4 Supplement Starter Kits: Gut Health, Fitness, Skincare, + Immunity
This blog does not intend to provide diagnosis...
In this article:
- Healthy Gut Starter Pack: Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics, Magnesium, and Vitamin C
- Fitness Starter Pack: Amino Acids, B Vitamins, Minerals
- Skin Care Starter Pack: Collagen, Antioxidants, Hydration
- Immunity Starter Pack: Vitamins and Minerals
So you want to improve your gut health, your skin, your immunity, or your fitness, but you’re not sure where to start. I’ve put together an incredible evidence-based list that anyone beginning a health journey should consider as they start a new program.
Many people who have digestive issues benefit from betaine hydrochloric acid supplementation or digestive enzyme support at meals and snacks. These blends contain enzymes that are naturally produced in our stomachs, mouths, and digestive tracts. The enzymes break down the foods we eat so that we can extract nutrients from them and use those nutrients to power the biochemical reactions that happen in our bodies each day. Since our enzyme and stomach acid production can decline with age or infection, impaired enzyme production is a common finding in many clinics across the globe.
If you have issues in your digestive system due to a lack of enzymes, you might notice that certain foods feel like they just “sit” in your gut and don’t fully break down. People with low hydrochloric acid often tell me that they have a hard time digesting meats and proteins. People with low pancreatic and salivary enzymes tend to have an impaired ability to digest carbohydrates. Those with impaired gallbladder function will get symptoms when they consume too much fat. If this is starting to sound like you, try digestive enzymes at a meal and see if they help you reduce bloating, gastric distress, and make you feel like you digest your food more easily.
By now you’ve certainly heard the abundance of research which suggests that beneficial bacteria in our digestive systems (or “probiotics”) can improve digestion, immune function, mental health, and more. If you’ve never taken probiotics before and have digestive symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, try taking some probiotics at night and see if they help.
Magnesium and Vitamin C
If you have chronic constipation, magnesium and vitamin C are some of the most helpful nutrients on the planet for you to try. Constipation is defined as less than one bowel movement per day or every other day. In my clinic, it’s anything less than once a day that makes you uncomfortable. Magnesium is a mineral that can naturally loosen stool by encouraging fluid exchange across the colonic membrane.
If you’re constipated, try a magnesium powder or liquid in a small dose at first with lots of water. Try this during a day where you’ll be around a bathroom in case it works quickly! If that’s not enough to help you go, you can chat with your doctor about increasing the dose and what dose is safe for you. If you’re on cardiac or kidney medications or have a chronic condition, always ask your doctor before starting any mineral supplement, including other minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron.
Vitamin C also helps to stimulate bowel movements if used in high enough doses. Try a powdered vitamin C mixed with lots of water at a dose of between 1-3 grams with a meal, again, on a day you’ll be close to a bathroom.
Amino Acids and Protein
Amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins in our bodies, including the proteins we need to build muscle. They also help to make dopamine, thyroid hormone, serotonin, melatonin, and more. If you’re not eating enough total protein or amino acids, it will be difficult to build more muscle and repair the muscle tissue that’s broken down during heavy workouts.
Getting 100% RDI of protein and amino acids for your height and weight is therefore a great strategy for maximizing your gains in the gym. You can eat protein-rich foods like meats, fish, eggs, beans, and lentils at each meal to hit your protein gram goal for the day. If you have a hard time hitting this goal, you can try adding collagen powder to hot drinks or vegan protein powders to smoothies to make up the difference.
Munching on snacks like jerky, hummus, and hard-boiled eggs is also a great way to reach your goals between meals. If none of these strategies work for you consistently, consider an amino acid powder to make sure you get what you need each day. Many post-workout drinks contain amino acids as well as other compounds designed to help you recover after exercise.
Did you know that electrolytes and minerals are actually the same things? Potassium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium are some of the most important minerals lost in sweat. They help to regulate cell metabolism and electrical signaling in the body. Without enough of them, humans can get into serious trouble. Some of the most common causes for ER visits include dehydration and hyponatremia, which are disorders caused by an imbalance in electrolytes and fluid.
Additionally, many people under-consume these minerals in their diets. Combine a dietary deficiency of minerals/electrolytes with an increased rate of sweating due to intense workouts and you’ve got a perfect recipe for an electrolyte imbalance, particularly if you only drink plain water and lots of it. Some of the most unhealthy people I see are those who try to (mistakenly) consume a gallon of water per day based on advice they got from a fellow gym-goer, but they don’t mix electrolytes with it. These people can end up with hyponatremia—too much water and not enough electrolytes, which can have awful side effects like fatigue, nausea, headaches, mood changes, and even worse. So, I always like my clients to make sure they’re getting enough minerals each day and replacing what they lose during workouts. I love electrolyte drops, mineral liquids, electrolyte tabs, and packets that can be added to water.
You need B vitamins to create cellular energy (or ATP) as well as to make new DNA. Some of the top sources of B vitamins in the diet are animal foods, so if you’re vegan you’re probably already familiar with the idea that you need to supplement B vitamins each day to feel your best. Taking B vitamins each day and before a workout can help give you the energy you need to perform at your best. Try a pre-workout powder that contains B12 and B6, or a multivitamin that has 100% RDI of all of the B vitamins (1-12) each day. If you drink alcohol, you should also make sure you get enough B1 (thiamine) each day, since alcohol consumption depletes this B vitamin.
Often we talk about skincare as if it’s only skin-deep! But what you put in your body matters for your skin just as much as what you put on it. Collagen is present in our own tissues and keeps our skin looking firm, healthy, and young. It also attracts and retains fluid, to keep cheeks looking plump and ward off the wrinkles. You can consume the ingredients you need for collagen synthesis by eating a well-balanced diet that contains lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. Additionally, you can add collagen powders to your smoothies, hot liquid, and recipes to make it easy to get all of the ingredients you need to make your own collagen in one go.
Collagen also contains antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C, which also protects skin from oxidative stress and UV damage. Antioxidants in general protect skin from the type of insults that can lead to premature wrinkling and discoloration. Antioxidants come from plant foods, so add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, or consume them in the form of vegan protein powders or plant-based drink mixes if you’re looking to boost your intake.
Lastly, skin is one of the farthest organs from the heart and it’s fed by tiny blood vessels. You need enough fluid in your bloodstream to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Staying hydrated by drinking enough fluids per day is the best way to do this. If you’re the type of person who tends to forget to drink, invest in several water bottles to keep around the places you normally spend time—work, your home, school, etc.
Vitamin D is an immunoregulatory vitamin that impacts the endocrine system. Many people under-consume it each day because the top food sources are cod liver oil, trout, salmon, and sardines. Being deficient in vitamin D makes it more likely that you’ll get sick and feel worse when you’re exposed to a virus. For that reason and many others, I like people to make sure they stay replete. Ask your doctor what dose of vitamin D you should take every day to stay healthy. For many people, the amount of vitamin D in a high-quality multivitamin is enough. For others, specific vitamin D supplements will be required to help them stay sufficient in this important mineral.
Vitamin A is another molecule that helps to keep the innate immune system working properly. Top food sources of this vitamin are beef, sweet potato, spinach, pumpkin, and carrots. If you won’t or can’t eat these, ask your doctor how much vitamin A is safe for you to take each day. Most times, a high-quality multivitamin will provide you with 100% RDI of the vitamin A you need in a day. You can take too much vitamin A. As a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored when not used and can build up to unhealthy levels if you take too much, too often. This is why you should ask a doctor how much vitamin A is safe.
Zinc is a mineral that is required to catalyze over 100 different enzymatic reactions in the body, including the ones needed to amplify immunity, create proteins, make DNA, and more. The top foods high in zinc are animal protein foods including beef, oysters, crab, and lobster. If you don’t consume a lot of these, it’s possible that you’re under-consuming zinc in your diet. Many high-quality multivitamins contain enough zinc, but you can also use a specific zinc-copper supplement to meet your needs. You should try to combine copper and zinc when possible because it’s important to consume these nutrients in balance with one another. Too much zinc can cause copper anemia, and consuming too much copper can cause zinc levels to drop. Ask your doctor what dose is right for you.
With these starter packs, you’re well on your way to stepping off on the right foot no matter where your health journey takes you.