I often get asked whether we should take supplements every day or which vitamins do you need daily for best mental health and brain health...
Many nutrients are essential for us humans. As I explained before, we need to optimize our nutrition and supplementation to work together harmonious like in a well-functioning orchestra.
Here is a quote from my newest course and upcoming book “Foods That Help You to Sparkle – How to Eat for Better Mental Health and Brain Health” :
“The "Nutrient Orchestra":
Vitamins and minerals as well as other supplemental nutrients need to be taken in the right dosage and balance to make a positive difference. Supplements can have negative, unwanted side effects. I see many people just going out and trying this or that "vitamin pill" that they saw on the news or the internet or that a "friend" recommended, in a haphazard manner. No wonder it doesn't work – or worse, makes matters worse.
I compare this with an orchestra: The symphony just doesn’t sound good with key players missing or too many of one kind! Certain nutrients can be over used, especially the fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K).”
(For a specific plan for your individual needs please contact your individual health care provider or book your free supplement call with me.)
I am currently finishing the final writing on this book and asking for beta-reader input. Until the book is published, you can get access to this life-improving content as I release it for free. Go here to check it out and join our reader list (FREE):
Here Are 4 Reasons Why Even If You Eat A “Healthy” Diet You May Want To Supplement Daily:
In many regions of the world, the soil where food is grown is depleted by over-use, use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that reduce the soil microbiome and nutrient uptake, or for other reasons.
This leads to the fact that food grown in such soils does not contain all the micronutrients you need, especially certain minerals, vitamins as well as phytonutrients, enzymes and healthy fats.
Food that has been stored and transported over long distances or for a long time often loses valuable nutrients although it may still look good on the shelf.
Many often-used medications (most common are "stomach pills") are "drug-muggers" that affect the way your nutrients are absorbed and utilized by the body, as do certain surgeries.
If you take prescription drugs, had surgery affecting your stomach or bowels or have another cause of poor digestion, you may need to take a daily supplement regimen to add what you can’t absorb anymore.
Healthy nutrition is certainly very important for our general health, brain health and mental health. Most depressed, anxious, stressed, or tired people know this fact, but just don’t have the energy to do the shopping and cooking involved, and learn to make healthy vegetables and fruit choices part of their daily routine.
In my experience, this is a step that can be taken only AFTER we got the energy to move on - by taking targeted supplements and good daily vitamin supplements. This can help you finally get the energy to start doing all the other things you need to do, to “Recover Your Sparkle”, your optimal health.
On top of this, many depressed, stressed, tired, or anxious people use food to self-medicate. We all know how eating sweets, candy, ice cream or chocolate can lift your mood temporarily. Often it is afterwards followed by an energy and mood slump, so like with any addiction, we do it again and again…
If this doesn’t get addressed, how can we eat healthier?
I will write articles here on this site about this too, because this “food addiction”, “sugar addiction” or “emotional eating” can also be addressed with proper supplementation. If needed, this can then be combined with changing your thought patterns - with good psychotherapy or specialized coaching services. If you have this issue, you may want to consider booking a free call with me to talk about your issues.
How Can We Choose The Best Products For Our Daily Vitamin And Supplement Plan?
I wrote about how to find a good supplement in this article. If you check the product reviews on this site, you also can’t go wrong. And if you can’t find my review for a specific class of products yet, please go here to get updates from me and book your free supplement consultation.
The 5 Vitamins And Mineral Supplements To Take Daily For Best Mental Health
Here are the vitamins and minerals I personally take daily. In my experience and that of many clients, this is a great basis for more energy and better mood and to resolve brain fog and keep focused.
1. A Good Quality Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement
- Do you need a daily multivitamin? This is a question that has been addressed often, and it is controversial. Some sources say that taking a multivitamin daily doesn’t make a difference, others say that science has proven a benefit for brain function and mood. Consumer Report tested Multivitamins and found that most were “fine”, whatever that means.
- The most ridiculous reason for not taking multivitamins I found is that taking them would keep you from eating a healthy diet and “make you feel healthier than you are”. Really?
- I think we absolutely should take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement daily. I will write a specialized article and review the top products and the dosage recommendations and cautions for a good multivitamin soon.
- Currently, my personal 3 top choices for mental health support are between Two-per-Day by Life extension, Neurovite Plus by Brain MD, or, if you are in Canada, Immuno Multi by CanPrev.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish oil, Krill Oil, Algae Oil, Marine Phytoplankton)
I have written here about what omega 3 fatty acids to for your brain and mental health.
In summary, we need to supplement with omega-3 fatty acids (often just called fish oil) to balance our diet that is nearly always much too high in pro-inflammatory omega-6-fatty acids. We don’t need to over-supplement, though. It is all about balance.
Since omega3-fats are essential fats and our brain consists to 60% of fat (dry mass), and we need especially DHA and EPA for brain function and mental health, the importance of achieving this balance for brain function on the cellular basis is obvious.
How much omega-3 fatty acids do we need for best cell membrane and mitochondrial function?
Ideally that should be determined by measuring your omega 3-6 index, co-invented by Dr. Bill Harris PhD. You can find my interview with him and more information about this important test here as well as a source to get it.
- Generally speaking, if you are taking a fish oil preparation, you want to look for a product that is purified (so it does not contain toxic levels heavy metals). The amount of DHA and EPA combined should be more than 50% of the total fish oil content.
- So if it says on the label that the product contains 300 mg EPA and 400 mg DHA and the total Fish oil content is 1000 mg, the EPA and DHA combined equals 700 mg which is more than 50% (500mg).
- If you check the label carefully, many fish-oil products on the market do not even fulfil this basic requirement.
- A good dosage for most people with no additional health concerns would be 2000-2500 mg of fish oil daily or the equivalent of Krill oil.
- If you prefer not to eat fish, there are good quality vegan and vegetarian omega-3 products on the market that source the omega-3 from where they are actually produced. Not by fish, as many assume, but by micro-algae contained in the marine phytoplankton.
What About Omega-3’s From Seeds Like Flaxseed And Chia Seed?
Plant sources like seeds and nuts only contain ALA. This is an omega-3 fatty acid and good for us, but for our brain and mental health we need DHA and EPA. Although our body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, this conversion is slow and often inefficient (<5%). Environmental toxins may further impair this process.
If in doubt, the omega-3 index can tell you if your omega3-6 fat balance is optimal just from seeds and nuts alone or if you may want to supplement with a vegan/vegetarian omega 3 like this very good product by BrainMd.
3. Magnesium and Calcium
These are two very important players in the nutrient orchestra. To determine your calcium and magnesium balance, it is important to measure your intake of both.
Both Calcium and Magnesium are important for bone health, growth, nerve and muscle cell function, brain function and numerous metabolic functions. Magnesium can also contribute to help you relax.
Most people suffer from a relative or absolute magnesium deficiency (the estimate is that about 50-80% of the US population take less than the recommended daily amount of magnesium with their diet)
How Can You Know?
The standard blood test will not tell you whether you are magnesium deficient, since it measures this mineral in the blood serum.
But 95% of magnesium is found inside the cells, so if the blood serum level is below what is considered normal, you are not just insufficient in magnesium, you are dangerously depleted. (Symptoms can be e.g. fatigue, muscle cramps (charleyhorses) or even coronary spasms that can feel like a “heart attack” and it can actually trigger a “real” heart attack)
Since the standard blood test is not adequate, you need to measure the actual magnesium level in the red blood cells or with a simple Hair Mineral Analysis that you can do yourself at home. (Book a free call with me if you need help with interpretation of the results)
What Is A Suitable Magnesium Supplement For You?
This again depends on your individual situation. Magnesium supplements are available in several chemical forms that have different price points, absorption rates and effects.
The main 3 forms of magnesium supplements are:
Magnesium citrate: This is the most cost-effective form of magnesium supplementation, ideal if you tend to be constipated. It has a distinctive laxative effect, similar to magnesium oxide, since it is not well absorbed and the osmotic effect pulls water in your gut and loosens the stool.
If you are constipated (and have good kidney and liver function) you can take 3 or even 4 tablets daily of a magnesium citrate supplement that contains 160 mg per tablet.
You can even add Vitamin C for added constipation relief (dosage up to “bowel tolerance”
If you tend to have loose stools, you may want to avoid Magnesium citrate and try Mg -bis-glycinate.
Magnesium-bis-glycinate: This is a chemical form of magnesium that is much better absorbed in the bloodstream.
If you tend to have loose stools, you may want to start with a lower dosage of 80 mg and then work up to a dosage of about 200 mg daily in the long term.
If you are magnesium deficient or never took additional magnesium, it may be helpful to replete your magnesium stores by taking up to 3 of the 200 mg cps daily for a few months.
Magnesium-L-threonate: This is a more expensive form of magnesium supplement that also has a great absorption rate and does not usually cause loose stools, and it crosses easier across the blood-brain barrier.
Since most people who have mental health issues also have a leaky gut (and a leaky blood-brain barrier), this is at least initially often not of importance.
In Summary, you can’t go wrong if you start on a good quality Magnesium-bis-glycinate supplement.
A good, multi-strain probiotic to improve the gut microbiome has been proven to improve mental health and brain health.
The gut-brain axis has been researched more and more lately, and it is certainly not a coincidence that most people suffering from chronic mental health issues also have gut health issues of some kind, whether bloating, cramps, IBS, or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) like M. Crohn or Colitis ulcerosa.
Many factors can lead to what is often called a “leaky gut” and then to chronic inflammation with all its consequences.
A probiotic can help to restore gut health. It is often not enough, and other supplements and sometimes drugs or a special diet can be needed to remove biofilms, restore a healthy enzyme and micro-organism balance and eventually restore health.
What Is The Right Probiotic For Me?
It is often hard to determine which specific product to buy. Here are some general guidelines.
I generally recommend one with 5-8 different strains of probiotic bacteria from a reputable brand.
If you want to save money, the cheapest way to get probiotic bacteria is by eating RAW unpasteurized sauerkraut or kimchi daily. Raw, unprocessed and unpasteurized sauerkraut is one of the oldest health foods that we can still enjoy today.
The (often more expensive) probiotics that need refrigeration are not necessarily better than the ones that don’t.
5. B-Vitamins - Complete Vitamin B-Complex
B-Vitamins are another class of vitamins that are very misunderstood. They are water-soluble, so unless your kidneys or liver is not functioning well, a real overdose is not possible. That said, if you eat too much of any vitamin for a long time, your metabolism may adjust to getting a lot and stop making their own, so if you want to stop, you need to slowly reduce to ramp your metabolism back up.
But due to genetic issues, not all people metabolize B-Vitamins the same. Some people have a genetic defect in enzymes that use a process called methylation.
If that is the case (you can get this tested), you benefit greatly from taking additional amounts of certain vitamins.
A classic example is Pyroluria, which can be found in mood disorders (depression, anxiety, irritability, stress) and psychotic illnesses (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and can be successfully treated with a good supplement regimen and appropriate doses of Zinc and Vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin that boosts energy levels and helps prevent depression. It plays a key role in maintaining normal nervous system function, and it also helps maintain healthy skin and hair, as well as support proper digestion.
Vitamin B6, being one of the most important vitamins we need every day, plays a key role in helping our body produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects how we feel. Serotonin also helps us sleep at night. If you suffer from insomnia, try supplementing with vitamin B6. (together with the other supplements in this article).
Another B-Vitamin that especially oder people are often deficient in is Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is produced by your body with the help of intrinsic factor, an enzyme in your stomach that requires a low pH (high stomach acid). If you take antacids regularly or are on “stomach pills” or have a low stomach acid level due to older age, you are probably deficient in this essential nutrient.
Vitamin B12 is essential for brain function and mental health.
Classic signs of deficiency are glossy red tongue, cracked angles of your mouth and anemia (low blood cell count with certain characteristics).
But if you don’t have enough, it can also cause you to feel tired, have no energy, and irritability, depression, changes in the way you think, feel and behave, and eventually a decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia).
Blood values of Vitamin B12 are very unreliable. A very low level usually shows a significant deficiency, but a high level in your blood does not necessarily mean that you have enough in your Brain. And since there is no toxic level if you are otherwise healthy, it will mostly hurt your pocketbook, if you take way too much of it.
What chemical form of Vitamin B12 should you take – and how much?
Most lower-quality multivitamins contain Vitamin B12 in the chemical form of cyano-cobalamin. This needs to be changed by our body, as outlined above, to the active form, methyl-cobalamin, that we can use. If you swallow a pill containing cyano-cobalamin and your stomach acid is low, you will not be able to do this, and it will have no effect.
For most adults, I recommend taking Methyl-Cobalamin in a dosage of initially (in the beginning) 1000-1200 (0.1 mg) micrograms daily to fill the storage, and then continue with about 1000-5000 (0.1 – 0.5 mg) micrograms weekly for maintenance.
I recommend taking it as a lozenge and then to let it dissolve under the tongue (sublingually). This leads to a much easier and faster absorption into the blood stream through the blood vessels under your tongue (want to see them? Just look at yourself in the mirror and roll up your tongue – they are easy to see).
Sometimes it is easier to get Vitamin B12 shots. These contain cyano-cobalamin, which is fine since they bypass the stomach and go directly into the bloodstream.
The other vitamins in the B-complex are also important, and the dosages vary by product and manufacturer.
I recommend taking a good B-complex supplement that contains all vitamins of this group in reasonable doses and , if possible, in the methylated form for better absorption.
I will review individual supplements and ingredients soon, in the meantime, please join my newsletter list to not miss any updates!
Other Important Nutrients to Consider
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D3 and K2
Vitamin D3 (Dosage adjusted to optimal levels according to blood levels)
– An essential hormone that helps with calcium absorption, muscle strength, immunity, hormone balance, mood, and sleep, and helps to regulate mood and sleep patterns.
Vitamin K2: (to move calcium from the blood into the bones and teeth – not indicated for all individuals)
Vitamin E (natural and full-spectrum, ideally all 8 forms)
Vitamin C around 500 mg to 1 g per day (unless not needed due to optimal nutrition) (more than 2g per day is only safe if proven not to be G6-P deficient (a genetic variant))
Vitamin C is another essential nutrient that has been shown to improve brain function. It also supports healthy immune system function and helps protect against stress.
– Essential for cell division and DNA synthesis.
Trace minerals and other nutrients
Nutrients that we need in smaller amounts but thatstill are very important. Examples are minerals like magnesium, chromium, copper, manganese or phytonutrients like lutein, anthocyanins and others.
I will write about all these nutrients in future articles. Please subscribe to our newsletter so you won't miss any updates!
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