Supplementing Purposefully with my Supplement Protocol for Everyone
It’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of what I like to call hyper-supplementitis.
But taking a whole bunch of random supplements that you think might be addressing fertility problems, or health issues in general, is not particularly helpful or effective. And doing so can even lead to unintended negative consequences, which is the last thing we want.
I absolutely believe in supplementation, but I believe in supplementing purposefully. That’s why I’ll be presenting my basic supplement protocol here, and it applies to everyone.
First, a side note on so-called fertility supplements, à la vitex and maca. They of course work, as do all fertility blends, but they might not work for you because everyone is different. Your hormones are something to experiment with because once they’re off balance, it takes a while to rebalance. These supplements strongly influence your hormones, and that’s not really a good thing because there is no way to know exactly how much you nee or how long to take them for, and you end up disrupting the hormones. And then you have to start back at square one.
I also view these fertility supplements as a crutch. They’re not addressing the underlying root causes.
Additionally, I want to emphasize that you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. If you’re not getting proper nutrition, no supplement in the world is going to make a difference. I do believe you can get all the nutrients you need through food — and that means opening our palates to more vegetables, and even seafoods and red meat. And if you’re eating properly, you shouldn’t need supplements like vitex or maca to balance hormones.
There can also be too much of a good thing. Taking high doses of Vitamins A, D, E and K is toxic. And certain minerals in high doses, like zinc for example, can be dangerous. If you take zinc long-term, you maybe setting yourself up for thyroid disorder, digestive disorder, loss of sense of smell, changes in cholesterol levels.
Zinc deficiency can all be solved by eating a handful of pumpkin seeds and grass-fed beef couple of times a week.
Another issue with popping supplements is that the bioavailability of vitamins is unknown. That means we don’t know how much of the vitamin is actually being absorbed by your body, especially if you have digestive issues. If you don’t fix the digestive issues first, supplements probably won’t be too effective.
Another big supplement pitfall is taking a supplement because you read somewhere that it’s good for fertility. I’ve seen this happen in a couple of my patients with Vitamin D, but thankfully we caught the problem early enough before it became disastrous. Taking high levels of it can cause an overdose, which then leads to excess calcium accumulation in blood, and that can be life-threatening.
You can only know if you are truly deficient in a vitamin or mineral if you do blood work. Don’t self-prescribe solely based off of Internet reading!
So back to the basics: I divide supplements into two categories — optional ones to be taken on an as-needed basis and ones everyone should always take. Let’s take a look at the major players.
Vitamin D is “optional.” It’s a crucial vitamin for conception because it’s needed for the production of sex hormones and can impact sperm quality. We synthesize Vitamin D on our skin from direct sunlight. Sedentary indoor lifestyles and increased usage of sunscreen have caused many to become Vitamin D deficient. When this happens, a high dose of Vitamin D is necessary to restore the supply.
Don’t supplement Vitamin D unless you’re truly deficient. And your pre-natal most likely already has the daily Vitamin D required. If you’re not absorbing it properly, as it needs fat, you should take the pre-natal with food.
Vitamin B12 is “optional” and another crucial vitamin for conception. It has been shown to boost lining thickness and improve egg quality because it’s used in the formation of red blood cells. From a Chinese medicine perspective, it nourishes the blood. Vitamin B12 is found in abundance in shellfish, eggs and red meat. Vegetarians have a higher risk of becoming B12 deficient, which then in turn leads to anemia. B12 supplementation will help to minimize this risk. Also very important: If you’re taking metformin because you have PCOS, you need to take B12, because studies have shown that 2,000 mg of metformin per day is enough to prevent the absorption of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin C is “optional” and an antioxidant. It helps boost immune system when you’re sick. Eat an orange and you’ll get what you need. Vitamin C is considered to be a really cold vitamin, and in Chinese medicine, cold and having a cold uterus are common fertility problems, so it’s best not to go whole hog on Vitamin C.
OMEGA-3 FISH OIL
Everyone should take this one. Most Americans don’t eat enough seafood, and most eat too much Omega-6 in comparison. The recommended ratio has often said to be 1:1, but a recent study estimates it should be 25:1. Omega-6 includes nuts and seeds, but a lot are made into unhealthy oils. Omega-6 leads to inflammation, while Omega-3 reduces inflammation, boosts blood flow and balances the hormone estrogen. So my opinion, everyone should take it, and make sure you’re taking pure Omega-3, and not blends with Omega-6 or -9.
These are optional unless you have known digestive disorder like Celiac, IBS, colitis, Crohn’s, or chronic diarrhea, in which case you’re probably not absorbing nutrients fully. People usually raise an eyebrow when I say I don’t believe in probiotics, but I think taking probiotics is a form of over-supplementation. You have millions of gut bacteria, how do you know which ones you’re truly deficient in? You don’t. Now if you have malabsorption digestive problems like Celiac or IBS, then maybe it’s a good idea to take a probiotic because you could be lacking certain strains. But in that case, I think you should get probiotics specifically geared toward those conditions. If you use antibiotics a lot, then I would suggest getting probiotics that are specific to vaginal flora health, or a short-term probiotic to replenish some gut bacteria.
The simplest and most effective way to get prebiotics, which are bacteria as food found in undigestible carbs like fiber, is to eat your veggies. Since fiber is the main source of prebiotics, foods that are high in fiber are loaded with them. Prebiotics, in my opinion, kick ass: They can’t be broken down by gastric acid or digestive enzyme! The undigestible fibers zip through the small intestine and reach the colon, and they are then fermented by the gut microflora there. So everyone needs to take prebiotics by eating vegetables and lots of them. You can find over the counter prebiotics, but they can be a bit tricky to find. So just eat your high-fiber veggies.
You might be shocked that I think folate is optional and not everyone has to take it.
Folate is a B-Vitamin, which means it’s water soluble. Folate deficiency is not as uncommon as people think. Folate deficiency can happen for people who have the MTHFR mutation because they lack the ability to absorb folate, or people with chronic autoimmune digestive disorders like Celiac disease, IBS or chronic diarrhea, because these conditions prevent the absorption of folate. Folate deficiency can also cause anemia.
Now what’s the difference between folate and folic acid? Folate is the natural form and folic acid is the synthetic form. It was previously thought that folic aid was better absorbed by the body, but now studies have shown that folate is the better absorption option.
But again, if you have a known mutation or you’re a vegetarian, taking extra folate is a good idea. Otherwise, if your prenatal already has folate, I wouldn’t worry about it.
Everyone should take prenatals. There isn’t much to say about them other than get the highest quality you can afford.
I used to think ubiquinol was an optional supplement, but having lots of success stories from my own clinic and online programs has changed my mind.
Ubiquinol is the end product of CoQ-10 metabolism. CoQ-10 powers the mitochondria of the cell, like a battery powers the car, and studies have shown that a boost of power can help the chromosomes line up properly, therefore boosting egg quality. CoQ-10 is broken down into ubiquinone and then ubiquinol. So ubiquinol is the end product that’s most easily absorbed by the body. It tends to run on the pricey side, but you’ll take a whole lot less of it compared to CoQ-10 as it is the most potent.
That about covers it! I’m giving away a freebie cheatsheet showing the recommended dosages of all these vitamins and minerals at practicallyfertileclub.com/supplements.