13 Vitamins (and Supplements) Doctors Actually Take Every Day
It’s hard to know which supplements work and which ones you can skip. So check out what doctors take to figure out what’s right for your health.
“Vitamin D is extremely important for maintaining bone health, but from a mental health perspective, low vitamin D levels have been implicated in depression. One in six people in the United States will develop depression, and it causes huge losses in quality of life and productivity. Like many Americans, I wear sunscreen, so I lose out on a major source of vitamin D. I take 5,000 IU [international units] of vitamin D most days, which is a lot, but my vitamin D levels otherwise run low; most people could take 400 to 1,000 IU.” – Gail Saltz, MD, psychiatrist and author of The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius. Here are 9 signs you might not be getting enough vitamin D.
“Zinc is one of the most important minerals to stave off infection. It promotes immunity and helps your body resist invasion by bacteria and viruses. It is also important for nervous system development, and for moms-to-be, zinc is super important for a healthy pregnancy. In addition to recommending it to patients for general prevention, I recommend it to my allergy patients because they are generally more prone to infection. The recommended dietary allowance of zinc [for adults] is anywhere from 8 to 11 mg per day, depending on your age and if you are male or female. I take a daily multivitamin that contains it.” – Tania Elliott, MD, allergist and chief medical officer of the preventative health company EHE
“Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient that functions as an antioxidant and boosts the immune system. Vitamin C is, of course, abundant in many fruits and vegetables, but prolonged storage and cooking diminish its content. Besides its well-known ability to make the common cold less severe, vitamin C has also been shown to have a significant and positive effect on blood vessels. Such effect has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke in large studies. As a vascular surgeon, I recommend a vitamin C supplement to patients after a vascular procedure for a faster recovery.” – Kerem Bortecen, MD, an endovascular and interventional surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates. These are the best vitamins and supplements to take after surgery.
“Boswellia serrata is an herbal remedy from India considered to be the new turmeric, as it has lots of anti-inflammatory compounds. Clinical studies have shown that it can reduce inflammation as well as joint pain and swelling. One of the standardized extracts of boswellia in the clinical studies—called ApresFlex—is 100 mg, and it’s used in a number of good-quality joint formulas, including mine, Opti-Life Flex. But always talk to a doctor before taking any products, especially if taking blood thinners or anti-seizure medications.” – Joe Feuerstein, MD, director of Integrative Medicine at Stamford Hospital and assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University. Are you getting enough of these five vitamins and minerals?
Multivitamin with folic acid
“Although there’s no clear, direct benefit of taking a multivitamin, particularly in those who eat a well-balanced diet filled with essential vitamins and minerals, I take a multivitamin daily. Why? Well, there are potential benefits and few known risks at this time. A multivitamin can support healthy aging, as well as correct any nutritional deficiencies we may have. Additionally, I choose one that’s rich in folic acid, which is important during the reproductive stages of your life. It can reduce any potential birth defects when you become pregnant.” – Rachel Bond, MD, associate director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC. Here are three herbs and supplements that can help if you’re trying to conceive.
“There have been multiple studies on the use of chromium for diabetes, and while there has been no clear, consistent benefit for all patients, the patients who had the best response to chromium were the ones on high doses of insulin. It is thought that chromium works by improving the responsiveness of the insulin receptor to insulin, thus making the insulin work better and more efficiently in the body. As an endocrinologist who does not have diabetes but has a family history of diabetes, I make sure that my multivitamin has at least 50 mcg [micrograms] of chromium.” – Rashmi S. Mullur, MD, an assistant clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism), and associate chief of Integrative Medicine at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. Here are more herbs and supplements that diabetics should consider taking.
The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin
“Lutein and zeaxanthin are present in high levels in the retina, especially in the macula region, the part of the eye used for fine visual activities. These pigments are thought to protect the retina by absorbing blue and UV light, as well as preventing oxidative damage. A large study called AREDS 2 showed that they [delayed the progression of] macular degeneration, [while another study] showed that higher levels of plasma lutein and zeaxanthin were significantly associated with higher cognitive performance. We recommend the AREDS 2 dose of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin. Although these antioxidants are present in green, leafy vegetables, the absorption is not very efficient, so supplements may be useful even in people that have a healthy diet.” – Sonal Tuli, MD, ophthalmologist, University of Florida Health. Find out which supplements men over the age of 50 should consider taking.
“Taking a daily probiotic supplement can boost digestive health and help to fill in the gaps when we can’t eat as well as we would like. It may be especially helpful for individuals who may suffer from occasional gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Probiotics are great when traveling, as well. There are hundreds of probiotic products on the market, but lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, the bacteria strain found in Culturelle, is the most researched one with over 1,000 clinical studies to date.” — Anish Sheth, MD, chief of Gastroenterology at the University Medical Center of Princeton and author of The Complete What’s Your Poo Telling You?
“Research shows that omega-3, which can be found as a phospholipid in fish oil, plays an important role in blood pressure and cholesterol control. Other studies have shown it improves cognitive function in people with mild cognitive impairment and helps with rheumatoid arthritis. Due to its essential role as a structural lipid in cell membranes and its protective effects against cardiovascular diseases, as a vascular surgeon, I am a big proponent of daily omega-3 supplements.” – Dr. Bortecen.
“This superstar amino acid relaxes the mind. It boosts alpha waves in the brain. One way to get a high dose of L-theanine is by drinking matcha, a whole-leaf tea that’s also high in antioxidants and chlorophyll. It’s what Buddhist monks drink to induce an alert state of calm. If you have a caffeine sensitivity, drink decaffeinated green tea instead.” – Dr. Trattner. Check out more health-boosting benefits of green tea.
“Calcium is essential for many bodily functions, including heart and nervous system activity. It is also critical for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones. The recommended total calcium intake is 1000 mg per day for men and women ages 19 to 50. Women should increase calcium intake to 1200 mg after age 50; men should increase to 1200 mg after age 70. The best source is calcium-rich foods, [and you can] supplement with pills. Calcium supplements should be taken with food to ensure absorption, and divided doses during the day are better than taking the entire dose once daily. I personally get calcium from yogurt, milk, cheese, and ice cream (my favourite), and one chewable supplement per day.” — Joan Lappe, PhD, RN, Criss/Beirne professor of nursing and principal investigator at the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University. These eight vitamins are a total waste of money—and could even be dangerous.
“UC-II collagen/cartilage is a natural anti-inflammatory product that can be found in chicken bone broth. It’s very popular at the moment. In one published clinical study, people who took a proprietary form of UC-II walked further and longer on a stairmill before experiencing any joint pain, and range of motion of their joints improved.” – Dr. Feuerstein. Do you find yourself winded mere moments into your fitness routine? Boost your endurance naturally with these three supplements.
Apple cider vinegar
“The active ingredient in apple cider vinegar, acetic acid, is thought to affect blood sugar levels in two ways. It delays the rate at which the stomach empties so there is less of a blood sugar spike after a meal, and it may also work to prevent carbohydrate breakdown and absorption, similar to one of the prescription drugs that we use for diabetes. In general, this supplement tends to work better for people with pre-diabetes or a family history of diabetes, rather than for patients with diabetes. I try to use it when I eat a large carbohydrate meal. When I counsel patients with diabetes who want to try apple cider vinegar, I always warn them there is a potential risk that their blood sugar could drop, so I advise them to check their sugar after taking it.” – Dr. Mullur. Find out the 15 ways apple cider vinegar benefits your health.