Supplement Essentials

Credit: Harvard Health

Credit: Harvard Health

As we march into 2017 with a plethora of great intentions (most of which will be long forgotten by February) something worth remembering is supplements. With literally hundreds of brands, names, claims, and concentrations on the market—lets simplify - which ones and how much do we really need to keep us healthy and strong during winter and beyond?

My go-to expert for all things supplements is UK-based pharmacist Shabir Daya who is founder of the online health resource Victoria Health. This man really knows his pills. While each person has their own specific needs, Daya's top 3 winter supplements (in no specific order) are:

Vitamin D


Once associated principally with healthy bone production in the body, numerous studies now associate vitamin D deficiency with a range of chronic health concerns, including compromised immune function, diabetes, depression and cell mutation. So much so, Daya says, that the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme suggests that up to one in four adults in the UK have a low vitamin D status and are therefore at increased risk of deficiency. Further, it is now accepted that limited sun exposure and the increase in restrictive diets has exacerbated the problem. We are so afraid of the sun in the western world that we either avoid it completely or smother our skin in so much sun block that the rays can't penetrate effectively.

Vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D, is required for a healthy immune system, strong bones and teeth, skin health and efficient digestion and absorption, among many other functions. As vitamin D is fat-soluble, it can be difficult to absorb in the body. Some vitamin D3 supplements can be sprayed sublingually, thereby avoiding the gastric route. To ensure your vitamin D needs are met throughout the year, 25mcg (approx 1000 IU) is recommended from spring to autumn, with increased amounts needed during the colder months. In food terms, the level of IU varies from fish to fish, but 300g of salmon contains about 400 IU. and one egg yolk approx. 40 IU.

How much is enough?

Daya recommends D-Lux 3000 Spray by Better You. Use one spray daily from Autumn through to Spring. From Spring till Autumn choose D-Lux 1000 Spray. Vitamin D is an oil-soluble vitamin which means there can be challenges absorbing it. Using the D-Lux Sprays avoid the gastric route where absorption can be compromised and instead the Vitamin D3 is absorbed sublingually straight into the bloodstream.


Gut health is now top of the health agenda and with every good reason. I have been writing about this for some time now (see here and here for starters) and will continue to do so.

Daya explains that for centuries, many cultures have included pickled and fermented foods in their diet to maintain intestinal gut health. The live probiotic bacteria in our intestines manufacture vital immune-enhancing compounds essential to health. With our stressful lifestyles and dependence on processed foods, our need for probiotics is greater than ever before. The biggest challenge, however, is maintaining sufficient quantities of these bacteria as the typical stomach environment is highly acidic and can destroy them.

How much is enough?

When taking probiotics, choose acid-resistant strains such as lactobacillus species, with a minimum of 4 to 5 billion organisms per capsule. Choose a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria, coated enterically to protect them from the acidic stomach environment and to ensure they colonise the gut effectively. - such as Mega Probiotic ND by Food Science of Vermont.

Multivitamins & minerals


Numerous studies indicate that by the time processed foods reach our table, their nutrient content can be seriously compromised, not just due to cooking, but also as a result of the manufacture and storage, during which antioxidant nutrients can be severely compromised. The vast majority of multivitamins on the market contain synthetic or semi-synthetic nutrients, with some using mega doses that can actually do more harm than good, so if you are taking a supplement choose wisely and don’t overdose.

How much is enough?

Daya recommends ‘food state’ multivitamins because these contain nutrients that are found close enough to their structure in foods, rather than being synthetic in nature, or semi-synthetic, both of which are poorly utilised by the body. Alive Ultra Potency Multivitamin provides all the vitamins, minerals, green foods, digestive enzymes, fruit extracts and much more all in their most natural state for ease of absorption and hence utilisation by the body.

In addition to the above I also take:

Omega 3 Fatty Acids


It is virtually impossible to achieve daily targets for essential fatty acids if we don’t consume at least two servings of oily fish per week and eat plenty of essential fatty acid-rich foods. If you are doing this, great, but if not, then it's wise to top up with a supplement;

These powerful fatty acids help protect the body from inflammation while also supporting cardiovascular health, respiratory function, flexibility and mobility - not to forget their role in brain and skin health. We cannot make these essential fatty acids ourselves so they must be acquired from either diet or via supplements.

How much is enough?

Guidelines suggest between 1,000-2,000 mg of omega 3 fats daily. Krill oil extract is prepared from a species of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) that shares similar fatty acid profile to fish and has an efficient delivery mechanism through the body. It also contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant. Daya suggests 2 capsules daily of the Power of Krill by LifeFlo.



If sleep eludes you (more on this here) then might be worth considering topping up magnesium intake. Even if sleep is not a problem, chances are you are still deficient in this essential mineral (apparently the majority of us are). Magnesium helps control hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. It works alongside vitamin D to ensure calcium is absorbed in the body making it essential for bone health and osteoporosis prevention (increasingly important during our middle years). It also helps relax muscles (hence its role in promoting sleep) and promotes heart health and helps maintain healthy blood pressure.

How much is enough?

600-800 mg daily is the general recommendation applied topically via spray or oil..

For more detailed information on nutrition and supplements check out my latest book Your Middle Years: Love them. Live them. Own them by Gill Books (Amazon)