I woke up one morning to find that death was sitting on my left shoulder. From that point on, healthy eating suddenly became of vital interest to me. I dedicated myself to exploring what to eat and how I could live a long and healthy life. I wanted to make sure that my health span equaled a long life span.
Your health span may be defined as the period of your life that you are not only free from disease, but full of energy, and living in peak states of inspiration, gratitude, passion, joy, love, and all around vitality. At the time of my healing journey… being north of 60, I was also acutely aware of my years and of the need to extend my lifespan, so that I could live well into my 100s, in a happy and healthy physical body.
During that time, I read many books on nutrition and diet by outstanding doctors. Two of my favorites are UnDo It by Dr. Dean Ornish and Grow A New Body by Dr. Alberto Villoldo. I soon discovered that a plant based, whole food, vegetarian diet was the right choice for me.
I will share my complete diet in another post. This article will focus only on the recommended supplements that go along with that diet.
Changing your eating habits is essential for growing a new body and sustaining its benefits. But it can be challenging to follow all the dietary recommendations, especially during those times of the year when farm-fresh, locally grown produce isn’t available in your area. Nutritional supplements can help you get on the fast track to repairing your gut health—of crucial importance—and maintaining a brain-friendly diet. These supplements all play a role in how your brain and the organs in your body repair and regenerate. Be sure to check with your health-care professional before taking any supplements, and listen to your body. There’s a right dosage for each person, and it’s slightly different for everyone, even during different seasons. Pay close attention to how you feel, as well as to your body’s subtle messages.
DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for brain health. In fact, 40 percent of the brain is made of DHA as is nearly 50 percent of breast milk. DHA is found in fish, nuts, seeds, and certain oils. Since the body doesn’t manufacture DHA, you need to supplement from either fish oil or algae. Researchers have noted an 85 percent reduction in the risk for Alzheimer’s among people with high levels of DHA in their diet. Be sure to take your DHA in the evening, so that your body does not burn it as fuel; this enables it to make its way directly to your brain to turn on the production of BDNF and neural stem cells.
We used to get our DHA from wild-caught fish, but today, most of our fish is farm raised, and fed on corn, and contains very little DHA. As a result, it is more difficult for our brains to repair properly. The incorporation of DHA into the diet fosters a sense of sharpness and gives rise to a heightened ability to be fully present and relate to others.
The dosage is 2 grams daily.
ALA, alpha-lipoic acid, is found in every cell of the body and plays a crucial role in detoxification. ALA will cross the blood-brain barrier, and ferry toxins, including heavy metals, out of the brain. The liver loves ALA. The dosage is 300 to 600 mg, 3 days a week (does not need to be taken daily).
Turmeric increases levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione—two antioxidants important to brain functioning. Its powers include cancer prevention, the elimination of free radicals, and support for the heart, liver, and gastrointestinal system. Turmeric has very poor bioavailability, that is, less than 5 percent of what you ingest actually gets into your system. It is a tasty addition to curries and salads, or even to hot ginger tea.
The dosage is 1,000 mg daily.
Vitamin B12 is essential for liver detoxification and for repairing the myelin sheath around nerves. It is also needed for preserving the integrity of DNA and for the production of neurotransmitters. Most Americans are B12 deficient. Take sublingual methylcobalamin B12—a more bioavailable form. The dosage is 2,500 mcg a day.
Vitamin C is essential for all detoxification processes and immunity.
The dosage is 1,000 mg a day.
Vitamin D3 is the form of vitamin D that the body manufactures when it is exposed to sunlight. But even if you spend a great deal of time outdoors, it’s unlikely you’re getting enough vitamin D3. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to seasonal depression, diabetes, dementia, and autoimmune disorders. Individuals who take 600 international units (IU) or more of vitamin D3 are half as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s compared to control groups. Dosage varies widely, but in a review of current research, vitamin D expert Michael Holick, M.D. cites therapeutic doses for adults ranging from 1,000 IU a day to 10,000 IU a day. I like to work with a dosage right in the middle of this range.
The dosage is 5,000 IU daily.
Coconut oil and MCT oil are jet fuel for the brain. These medium-chain triglycerides pass through the intestinal wall without causing an insulin spike, and go into the mitochondria inside the cells. Take two tablespoons daily—one tablespoon in the morning and one tablespoon midafternoon, together with MCT oil in the same proportion. You can also add coconut oil to soup and tea. I like to eat it straight from the jar, like ice cream!
The dosage is 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup).
Ubiquinol is a more efficient version of coenzyme Q10, which is essential for energy production by our mitochondria. When mice who were fed ubiquinol during their lives reached the equivalent of 90 years of human age, they were still “going skiing,” in contrast to a control group of mice, that were riddled with cancers and heart disease. The dosage is 200 mg daily.
Multivitamin and mineral formula is essential, as even the most beautiful-looking organic vegetables you find in stores are grown in depleted soils. Get a good-quality multivitamin from a known brand and take it daily. I take Whole Earth & Sea Pure Food Mens 50+.
Take the dosage indicated in the product.
Zinc is needed by the liver to detox. The World Health Organization estimates that one in three persons is deficient in zinc. The dosage is 15 mg daily.
Magnesium is essential for the liver to move toxins out of the bloodstream and into the GI tract for elimination. It is probably the most important mineral in the body, and most of us are magnesium deficient. Signs of deficiency include muscle aches, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.
The dosage is 350 mg daily.
These supplements can help you maintain strong bones and prevent disease, as well as providing you with essential co-factors for producing cellular energy.
Vitamin K2 has not received much attention in the western diet, and many people have not even heard of it. Vitamin K2, particularly menaquinone-7 (MK-7), keeps calcium out of your arteries and in your bones, by switching on mineralization by way of osteoblasts (the bone-building cells). It increases bone mass and mechanical strength to produce tough but supple bone mass that is more resistant to fracture. The population in the United States is vitamin K deficient because we do not consume sufficient greens. In Japan, people get MK-7 from a fermented soy product called natto, which accounts for the decreased risks of fractures and bone loss among Japanese women. Vitamin K2 reduces the risk of heart disease. The dosage is 100 mcg daily.
Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, can help you neutralize the overly acidic western diet and reset your pH levels. Organic sodium bicarbonate is a great home remedy for reflux, as it neutralizes stomach acids. Be sure to wait at least two hours after your last meal to take baking soda so that you do not interfere with your digestion. Carbon dioxide is produced as stomach acids are neutralized, so you may find yourself burping after taking sodium bicarbonate. The dosage is 1/2 teaspoon in the evening, two hours after your meal.
Nicotinamide riboside is a newly discovered natural form of vitamin B3 that when used in conjunction with pterostilbene, increases the concentrations of NAD+ in the brain by 40 percent, allowing for more efficient energy production. NAD+ levels decrease with age, so supporting them with nicotinamide riboside may offer significant protection to brain cells.
The dosage is 125 mg daily.
Tryptophan (also called L-tryprophan) is an essential amino acid that acts like a natural hormone balancer and mood regulator. Supplementing with tryptophan induces sleep, calms anxiety, and can help burn more body fat. Tryptophan will help to fend off carb and sugar cravings. Tryprophan increases the production of serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Supplementing with tryptophan will help control your appetite and make it easier to lose weight. It will also support the production of DMT inside the brain. The dosage is 1,000 mg daily.