How to choose the right nutritional supplements

As well as challenging our mental health, Covid-19 is no doubt challenging our physical constitutions. Nutritionist Martina Gallivan looks at what supplements work best.

I’m not an advocate of pumping nutritional supplements into our body. My belief is if you are eating a well-balanced and varied diet then you should get all of the beneficial nutrients required in order to maintain a healthy system.

However, there are some supplements which are certainly worth investing if you currently eat well but still feel in need of some extra nutritional support.

“There have been many studies to suggest the consumption of Omega 3 contributes towards the prevention of cardiovascular disease”

Therefore, I have compiled my top five supplements for you to consider and also the reasons behind why these supplements may be beneficial.  

Omega 3

My all-time favourite is Omega 3. This is an excellent supplement. Personally, it has been a saviour for me. Having suffered for years with Seborrheic dermatitis, spending a lot of money attending dermatologists and being prescribed various medication, nothing seemed to work.

Until I came across the benefits of Omega 3 for various inflammatory conditions. Even though I did consume fish, nuts and seeds which are all good sources of Omega 3, I decided to start taking this supplement daily and haven’t looked back. My condition has all but cleared.

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid. Humans cannot produce it but we need it. It’s essential for life and it has many advantages if consumed daily. Deficiencies in Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to conditions including arthritis, crohn’s and colitis. Also, children with ADHD, hyperactivity or short attention span appear to have low levels of Omega 3 in their diet.

There have been many studies to suggest the consumption of Omega 3 contributes towards the prevention of cardiovascular disease. It has been recognised in lowering Blood Pressure. Enhancing overall brain health. It is purported that it helps with depression, and many auto immune conditions. It benefits cholesterol as well as many skin conditions.

Vitamin D3

I would also highly recommend Vitamin D3. Those of us who are deficient in this vitamin are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, more aggressive forms of cancer as well as potentially develop pneumonia, diabetes, stroke, chronic pain and are more likely to die of breast cancer. There is literally a litany of conditions brought about by its deficiency. But this is an important vitamin insofar as once ingested; it then turns into a very powerful hormone that can target more than 2000 genes in the body.

The most obvious way to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D is through sunlight. However here in Ireland, we’re not so lucky with our weather trends. Hence supplemental ingestion is recommended. In the liver and kidneys, vitamin D goes through chemical reactions to become activated. The activated form is called calcitriol which plays a huge role in the many chemical responses which keeps us functioning as human beings. And as we are now aware is crucial for our immune system. Vitamin D can also be found in foods such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolks, milk and some fortified cereals.

Magnesium

Number three on my list is Magnesium. This mineral is of paramount importance for many reasons. It’s a great relaxant and also has the ability to enhance mood and relieve the stress response. It has a dramatic effect on blood pressure because without it, blood pressure increases. A deficiency in this mineral can lead to cardiac arrhythmias so it’s very important for maintaining a healthy heart. It has also been known to effectively relieve migraines.

Crucially a pilot study concluded that intravenous magnesium sulfate greatly improved those who had acute asthma without the requirement for mechanical ventilation support. However, it is probably best known for relieving the symptoms of leg cramps and muscle pain as it is a key mineral for muscles and nerves and hugely important for maintaining strong healthy bones. The most relaxing way for magnesium absorption is by taking an Epsom salt bath. It absorbs through the skin via your pores. But it can of course be taken in tablet form. Foods rich in magnesium are green vegetables, wholegrains such as quinoa, beets, legumes and 70% dark chocolate.

CoQ10

I would also highly recommend CoQ10. This is a great nutrient for igniting ATP (our energy molecule.) Its most prominent function is for heart health. There are an abundance of studies showing that CoQ10 improves hypertension, arrhythmias, heart palpitations, heart disease, congestive heart failure, along with PCOS, fibromyalgia, fatigue and muscle cramps.

As we age, the amount of CoQ10 in our body diminishes, that’s why taking this supplement can be advantageous. Essentially, for those of us who take statins, taking a CoQ10 supplement is important because statins deplete this nutrient. Long term use of statins has been associated with liver abnormalities as statins also tend to deplete CoQ10 in the liver hence supplementation of this powerful antioxidant is recommended. Food sources of CoQ10 are found in chicken, peanuts and sesame seeds, broccoli and cauliflower, whole grains, and oily fish.

Zinc

My final recommendation is Zinc. This mineral is very advantageous for the immune system because it boosts our T cells and NK – natural killer cells required to fight off infection, plus it helps to kill off viruses and bacteria. It is also beneficial to the digestive system and people who have crohn’s, IBS or coeliac disease are frequently found to be deficient in Zinc.

If you want to get less colds and viral infections then adding zinc into your diet will help. The elderly have frequently been found to be deficient in Zinc as well as people with kidney and liver disease and alcoholics. Also, it is highly recommended that if you are vegetarian or vegan that you supplement with this mineral.

Foods good for zinc are red meat, chicken, spinach, broccoli, peas, asparagus, as well as pumpkin and sesame seeds.

Of course, there are many other supplements which are equally beneficial, but these are my top five favourites. If you feel the need to supplement and are currently taking medication it’s important to check with your health care professional before hand to ensure there are no contraindications.

Martina Gallivan is a nutritionist and director of RK Cardiology Healthy Living Ltd. If you are interested in learning more about health and lifestyle medicine for you or your family contact her at martina@roseville.ie or follow @drrobertkelly