Categories
Big Picture Nutrients Sleep

3 Rules Of Nutrient Supplementation

1

No Single Nutrient Is Safe To Supplement Every Day

Nutrients interact With and Oppose each other.

How common is it to supplement with a nutrient on a daily basis?

It’s extremely frequent.

Across health groups and modalities, each approach often has “favorite” nutrients, which are sometimes taken too frequently, too consistently — and for too long.

It’s a problem on its own, but it’s compounded by the tendency to demonize the very nutrients that might balance out this preferential supplementation. This is often done in hopes of “nudging” hormonal balance in a preferred direction.

Over time this supplementation approach leads to potentially-severe imbalances between various nutrients in the body.

Supplemented nutrients stand the risk of rising too high, while the neglected ones fall too low.

The problem, here, is that all nutrients have myriad interactions with other nutrients — throughout the body. 

In a manner of speaking, all nutrients oppose each other, either competing for absorption or “using up” each other. There are some exceptions (mostly in times of relative deficiency), but even with the exceptions, the general rule still applies: increasing levels of a nutrient ultimately works to deplete other nutrients.

The question, then, is: How long does it take to cause an imbalance between nutrients?

The answer: Not that long — especially when chronic illness is in play.

In chronic illness, there’s a shortage of energy supplied to the body. Related are poor gut health and, with it, poor nutrient absorption. This leads to widespread nutrient deficiency — across the board.

An imbalance between nutrients is easy to create via uneven supplementation when the body is somewhat deficient in all nutrients. It often doesn’t take long for any particular nutrient to cause problems. It may only take a few months or, sometimes, (much) less.

Additionally, widespread nutrient deficiency can be made worse by exogenously pushing the metabolism faster than a compromised gut can absorb nutrients. Elevated toxicity due to mold, chemical exposure, and/or endotoxin creates inflammation that blunts nutrient absorption into both the bloodstream and individual cells.

2

Most Nutritional Supplements Are Only Safe 1-2x/Week

Most individual nutrient supplements provide 100-300% of the recommended daily value.

Some are much higher than that.

These products should almost never be taken daily.

Even a low-dose — say, 100% RDV — will create an imbalance over time if supporting nutrients are not also supplemented at a similar rate. This can happen in mere weeks in the chronically ill. Doses higher than 100% will only hasten the imbalance.

Imbalances happen because each nutrient exists within a family of other nutrients. For example: Minerals interact tremendously with each other. Each mineral has a major partner, with whom powerful interactions, synergy, and opposition are in play.

The ratios of each mineral with A) its partner and B) other cofactor nutrients deeply matter for human health, and the body struggles to keep these ratios in balance during illness — due to aforementioned reasons.

The same is true for the fat-soluble vitamins and B-vitamins, two additional “nutrient families” for whom balance between nutrients is critical. There are even endless interactions between nutrients of different families — too many to properly be aware of on a day-to-day basis.

To supplement one nutrient, while avoiding a partner nutrient or other cofactors, will skew the ratios between nutrients over time.

These imbalances can be theoretically avoided by taking a blend of all nutrients in a family (or simply, all nutrients — as in a multivitamin) in a dosage around 100% of the RDV.

However, problems arise even with multivitamins: Very few multivitamins limit their dosages to around 100% RDV. In fact, most advertise their super-high doses as a selling point. There are other problems with most multi-vitamins, as well, including ingredient quality and imbalanced ingredients in the product, itself. It’s not uncommon to see 150% of one nutrient and 1100% of a partner nutrient.

On the other hand, if we supplement a nutrient at a moderate dose (around 100% RDV), we can usually take that nutrient about twice per week without causing terrible imbalances, provided there are no pre-existing nutrient imbalances (usually caused by uneven supplementation practices).

A twice-per-week dose of any nutrient allows for the benefits of said nutrient to be enjoyed while minimizing the risks of imbalance.

However, two things must be noted about thE 1-2x/week schedule:
  • Over time, imbalances can still occur at this low-dose schedule.
  • At some point, cofactors and supporting nutrients must be considered. We cannot supplement a single nutrient — even at 2x/week — while ignoring its relationships with other nutrients.

Many factors will determine how well a twice-per-week dose improves your health: body size, nutrition in the diet, digestive health, and current nutritional status. It is possible to require weeks or months of ongoing supplementation with a nutrient to iron out pre-existing imbalances. This may continue for a few weeks or months until the imbalance is corrected. However, this can easily result in a “false-positive” as the new nutrient improves symptoms for weeks or months (as an old imbalance is corrected), only to “stop working” and begin to cause problems (as a new imbalance is created). This false positive is also observed in the first-time supplement-taker: Any single nutrient will almost certainly yield noticeable results until problems are created and the product is (hopefully) discontinued.

The most common symptoms of nutrient imbalance as a result of improper, unsafe supplementation are insomnia and fatigue. Dysregulated cognitive and emotional function can also present, as will digestive disturbances such as constipation, diarrhea, or food sensitivities. Nearly any nutrient, when too-high or too-low can and will cause these symptoms.

To maintain already-existing nutrient balance: A low-and-slow regimen is suggested, with infrequent, balanced supplementation of all nutrients. This can be achieved via low-dose multivitamin blends and wise individual nutrient supplementation — keeping in mind the 1-2x/week rule.

Low-dose multivitamins should not be taken daily to A) avoid over-supplementation and B) to allow the body to balance itself without the influx of supplemental nutrition. Perhaps most importantly, regular days off from nutritional products can provide an opportunity for observation of how one feels without the influence of supplements.

3

If A Nutrient Becomes Elevated

You Can Lower It To SAFER LEVELS

The way nutrient interactions work, it’s very possible to overdose on a single nutrient using common supplementation practices.

Just take one or multiple daily doses of a nutrient for weeks or months. Voila — levels in the body will likely become too high.

However, this is partly a “relative” imbalance, meaning an imbalance between one nutrient and its cofactors. This nutrient’s levels may not be terribly high yet, but if the cofactors’ levels are low in the body, we observe all the symptoms of moderate or major overdose.

When the cofactors’ levels are brought up, the oversupplied nutrient levels can begin to fall toward normal as the body metabolizes the excess nutrient.

(How badly a new imbalance affects you will depend on how strong or weak your body is — and whether you’re taking few enough supplements to notice why and when you start feeling worse).

To correct a relative imbalance, you must know which nutrients are needed — which nutrients are the main cofactors of your problem nutrient.

You should also know if you’ve taken any cofactors in excess in the past. If a cofactor nutrient has also already been supplemented in excess, taking more of it will not help, and will only make matters worse.

It requires a wise understanding of nutrient interactions to safely and properly lower an elevated level of any nutrient.

Of course, by far the simplest path is to avoid over-supplementation in the first place.


Let’s Feel Better.

Discussion. Community. Thoughtful ideas. 6/mo.

(return home)
Categories
Nutrients Product Reviews

REVIEWS: Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium is a most critical mineral for optimal health and recovery.

Electrolytes facilitate the flow of electricity in the body.

Facilitating the flow of electricity throughout the body (that’s actually the definition of an ‘electrolyte’), magnesium partners with other minerals to control fluid balance and hydration throughout the body. 

It’s involved in hundreds of metabolic functions, immunity, gut health, sleep, and brain function.  You name it, magnesium plays a role.

Magnesium is incredibly important to our health — yet alarmingly absent from modern foods.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, muscular cramps, constipation, brain fog, fatigue, or other symptoms, supplemental magnesium could be a step in the right direction.

You’ll need about 300-500mg per day based on your gender and size of your body (males and larger folks need more).

Let’s explore various forms of magnesium supplements — and give each one a grade.


1

Magnesium L-Threonate

This is such a fantastic supplement.

Magnesium L-Threonate was recently developed by MIT researchers. The inventors claim it is a superior form of magnesium, due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which can raise brain levels of magnesium. 

Research has shown Magnesium L-Threonate to boost memory and brain function. 

On paper and in my observations with clients and myself, magnesium L-threonate appears to be the most absorbable form of magnesium available.

Threonate (as an isolated compound) is a metabolite of Vitamin C, with the potential to reduce hair loss — but appears otherwise fairly biologically inactive compared to other chelates.

My clients have found there to be an initial adjustment period as your body becomes familiar with the highly absorbable magnesium. Start slowly with this one, and be ready to drink some water after taking it.

PROs:

  • Highly absorbable
  • Uniquely supplies the brain with magnesium

CONs:

  • Adjustment period for some first-time users
  • This appears unique to this form of magnesium

RATING: 9.8/10

This is a seriously good supplement.


2

Magnesium Glycinate

Fantastic product, but provides a large dose of glycine.

Magnesium glycinate is extremely absorbable. 

The magnesium is chelated (attached) to glycine (an amino acid) that, itself, has many nutritional and therapeutic qualities. Seeing that glycine is a very important, yet under-supplied amino acid in the diet, this can be a good source of glycine. Glycine is the building block of proteins in the body.

The only drawback to magnesium glycinate is that supplemental glycine can cause problems in excess. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll likely need to take another form of magnesium. Another problem with this supplement: If you feel worse, you won’t know if it’s the magnesium or the glycine — at least not without doing some more thinking about your recent glycine supplementation.

RULE OF THUMB: If you supplement glycine elsewhere, skip the magnesium glycinate.

PROs:

  • High absorbability. 
  • Glycine can be energizing (or calming), and improve protein synthesis.

CONs:

  • People who already supplement glycine (or collagen) may not need even more glycine.

RATING: 9.4/10

This is certainly a fantastic supplement, and I highly recommend it. The combination of magnesium and glycine can be extremely calming (yet energizing) for some people.


3

Magnesium Chloride

Another outstanding form of magnesium — but it tastes terrible.

Magnesium Chloride is a highly absorbable, effective way to raise magnesium levels. 

Chloride is important for detoxification, but if you’re low in sodium (many hypothyroid and CFS folks are), taking more chloride could “lower” sodium further.

I have achieved very good results with this product in the past. The magnesium felt extremely absorbable and gave me a boost in energy and cognitive function many times that I took it. In fact, it seemed to work so well that I didn’t seem to need to take magnesium for some time after finishing two bottles of this product.

I’d say that’s pretty effective! The only trouble? It tastes so, so terrible.

PROs:

  • High absorbability
  • Effective at raising magnesium levels

CONs:

  • Expensive
  • Awful taste (powder, flakes, and liquid) that is difficult to mask

RATING: 9.2/10

I have tried Heiltropfen and it seems okay, but it’s hard to trust products that have misspellings in the title — regardless of its German-to-English translation.  If it is — in fact — a clean product, it’s a very, very cost-effective solution.  The powder/flakes can make it difficult to measure dosages.


4

Magnesium Taureate

Magnesium taurate is also well-absorbed, and boasts the benefits of taurine. 

Taurine is a powerful “amino acid” (although it isn’t used to make proteins, instead it is used directly in high-level biological functions like bile production, osmoregulation, muscle repair, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems.  

Don’t take magnesium taurate if you also supplement taurine, or if you are sensitive to sulfur/sulfites.

PROs:

  • Well absorbed
  • Includes the benefits of taurine

CONs:

  • Taurine may improve or harm sleep
  • People who already supplement taurine may not need even more taurine (excess taurine can drive down glycine levels and raise sulfur levels)

RATING: 7/10


5

Magnesium Malate

Only a single ingredient.

Magnesium Malate is highly absorbable and is bound to malic acid — a chemical long thought to improve symptoms for folks with chronic fatigue. 

I suspect energy improvement from malic acid may be short-lived “pyrite” for many people — while malic acid is an ingredient in the Krebs cycle, supplementing individual Krebs cycle ingredients is a good way to throw the Krebs cycle out of balance. 

Studies have also shown malic acid to be rather ineffective at treating CFS.  No surprise there, throwing single compounds at disease is rarely the answer — magnesium included.

PROs:

  • Well-absorbed
  • Malic acid may provide some benefits to metabolism and health

CONs:

  • There are better Magnesium “chelates” out there for long-term use

RATING: 6.5/10

This is probably just fine in small doses, or for a short duration.


6

Magnesium Citrate

A very pure, absorbable product — but citric acid is problematic for some.

Magnesium Citrate used to be the gold standard — a breakthrough product due to its superior absorbability.  It was more expensive and produced better results than other forms of magnesium.

Now?  It’s cheaper and becoming outclassed. A handful of products have eclipsed it and magnesium citrate is on the back-burner — mostly due to its citric acid content (which can be a minor gut irritant, lower blood ceruloplasmin, and is made from various mold species).

I now greatly prefer Magnesium Threonate (or Magnesium Glycinate) over Magnesium Citrate.

PROs:

  • Pretty absorbable
  • Affordable

CONs:

  • Citric acid may be problematic for some
  • No longer the best-performing form of magnesium

RATING:  6/10

If you’re going to take Magnesium Citrate, Pure Encapsulation’s version is about as pure as it gets.


7

Magnesium Spray

Magnesium sprays are virtually always Magnesium Chloride.

Magnesium Sprays are usually magnesium chloride, used topically instead of internally.  

I’m not anti-topical magnesium, but if your body needs magnesium, so do your gut tissues. Magnesium can be incredible for the restoration of the gut. And if taking magnesium irritates your gut, it’s a definitely sign that you have gut health problems that you need to be aware of, and take steps to correct.

Absorption is another factor, here. The skin, while permeable, will always absorb a smaller amount than taking internally.

PROs:

  • Magnesium levels can rise while avoiding the GI system — and potential GI distress.
  • Convenient? — Just rub on the skin and go.

CONs:

  • Potentially low absorbability vs internal.
  • Often uncomfortable/burning sensations on skin.
  • Less likely to increase magnesium levels over time.

RATING: 4/10


8

Magnesium Oxide

Although one company (Coral Calcium) claims otherwise — Magnesium Oxide is probably only useful as a laxative.

While other forms of magnesium boast 25-40% absorbability rates, Magnesium Oxide embarrasses itself by being only 3% absorbable.  Such low absorption suggests that magnesium oxide’s only legitimate reason to exist (at least as a nutritional supplement) is as a laxative.  And let me tell you, it’s extremely effective for that purpose.

PROs:

  • Effective as a laxative
  • Cheap as dirt

CONs:

  • Bottom-dwelling absorbability

RATING: 1/10

If you really want magnesium oxide, here’s one by Vitamin Shoppe. It can be helpful in times of serious constipation, however, don’t depend on it alone. Fix your gut with a full-spectrum approach.

Take it slow.  Learn how each nutrient affects you.

<– BACK to Supplement Reviews

Let’s put all the pieces together — and improve.

Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition

Categories
Nutrients Product Reviews

REVIEWS: Salt Reviews

Sodium gets a bad rap, but it’s hardly bad for you. In fact, it’s vital to your health.

In hypothyroidism, it’s wasted by the body in high amounts — meaning extra supply is critical. Remember, many chronically ill have some amount of hypothyroidism.

If sodium intake makes you feel worse, you most likely need a higher intake of potassium and other electrolytes — not necessarily less sodium.

Here are important variables to consider when looking for sources of salt:

  • No caking agents
  • No iodine (I want to supplement and track this nutrient myself)
  • No pink color
  • No plastic (there are reports of sea salt products and tiny plastic pieces)

1

Sea Salt

Made from evaporating ocean water (or salty lake water, like the Dead Sea), sea salt will contain a small amount of trace minerals that may benefit your health. They’ll also positively affect the salt’s taste.

In terms of your health, you really can’t go wrong with sea salt. There’s only one major downside, too: Our modern oceans are so filled with plastic. This means that tiny plastic particles are more often appearing in our sea salt — and yes, we’re eating it.

PROs: 

  • No fillers
  • No iodine
  • No pink rust

CONs:

RATING:  8.0/10

Celtic brand sea salt is a fine choice.


2

Pink Himalayan Salt

Pink Salt used to be very popular at my house.  Unfortunately, it stands to reason that the pink color is due to oxidized iron — also known as rust.  This oxidized iron isn’t a great form of iron to put in the body for most people.  If you need iron, there are much better ways to get it.

What about the extra trace minerals? Studies suggest the amounts of trace minerals in pink salt are so minuscule that pink salt is no more helpful than sea salt. Some products claim to have adequate iodine levels — this is a misleading marketing claim.

PROs:

  • No fillers
  • No iodine
  • No plastic
  • Fun (pink color!)

CONs:

  • Rusted, oxidize iron
  • No iodine (some claim to have adequate iodine — those claims are wrong)

RATING: 6.5/10


3

‘REAL’ Salt

Made in Idaho, USA, REAL Salt is a great product.  It’s mined from underground — much like pink Himalayan salt —  and boasts a slightly higher content of trace minerals than sea salt.  Unfortunately, this also means it does have some oxidized iron “rust” in it, but significantly less than pink salt.  Being mined underground means it is pure of plastic contamination.

PROs:

  • High quality source
  • Higher trace minerals
  • No iodine
  • Incredible taste.  10/10 for taste
  • No plastic particles

CONs:

  • Likely has some oxidized iron content, which may be an issue for some

RATING: 8.4/10

Real Salt is an incredibly tasty salt — I really enjoy it. I do wish it were more pure white in color (less oxidized iron). There’s no such thing as a free lunch with health products, it seems.


4

Kosher Salt

Image result for kosher salt

Kosher salt is all about the size of the crystals — which are perfect for drawing out moisture from meat. This makes it excellent for the koshering process of meat.

Kosher salt is free of iodine (which is a necessary nutrient), has no fillers (anti-caking agents), and often has a larger granule size (for the koshering process).

PROs:

  • No fillers
  • No iodine
  • No pink rust

CONs:

  • Usually made from sea salt, therefore could have plastic. I do question, however, if the larger particle size filters out more plastic than products with finer crystal size.

RATING: 9.0/10

You really can’t go wrong with a simple Kosher salt.


5

My Recommendation

I happily use sea salts, REAL Salt, or Kosher salt. The difference between the three is not large enough to fret over.

The biggest trade-off is that REAL Salt has a small amount of rust (oxidized iron), and sea salt has a small amount of plastic. How each might affect someone is hard to say — and nobody out there is an authority on that.


As with most things, go by how you feel. Don’t rely on table salt or pink Himalayan salt, and beyond that — don’t stress about it.


Learn how each variable affects you.

Let’s put all the pieces together — and improve.

<– BACK to Supplement Reviews

Categories
Nutrients Product Reviews

REVIEWS: Calcium Supplements

Calcium is a critical mineral for bone, hormonal, muscular, nervous system, and metabolic health.

Calcium can also improve thyroid health, calm the stress response, help avoid osteoporosis and facilitate nervous system & muscular function.

Folks with hypothyroidism, women, and the elderly especially need calcium — although supplementation should be done cautiously and wisely. 

If digestible, dairy is a fine source of calcium, but many can’t properly digest dairy. On the other hand, non-dairy products are usually supplemented with forms of calcium that are poorly absorbed.

Similarly, plant-based food sources of calcium are largely full of anti-nutrients that can render calcium less absorbable.

For those with certain digestive problems, eating lots of greens may be undesirable — due to insoluble fiber, goitrogens, lectins or oxalates.

However, there are many supplemental forms of calcium, but they’re not created equal. Let’s explore the best calcium supplements.


1

Calcium Hydroxyapatite

My favorite form of calcium, from a highly reputable manufacturer.

Calcium hydroxyapatite is a unique form of calcium that you everyone needs to be aware of.

Image result for calcium hydroxyapatite

Over 99% of body calcium is found as calcium hydroxyapatite — and it’s a superior source of supplemental calcium.   

I have found calcium hydroxyapatite to be less constipating than other forms (perhaps due to the presence of other minerals and/or better absorption). 

Calcium hydroxyapate also contains trace amounts of other minerals, and this will encourage quicker assimilation when you supplement. Instead of having to recruit these minerals already occurring in the body, these trace minerals are already present, streamlining the process. This becomes more important in sicker folks and the elderly.

PROs:  

  • A natural, biologically-active form
  • The presence of other minerals in small amounts improves facilitation of calcium
  • Less constipating than other forms

CONs:  

  • All calcium supplements can cause constipation (though this product is superior for this). 

RATING: 9.5/10


2

Calcium Citrate

Calcium Citrate has been a leading supplemental form of calcium for some time due to its superior absorption rate and gentle nature on the stomach.

However, there are some concerns that citric acid can 1) irritate the gut, 2) interfere with the Krebs cycle at moderate doses, or 3) cause an allergic reaction due to how citric acid is manufactured; it’s manufactured by the fermentation of starch by several types of mold (candida and aspergillus niger, in particular).

PROs:  

  • High absorbability
  • Improved absorption on an empty stomach

CONs: 

  • Citric acid may be an issue for some

RATING: 7.5/10

This product has a tiny amount of fat-soluble Vitamin C that won’t interfere with your observations and could promote the utilization of the calcium.


3

Bone Meal Powder

Bone Meal Powder is a calcium source derived directly from cattle bones. Perhaps surprisingly,  powdered bovine bones make for a superior source of calcium. 

Why?  Because the calcium found in bone meal is calcium hydroxyapatite — a superior source of calcium.  The hydroxyapatite molecule provides cofactors supporting calcium’s role in the body.  It’s also more absorbable.

PROs:

  • A cheaper form of hydroxyapatite calcium
  • Somewhat gentle on the stomach
  • Provides a small number of other minerals that support bone formation and metabolism

CONs:

  • All supplemental calcium can cause constipation
  • Difficult to find in pill form
  • Potential heavy metal contamination. Just like with bone broth and collagen, there are minor concerns about heavy metal content in bone meal.  Modern companies claim to test for heavy metals — but are you willing to trust them?  I do use this product from time to time, but I don’t depend on it solely.

RATING: 8/10


4

Calcium Carbonate

Calcium Carbonate is the most common form of calcium.  It’s highly prevalent in rocks and is used to make chalk.  People commonly use it in homemade and commercial toothpaste.

Calcium carbonate is difficult to absorb and hard on the stomach. Calcium carbonate’s best quality? It’s very cheap.

I personally find calcium carbonate to be quite absorbable in small doses, but larger doses do not sit as well in the gut.

PROs: 

  • Cheap
  • Pure
  • Non-allergenic

CONs: 

  • Not very absorbable
  • Harder on the digestive system

RATING: 4/10


5

Coral Calcium

Coral Calcium is simply calcium carbonate (again, the most common form of calcium) with a small amount of trace minerals included. 

These products often seem to describe the coral source as providing these extra nutrients, but in fact, these extra nutrients are added by the manufacturer. This makes these products a supplement blend.

These added nutrients are often of lower quality. Worse, you need to take important nutrients like calcium in isolation so you can perceive any positive or negative effects about the dosages.

One glaring nutrient added to many coral calcium brands is magnesium oxide, which is an inferior source of magnesium.

This magnesium (oxide) ostensibly added to make the coral’s calcium carbonate (the same calcium as eggshell calcium, and rocks) less constipating in the gut.

Nevertheless, there’s at least one big coral calcium brands will try and twist the science and suggest that magnesium oxide is actually MORE absorbable than other forms.

It only takes a few weeks of experimentation for most people to see this is not the case: magnesium oxide is most effective as a laxative, not as a source of magnesium, and its inclusion into any coral calcium product is most likely to combat the effects of the highly-constipating calcium carbonate.

PROs: 

  • May have a tiny amount of trace minerals

CONs: 

  • It’s mostly calcium carbonate
  • Most coral calcium products are blends with many added ingredients
  • Added ingredients are often inferior

RATING:  4/10

I have not found a coral calcium supplement that I like.


6

(Homemade) Eggshell Calcium

Eggshells are essentially — and almost entirely — calcium carbonate with a tiny amount of other minerals (just like coral calcium). 

Among people who cannot tolerate dairy, it is common for some to make their own eggshell calcium powder by grinding eggshells in a coffee grinder. I do not recommend this.

PROs:

  • It’s fun to make things yourself
  • Pure — if you trust the source of your eggshells
  • Calcium carbonate may be less irritating than citric acid-based calcium (in a very small number of people)

CONs: 

  • Low absorbability
  • Higher rate of constipation

RATING: 4/10