Monday, July 16, 2012

supplements for wusses

Vegetables by Martin Cathrae, on Flickr
Vegetables by Martin Cathrae, on Flickr

I am absolutely certain that the only right thing to do about nutrition is to get the vast majority of it from real, whole foods.

No one can be more convinced than an ex-biochemist who looks into nutrition 20 years after the first go-round; biochemistry knows today what it didn't know then, and thus doesn't know today what it will know twenty years from now.

In my highly-informed opinion (this being diametrically opposed to a humble opinion), half of our diet by volume should be non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits, a quarter should be protein foods of primarily wild or pastured animal origin (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, raw dairy) and all of the above foods should be prepared and served with healthy fats (butter, lard, tallow, schmaltz, coconut oil and palm oils, olive and avocado oils). The remaining quarter of the diet can vary depending on individual needs and wants (starchy vegetables, sugary fruits, grains, nuts and seeds, legumes or just outright junk food to some degree since none of us are perfect).

Nevertheless, sometimes we've been malnourished long enough and become sick enough that we need a bit more help than food can provide. When you start looking at Weston Price's work, you realize the cultures he found so much healthier than ours achieved their health by having their mothers and grandmothers eat a healthy diet. Until we develop a flux capacitor, this method of achieving health is not available!

So depending on our health challenges, we may need some help beyond diet and that may means supplements...

Though I'd read about using dolomite in Nourishing Traditions, for some reason the idea of not swallowing piles of pills didn't really hit me until KerryAnn @ Cooking Traditional Foods discussed adding Concentrace to foods.

Though my husband hates swallowing pills, my larger challenge is that I get tired of it myself. When you're sick for a long time, you try lots of things. There are times I have been swallowing scores of pills at each meal, gotten sick of the entire thing, and just stopped it all, sometimes for weeks and sometimes for months.

Over time, I have learned to limit what I take. Right now, my supplement regimen includes:

  • vitamin D3 10,000 IU/day

    My last blood work showed I was very low. Frankly, I don't expect this supplement to help at all. I've tested low in the past and supplemented for up to a year and still tested low. I have joked that they could give me IV vitamin D in one arm and draw blood from the other, as it seems to disappear!

    I suspect I am not absorbing it properly, even though I've taken an oil-based D3 preparation and taken it with fat. I figure starting cod liver oil as part of the GAPS protocol will be effective, not because the source of vitamin D will be better per se, but because the protocol will improve my digestion overall.

    Meanwhile, my doctor called and said I needed to supplement and I had these handy, so started on them again.

    Most people should not take anything like the doses I'm taking. This is because my serum level will not go up! On the other hand, if you were intending to take 1000 IU/day, you could take this three times a month as D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body stores long-term.

  • CoEnzymeQ10 100 mg twice a day

    I take this for both heart disease and diabetes. I'll make a longer posts about it some time in the future.

  • fish oil 1200 mg twice a day

    I take these for both heart disease and inflammation. I'd like to take more, but this is in the category for me of... it's better to take 2 pills consistently than to get sick of the whole thing cause of taking too many and giving up.

  • milk thistle 150 mg silymarin per day

    Milk thistle has a lot of research basis for being good for the liver and since T2 is largely a liver disorder (insulin resistance starts in the liver before effecting other cells and can result in fatty liver), I figure this is worthwhile. Again, I'll discuss this at length in a future post.


In addition to the supplements listed (6 pills), I am currently taking 4 metformin (for T2 diabetes), a Niaspan (prescription equivalent of SloNiacin for heart disease) and at least 4 K-dur (for edema and blood pressure) daily, for a total of over 15 pills/day.

So though I mercilessly mock my husband for being a big baby about swallowing pills, I'm not exactly fond of it myself. In fact, when the endo last suggested I try metformin again, my issue was not whether or not I'd experience side effects, but just that I didn't want more freaking pills!

This is why I love the idea of supplements you can take without pills. Now, I'm not talking liquid fish oils here, we're bigger wusses about the taste and texture of fish oil than we are about pills. Rather, I am talking about stuff we can take without noticing.

The first one I started us on was Concentrace, which is basically seawater with most of the sodium removed. Many folks use it to add minerals back to distilled or reverse osmosis water. We drink spring water and use well water in cooking (and if the well water were any harder, it'd be rock), so don't use it for that ourselves.

But we've tried it in water, and for few enough drops per glass, it's virtually tasteless. As such, I add it to all sorts of stuff, broth, stews, sauces, casseroles or rice dishes, basically anywhere I want to as we can't tell it's there, so why not up our mineral intake whenever we can?

We know that soils that have eroded due to agribusiness practices produce crops with relatively low mineral content. Where do those minerals go? Erosion means they end up back in the sea, which is why it's recommended that we eat kelp and other sea vegetables. Concentrace makes any vegetable dish into a sea vegetable dish!

The next supplement I added to our diets was for hubby, gelatin. He has been having some joint pain, and thus needs minerals and gelatin to address that. Besides nagging him about finishing the bone broth at the bottom of his soup or stew bowl, I began making risotto weekly, which uses a lot of broth in a manner he can't leave behind on his plate. In addition, I began buying gelatin, which can also be hidden in foods. It works as a decent replacement for flour or corn starch in gravy, acts as a stabilizer for whipped cream and can be used as a thickener for puddings or smoothies. Oh, and you can make jello with it! ;) Just dissolve in fruit juice for flavor.

Though I've been buying a pork-derived gelatin, a kosher variety made from beef is also available.

The next item I added to my invisible supplement repertoire was dolomite, which is a source of significant amounts of calcium and magnesium. At the time, I was trying to find a decent replacement for bone broth, for those times when you are low on it but still want to provide that level of taste & nutrition in your meals. Looking at store brands of broth and stock, none seemed to contain any significant amount of calcium. Given that when I pour my broth, I see bunches of minerals at the bottom, these store brands didn't seem anything like mine. (Plus, they don't gel, of course).

I decided the following is approximately the equivalent of 1 1/4 cup homemade stock:

Sprinkle 1 TB gelatin over 3 TB water and let sit 5 minutes to bloom. Meanwhile, bring 1 cup good store bought stock and 1/4 tsp dolomite powder to a boil. Stir in bloomed gelatin and mix until fully dissolved.

Not quite as good as homemade stock, but better than nothing.

I've not used the dolomite a whole lot as I usually have lots of homemade broth in my freezer, plus hubby actually drinks a lot of milk (several gallons a week), so is unlikely to be short on calcium.

My final easy supplement is K2 drops.

My reason for this was being a bit short of cash when the butter got good this year. Usually, instead of buying butter oil, I just wait until my local dairy's butter gets real dark. The darkness occurs due to carotenes when the grass is growing fastest and is a marker for the highest K2 content. So when it gets dark like that, I buy 40 lbs of butter and stick it in my freezer. Then when we run low, I start buying one a week until it gets dark again.

This year, when it got dark, I couldn't afford that much organic grass-fed butter, so looked around for a supplemental version of vitamin K2. I found these K2 drops. They're a bit expensive on the face, but... I figured we need a single drop a day, so this is a year supply for the two of us even if we ate no butter at all. So I cut my butter order in half and bought the drops.

We each tasted a drop straight and decided they were pretty much tasteless, so I add them everywhere I add the Concentrace, in every dish that uses broth, from soups and stews to casseroles and risotto.

I've since discovered the same company makes D3 drops, which contain 500 IUs each and are VERY cheap, and a combination D3/K2 drops, which also contains 500 IUs D3, but only 1/10th the K2 as the plain K2 drop.

All of these are painless, easy-to-take supplements, that don't require you to swallow anything but your normal food.

products mentioned in this post
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  1. The Concentrace sounds fairly simple. How long does that 8oz bottle last you?

  2. Depends how often one remembers to use it!

    If you add ten drops a day to food, this is over a year's supply; if you add 20 drops, it's a bit less than a year's worth.

    If you remineralize reverse-osmosis water with it, you'll go through it a lot faster.


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