The top functional medicine and nutrition supplements can be divided up into several categories. There are supplements we use based on lab tests, i.e. if your lab test shows you are low in magnesium you can take a therapeutic level of magnesium and dramatically improve your health. The same goes for most functional nutritional supplements, we run a lab, interpret it and then design supplement programs based on the lab test results. You really don’t want to recommend therapeutic (i.e. high dose) supplements to anyone without first running a series of comprehensive labs. There are also some functional nutrition supplements one should not take even in low dosages unless you have confirmation based on a lab test that you need them, let’s say copper for example. It’s essential for life, if you are low in copper you should take it, but just randomly taking copper could easily cause harm.
There is also a group of functional medicine supplements that can be taken without lab work if they are done in moderation. My functional medicine nutrition course “Fundamentals in Functional Medicine” focuses on non-lab based functional medicine supplement program design. In the absence of lab work you have to guess as to what people need based on signs and symptoms.
There are also foods that can act as supplements which can be used by anyone at any time without much concern for safety issues since they are simply healthy foods. The reality is all of our nutrition is supposed to come from food so in an ideal world we should get most key nutrients from diet and then fill in what’s missing with appropriate functional nutrition supplements.
Based on my decades of work with patients here are what I see as the top functional medicine and nutrition supplements:
(2) Vitamin B6
(3) Betaine HCL
(6) Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids
Ok, so I cheated a little bit, 9 and 10 aren’t really supplements. Let’s get into the details.
Magnesium is a critical mineral and is a need for people suffering from fatigue, weight gain, depression, headaches, stress and so on. Unless you are eating green leafy vegetables with every meal and have done so for 30 plus years you are very likely low in magnesium. B6 is critical for clearing toxins, making hormones and several hundred other body processes and we see it low often, it can be obtained in any basic B Complex. Betaine HCL is used to help you digest your food better so to better extract nutrients from what you eat. Probiotics are missing for many of us from antibiotic use and from a lack of probiotic containing foods in the modern diet, fiber too is in short supply for most of us and is needed for healthy gut bacteria and for detoxification. The essential fatty acids, the omega 3 and omega 6s are just that, essential for life and required to burn fat, run your brain and so on. CoQ10 is important for energy production and NAC helps you clear toxins. Oxygen can be obtained simply by breathing deeply and hydrogen gas is critical for our overall health and can be obtained by eating beans a few times a week.
If you want to really improve your health you can simply add these foods to your diet: flax seed, hemp seed, chia seed, turmeric, ginger, berries, green leafy veggies, beans, green leafy veggies, greens, (that includes cooked or raw), broccoli or cabbage. I said greens three times because they are pretty important.
Even if you eat well, I still believe we do require supplementation simply because of the high level of environmental toxins and the poor quality of much of the soil our food is grown in. Based on 25 years of running nutritional lab tests on patients I can tell you with certainty if your diet is poor then you’ll have at least 5-10 identifiable deficiencies and even with a good diet we typically see at least 3-4 major deficits with key nutrients required for life.