin D3, hence why it’s recommended to take your Vitamin D3 during the winter months, to help cope with potential Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- It’s anti-inflammatory, especially for the lungs and people with asthma.
- Research has shown a correlation between low Vitamin D3 and high blood pressure.
- Low Vitamin D3 interferes with leptin — our hormone that signals when we are full. If leptin isn’t giving us the satiation signal, we eat more — and gain weight. Therefore, when D3 is raised, leptin’s actions are restored, and we get the message to stop eating when we’re actually full, rather than continuing to eat and gain more weight.
But read that up there again: Vitamin D3 acts more like a hormone than a vitamin.
Our bodies should be capable of absorbing enough Vitamin D3 from our food (hint: fortified cereals and milk don’t count) and producing our own Vitamin D3 when we expose ourselves to the sun.
Yes, you should have your Vitamin D3 checked with a simple blood test. (Conventional medical “normal” for Vitamin D3 is 20 to 50 nanograms/milliliter. However, the functional “normal” range is much, much higher: 60 to 80 ng/mL.)
If your Vitamin D3 is low, maybe you need to supplement. Maybe you don’t.
First, you should determine…
- are you getting enough sunshine?
- does your diet include D-rich foods like pastured egg yolks, coldwater fatty fish like salmon, and mushrooms?
- how’s your calcium?
- how’s your Vitamin K2?
Why Vitamin D3 Didn’t Make My List of Must-Have Supplements for Overall Health & Wellness
Supplementing with Vitamin D3 is something I have done, so I’m not anti-vitamin D. I have personally experienced the side effects of low D3.
But, Vitamin D3 isn’t in my list of must-have supplements for overall health and wellness because…
If you’re supplementing, your symptoms of tiredness, fatigue, or depression may go away, but you need to determine why you were low to begin with.
Back when I supplemented with Vitamin D3, I know now I wasn’t getting enough magnesium. (See above about magnesium.) I wasn’t supplementing with magnesium at all back then.
Second, I have a liver that tends toward the sluggish side, so my body isn’t always detoxing hormones, like estrogen or Vitamin D3, properly or efficiently. Now, I support my liver like crazy.
Third, I wasn’t getting enough sunshine back then. I definitely spend more time out of doors than I used to! And, I’m always without sunglasses and rarely use sunscreen.
Too much Vitamin D is a real thing and a real problem. As a hormone, Vitamin D3 is responsible for maintaining calcium levels in the bloodstream — and it will pull calcium from your bones in order to do this. Not good, right?
Furthermore, if you have too much Vitamin D3 in your body, it gets stored in the liver, then in your tissues. Also not good.
This is why blood testing before supplementing is vital. And why you should try to find other ways to increase Vitamin D3 before supplementing.
5-Must Have Supplements for Basic Wellness
Once again, to re-cap, here are my 5 must-have supplements for basic wellness
- Magnesium glycinate complex
- N-acetyl cysteine
- Methylated B vitamin complex
- Probiotics & prebiotics
- Perfect Liver Detox Support
More Helpful Information About Supplements
- 5 Must-Have Supplements to Support Your Teenager’s Health
- 6 Ways to Support Gut Health While Taking Anti-Anxiety Medications (beyond bone broth, ferments, & probiotics)
- 20+ Ways to Relieve Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Pain
- What’s the Difference Between Collagen & Gelatin (+ when & how to use them daily)
Great list! I would only add a high quality fish oil, like Nordic Naturals. 🙂