8 years ago by

Supplements used to be something I only thought about when I was sick—total vitamin c loading to combat any cold that came my way. But in New York everyone seems to be taking something to help with digestion or their skin or their energy. Even Elle Macpherson has a Super-Elixir supplement hybrid that’s supposed to completely change your life. And actually some of the reviews I’ve ready say while it tastes terrible, it really has given people more energy…but I totally shrugged it all off and figured as long as I feel good, who needs it?

Then last year when I was diagnosed with gastroparesis (basically, my stomach muscles stopped contracting, making me feel nauseous and sick after eating pretty much anything) I had to drastically change my diet. Now that I can’t eat a lot of vegetables and whole grains, I’ve had to supplement my diet with well….supplements. My doctor suggested I start taking a prenatal vitamin because they’re the most complete (without iron though!) and I’ve managed to feel pretty good, even though I desperately am craving salad, or anything green for that matter.

I wanted to know a little more about how supplements really work, so we decided to ask Shirley, who is an incredible doctor and holistic plastic surgeon, to explain further. Shirley, like most doctors and osteopaths, really believes that a healthy diet is the key to feeling good and no supplement can be a great stand in for balanced diet. She also emphasized gut health in general—85% of our immunity is regulated by the cells in the gut..that’s crazy! But we’ll let Shirley explain…

There are supplements for everything—which ones can actually help and with what?
It is essential that each person be treated as a unique individual. One woman’s beauty elixir may be another woman’s poison. Therefore, which supplements to take should be discussed with a physician who is familiar with your condition(s) and constitution.

In general, probiotics help to restore the balance of the micro-organisms of the digestive system; B complex vitamins help stimulate the immune system and increase energy; magnesium helps to relieve stress; alpha lipoic acid may assist with weight loss; and co-Q10 is an antioxidant that may be beneficial in age management.

How much do we actually need when it comes to supplements?
If you eat a clean and balanced whole foods based diet, and derive all of your nutrients adequately from it, you may not need supplements at all. Additionally, healthy individuals who have efficient metabolism may process what they need from supplements, if not taken in excess for a prolonged period of time; then, they may excrete or remove what their body does not need through the different organs of elimination (kidneys, liver, lungs, intestines, and skin). Ultimately, your lifestyle and nutrition should help to determine whether you need supplements.

How do you know which ones to take and buy? Generic v. Brand Name?
Since what you put into your body has major implications in how we look and feel, I believe that you must honor your temple and love yourself by using the best products available to you. While the brand name may not be important,consider the source of supplements, how they are made, and whether they are organic or include a number of additives or preservatives. Your physician may assist with recommending supplements that are clean and effective.

Do you really need to take them every day?
Some yes, some no. Also, our bodies are dynamic and change often. So, supplements that are beneficial for you in your twenties may not be helpful to you in your thirties.

How good are those multi-vitamins? Do they really provide enough of each vitamin?
The best source of vitamins is a whole foods, non-processed diet that is rich in vegetables and other plant-based foods.

Is it possible to ingest too many vitamins by taking supplements?
It is possible to have complications from ingesting too many vitamins or supplements inappropriate for an individual. For example, too much vitamin A may lead to birth defects; excess vitamin E may lead to bleeding disorders; and an overdose of vitamin B6 can lead to nerve problems.

Does your body become used to supplements after a while and can they become ineffective?
This is possible. It is also true that the body changes over time. Therefore, supplements that were effective or helpful at one time may not continue to be helpful a year later. It is also recommended to be off of supplements for a short period of time before resuming, in order to allow the body an opportunity to be clean and free of additional chemicals.

What supplements are good to take for:

Heart Health: omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, niacin
Increased Energy: vitamin B12, acetyl glutathione, ginseng
Improve Skin: probiotics, idebenone, black currant oil
Strengthen hair and nails: biotin, iron, vitamin C
Toning and helping muscles: calcium, magnesium, B vitamins
Weight loss: alpha lipoic acid, chromium picolinate, green tea extract
Sleeping better: cQ10, magnesium, melatonin, L-tryptophan
Bone strength: manganese, vitamin D3, curcurmin
Anti-aging: selenium, Imedeen Prime Renewal, glucosamine, DHEA

So there you have it. Seems that supplements can really be great, but super super important to work with your doctor on that, instead of just following trends! And I think I’ll hold off on the Elle Macpherson Super-Elixir for the moment, thank you very much…


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  • I’m always curious about supplements but get regularly overwhelmed whenever I try seek them out so this is a nice starting point. Thank you for posting! Terri x


  • i have always been overwhelmed. thank you for a great post! :)


  • The best way not to miss all the vitamins mineral…that our body needs..is to have a balanced diet…as natural as possible so you can really enjoy the good that is in your food…
    with love
    Yael Guetta

  • In principle, I agree. The reality in North America is that a lot of food, even fresh produce, does not contain the nutrients it used to because of intensive farming and soil depletion. As well, if you’re a meat eater, you are most likely eating meat from animals that are not fed the way they had been prior to about 80 or so years ago.

    There are now vitamin deficiencies that are extremely common and may play a role in a variety of health issues that have become commonplace and so vigilance is warranted.

  • When I was in the Peace Corps, they gave us prenatal vitamins. I never got sick the entire time….except for food poisoning. But considering all the snotty-nosed kids I loved to play with, I never caught any transmissible diseases.
    In winter, I take royal jelly and sometimes ginseng. And at the market the olive vendors sell the most delicious pickled garlic cloves. Crunchy, like apples, but not overwhelmingly garlic. Almost like eating potato chips.

  • Love this post! So informative!

  • This a great little guide! Exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thank you!


  • This is a very well-written and informative post. It gave me some good ideas to do more research about different foods and supplements, especially the ones that can help with energy and stress.

  • I loooveeee supplements… I always feel they will make me a wonder woman,
    very few in my case have made a huge difference, probiotics, adaptogens, B12 shots, betacarotene for summer.
    I have just started taking Tumeric,

    I would love to find something for blood circulation, any tips?

    And I can’t recommend enough the amazing little “sleep well” bottles… or over the counter UNISOM when I can’t sleep.

  • I would add that if you have any general health issues or just feel sub-optimal or tired, it makes sense to have a screening done for essential vitamins and minerals. A conversation with the doctor may miss things otherwise.

    I do believe in taking a good multivitamin or at least a B complex vitamin for “insurance” for just about everyone. The challenge is that a lot of them are absolute rubbish made of poor quality ingredients that are not easily absorbed. AOR and Thorne make good ones, as a couple of examples. They are more expensive than the garden variety vitamins in the drugstore, but the money for the run-of-the-mill ones isn’t worth it. For overall value, Thorne is probably the best available right now.

    Essential fatty acids (cod liver oil, krill oil) are also important since most people in North America are deficient. Also, there is research that shows that more than 95% of people in the US are deficient in vitamin K2, which is critical for calcium absorption and building the bones. Without K2, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium don’t function optimally to strengthen the bones and teeth. There is a huge research study going on with this one now and expect we’ll be hearing more about this nutrient in the next couple of years.

    I take a multi, B12 (full-spectrum), K2 (both Mk-4 and 7) and essential fatty acids. I don’t get colds or viruses (and used to get them all the time). I have been losing weight very gradually without calorie counting at all — I’ve lost about six inches around my waist I believe in large part because of the full-spectrum B12 and K2, both of which are essential to have an efficient metabolism.

  • Sunnyside March, 23 2016, 10:43 / Reply

    Merci Emily ! C’est très important de bien recadrer tous ces délires de vitamines etc … Shirley la médecin que tu as choisie pour les informations est vraiment super !
    Je te souhaite de remanger un jour des légumes et de la salade … J’espère que tu peux les boire en jus pressé.

  • Très intéressant cette interview. Pour ma part, je suis convaincue que mon corps est une machine qui marche super bien. Il faut dire que j’en prends soin et que j’ai toujours été à l’écoute de ses besoins. J’aimerais presque aller voir un médecin pour qu’il me confirme que je ne me fourvoie pas !

  • I’d rather be careful with taking any supplements but of course sometimes they can be really necessary. I only take vitamin D at the moment (lack of sun!).


  • Take vitamin K2 as well — or make sure you are eating cheeses like gouda and brie frequently — preferably daily. The vitamin D will sit around in your soft tissues without enough K2. K2 is in very limited foods and so not sufficient in a lot of normal healthy diets. If it’s sitting around in your arteries and so on,…the increase vitamin D may be priming you for heart problems or a stroke, as well as osteoporosis.

  • Very interesting post, right at the heart of my concerns right now! Indeed I’ve recently been diagnosed with a serious lack in vitamin D so I have to fill this lack the next months with supplements. But what’s also important is to know that you cannot absorb vitamin D if you do not consume calcium, and that was my problem being a lactose intolerant. So I would say that supplements are important but you also have to know that they work combined with another vitamin or mineral (i.e. vitamin D with calcium). As the doctor said, the most important is to have a balance diet, but that’s true that when you’ve got an intolerance things get more complicated. But you just need to know it to adjust! (15 years later that was about time…)

  • therese March, 23 2016, 1:22

    Calcium is also found in leafy greens so it is good to eat as many of those too for extra calcium. It;s funny but milk is not the best source for calcium.

  • And you need vitamin K2 as well. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, but it will tend to sit in the arteries and soft tissues without enough K2. The amount of K2 needed to deal with this is relatively small. A couple of drops of K2 oil a day with some fish oil and/or a 2 oz serving of gouda cheese would do it.

    The following article talks about the interplay between the two vitamins. Although K1 is also important, it’s easy for the body to meet its K1 needs if you eat your daily vegetables and greens. K2, on the other hand is very challenging to get unless you pay attention to it.

  • Interesting article. My grandfather was a doctor, in good shape all his long life and he only took some Vitamin C in Winter to prevent from colds. In principle I was against all vitamin supplement and horrified to see my American friends ingest so many… that is until my doctor diagnosed mr with with seriously low levels of Vitamin D and B12…


  • Thank you so much for being so transparent and concrete. Even if I try to diversify my meals and recipes, I am attracted by supplementation. especially agains hair loss.

  • Nice post ;)


  • My pattern making teacher told me recently about working for a very well know creative director. On the first day at the house he was told to go buy a long list of supplements to stay away from getting sick, ever. If you got sick and stayed home, you got fired. Life in the fash biz :S

  • mosaic_world March, 23 2016, 4:33 / Reply

    thanks. this is super informative!

    I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the gut microbiome. it would be so interesting (useful?) if there was some type of health check for the status of your gut. I will have to look into that topic.

  • There’s a fellow (John Brisson) who is expert at this and can advise what tests may be worth considering.


  • Très intéressant (enfin pour une nerd ultime de la nutrition comme moi)!

    Pour ma part je prend de la spiruline et une capsule onagre-bourrache tous les jours.
    Tous les 2-3 jours, je prends une dose de B12 (vegan oblige !) et de la vitamine D2 en hiver.
    Et si j’ai mangé un peu junky pendant quelques jours, je prend une multi-vitamine!



  • If you are vegan or vegetarian you should be taking B12 everyday. I highly rec reading How Not To Die, especially the chapter on supplements. I’m a runner for example, so I lose a lot of my body’s minerals and micronutrients sweating and exercising so supplements are essential (I eat clean and yet, I still have low iron whether I eat red meat or not; everybody absorbs iron differently.) And get your basic blood work done to see what you might be deficient in.

  • Anonymous March, 28 2016, 2:47

    IARC is the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has classified processed meat as a carcinogen,that causes cancer. Eat EGG instead! 1 to 2 eggs a day gives you the B12 you need per day. Happy Easter!!!

  • melissa lee March, 23 2016, 8:11 / Reply

    You can have your blood work done to see what you need to take for vitamin’s.
    When you stare to go thru peri-menopause (which can start in your late 30’s) your boy changes and you often have a host of symptoms, Please google 35 symptoms of peri-menopause, most doctor’s are clueless to this.

  • Thank you for navigating the complicated world of supplements!

    Paula- http://www.livingpaula.com

  • I definitely agree with Shirley. It is very important to know the source of the vitamins and how they are produced. Always go for natural, organic, GMO-free and third party certification (vs self-claimed). I was against supplements until 3 months ago. Now, I feel great and received lots of compliments for my glowing complexion. (didn’t mean to brag here). You can consult doctors or any clinical nutritionists to advise you on what you need. You have to know what supplements you are taking and why are you taking them. Btw, I am taking Nutrilite. The only brand of supplements in the world that grow, harvest and process their own certified organic farm.

  • I’m really sorry to hear about your stomach issues! That sucks :(

  • Great post! Very informative!
    Mademoiselle Coconath

  • Some of you might be interested in these vitamins in spray form. Taking b12 under the tongue or in spray form is best for absorbtion. http://instavit.com/

  • Amazing site. Thank you. Please continue.

  • Jane B. Root March, 29 2016, 11:40 / Reply

    Donc les barres de céréales post-apocalyptiques ou pré-néandertaliennes ne suffisent plus ? On me cache tout, on me dit rien :(

  • Docteur Knock March, 31 2016, 4:34 / Reply

    Les gens bien portants sont des malades qui s’ignorent.

  • Thank you for navigating the complicated world of supplements!

  • Merci pour les conseils pertinents et pour ce contenu très intéressant, je pense que effectivement avant de prendre des compliments alimentaires il faut voir avec un médecin spécialiste.

  • Loved your sensible article on supplements! I think there tends to be an overuse of supplements and people should strive for a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. And I have tried Elle Macpherson’s Super Elixir, and yes it tastes great, but I didn’t notice any significant difference to justify the price to take it all the time:)


  • merci bien pour l’article

  • jolie article merci bien pour la partage

  • Bonjour,
    Il vrai que les compliments alimentaires sont bénéfiques pour avoir la pêche et être en forme, personnellement j’en consomme régulièrement. Par ailleurs ayant souffert moi aussi d’un reflux gastrique que j’ai soigné, mais qui se manifeste chaque fois que je suis stressé ou triste, je me suis retourné vers les soins holistiques et plus particulièrement l’ostéopathie. J’ai consulté un bon ostéopathe à Marseille qui m’a vraiment aidé à retrouver mon équilibre. Grâce à des soins personnalisés et adaptés à mon cas j’ai pu me débarrasser de ces malaises qui ont plutôt des causes mentales et psychiques. Ce qui me plait dans cette approche de la médecine complémentaire c’est qu’elle cherche l’origine des troubles et les traitent. Le cabinet de mon ostéopathe à Marseille est installé au niveau du Boulevard du Bosphore.

  • Merci bien pour cet article!

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