My Daily Supplementation Guide
I used to think that supplementation was all hype. I didn’t think that people truly experienced the benefits that they were claiming because in my head I couldn’t comprehend how something natural could treat symptoms like anxiety, hormonal acne and constipation. “Isn’t that what prescription drugs are for? To heal you? To cure you? To make whatever you’re experiencing stop?”
Today I look back on that naïve mindset of mine and think about how much I had yet to learn about and experience with supplementation – how much I did not know and could not claim to have an opinion on because I simply hadn’t given supplementation a true chance.
Although prescription drugs are incredibly powerful and capable of healing people (see Why I’m Thankful for Western Medicine), I’ve pretty much come full circle in my understanding and appreciation of what supplements are capable of. I’ve literally seen my mental, digestive and hormonal health change because of them!
I get a lot of questions about what supplements I take and why – especially because I’ve been so verbal about my transition off of Zoloft and birth control; so I thought it would be helpful to write a blog post documenting my morning and afternoon supplement routine. And, the supplements that I take change a bit throughout each season – so I wanted to provide information behind that decision of mine too.
The purpose of this post isn’t to inspire you to never take prescription drugs again (although maybe you would be motivated to do so one day for a variety of reasons), but more so to motivate you to explore supplementation and talk to your healthcare provider or functional practitioner about the importance and capabilities of them. Everybody’s BODY and BRAIN are different and need different things at different times; so appropriately experiment with supplementation on your own (and with the help of a professional), and hopefully you’ll find ones that work for you and can even help you wean off of medications that you didn’t ever believe you’d be able to live without!
This being said, below I’m going to break down the supplements that I take – describing to you why I take them and what they’ve done for me; and then point you in the direction of trusted brands that produce and sell them. Most of these supplements can be found on Amazon, and others you can find online through the brand’s website.
My Everyday Supplements
What this supplement is: DIM is an extract found in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower). It offers estrogen support to women (and men!) in order to help our bodies metabolize estrogen better.
Why I take it and what it’s done for me: I had heard that DIM was changing women’s skin left and right. Author and Wellness Guru Tara Mackey mentioned this supplement in a podcast that I listened to, and she said that it had transformed her cystic acne. I was sold. I started taking 200mg of DIM each morning and have noticed significant improvement in my back and chest acne that I’ve struggled with ever since I became a cycle instructor (even spironolactone wasn’t helping!) It’s made the biggest difference in my skin. I still take 25mg of spironolactone (I used to take 100mg for acne support!), but am hoping to eventually transition fully off of this. I also have noticed that my periods are lighter and my cramps are less prevalent during my luteal phase while taking DIM.
How/when I take it: I take 200mg of DIM each morning with a full glass of water. This has worked well for me and I haven’t noticed myself getting any headaches or stomachaches, which are unfortunately two common side effects of this supplement. You can always try taking the supplement with food to have a little something in your stomach.
Suggested brands: I have taken both Nature’s Way and Smoky Mountain Naturals brands. Nature’s Way contains soy, and after taking it for a month, I thought it would be best to find a more pure, trusted brand that verbally mentioned being gluten-free, soy-free, etc. However, I did like how you could up your supplementation 100mg at a time with the Nature’s Way brand, whereas with Smoky Mountain Naturals you could only double your dosage if you want to be taking more. I would recommend the Smoky Mountain Naturals brand before Nature’s Way, but I have seen the same results from both!
What this supplement is: Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for whole-body health. Most people aren’t getting enough of it – especially women who have been on (or are currently taking) birth control. Magnesium supports cardiovascular and bone health, energy metabolism, mood and mental health, cognitive function, digestion and hormonal health. It also helps support muscle and nerve function, and promotes a healthy inflammatory response.
Why I take it and what it’s done for me: I take magnesium for anxiety and hormonal support, alongside digestive aid. I have always been naturally good at handling stress, so I’m not sure if magnesium is really aiding that much in my mood support, especially because I am taking 5-HTP and GABA (which I’ll discuss below). However, my digestion hasn’t been this great since freshman year of college – and I owe that to this supplement! It’s literally revolutionized my digestive health.
How/when I take it: I take 500mg in the morning for stress support throughout the day, and then I take 1000mg each night before bed for digestive support. Higher doses of magnesium produce a laxative-like effect in the digestive system, so this is why it aids in constipation if that is something that you struggle with. I realize that I am taking a high dosage of magnesium each day, but this is what’s working for me currently. Start at a lower dosage and then work your way up if you need to. Your body may not need what I need!
Suggested brands: LifeExtension (500mg capsules) and Thorne Research (135mg capsules). If you are going to be taking large doses of the supplement, then I suggest that you purchase the LifeExtension brand, or another brand that is high-quality and has a higher milligram amount in each capsule.
What this supplement is: 5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of serotonin. Serotonin affects sleep, appetite, body temperature, sexual behavior and pain sensation. Also, since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it can be used to treat depression, insomnia and obesity.
Why I take it and what it’s done for me: I started taking 5-HTP after reading The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. I also listened to an Ultimate Health podcast with Tara Mackey where she talked about treating anxiety and depression holistically. Although Tara didn’t talk specifically about taking 5-HTP, I was really inspired after reading and hearing so much about natural supplementation for anxiety and the transformations that people had seen, so I knew I had to try it myself.
I started to wean off of the 25mg of Zoloft that I was taking at the time and began incorporating 100mg of 5-HTP into my supplementation routine. Today, it’s been 6 months since I’ve been taking 5-HTP and I feel great. I’ve had no symptoms of SSRI withdrawal and hope to be completely free from the remaining 12.5mg of Zoloft that I am taking by the end of the fall.
How/when I take it: I take 100mg of 5-HTP each afternoon after lunch. I do this because I’m still taking 12.5mg of Zoloft in the mornings. To avoid any interactions between the two medications, I take them at separate times. If you are not taking medication for anxiety, however, you are fine to supplement with 5-HTP at any point during the day! Many people actually take it at night time because serotonin converts into melatonin, so 5-HTP can offer sleep support.
Suggested brand: Thorne Research (pharmaceutical grade supplement)
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
What this supplement is: GABA is a chemical that’s made in the brain and whose main function is to reduce the activity of nerve cells in the nervous system. It’s thought to have a natural calming effect and is believed to reduce feelings of anxiety and fear by decreasing excitability that’s affiliated with anxiety and stress. It’s often used as a supplement to promote sleep, improve mood and ease PMS symptoms.
Why I take it and what it’s done for me: I started taking GABA along with 5-HTP because I had read that the two in pair could really help reduce symptoms of anxiety. I had also talked with people who had seen benefits from taking it in the morning.
I started taking this supplement around the same time that I started taking 5-HTP. To be honest, I’m not quite sure if this supplement is making as much of a difference in my life as 5-HTP is. However, I can say that I feel like a superhero when it comes to handling stress. I don’t find myself feeling hopeless or overwhelmed to the point of panic…really ever. Of course I have some bad days, but I truly do feel like I have a high tolerance to stress. I’d say that if anything, this supplement is helping me to keep calm throughout the day.
How/when I take it: I take 500mg of GABA every single morning with the rest of my morning supplements. I take it with a full glass of water and on an empty stomach.
Suggested brand: Thorne Research - there are two types of GABA being sold by this company right now – a 100mg capsule and then a 250mg capsule. I would recommend taking 100-200mg to start and seeing if it benefits you. Be careful about increasing your dosage too fast because excess of GABA can actually produce the opposite effects that you want (excitability, agitation, anxiety, nervousness, etc.).
What this supplement is: L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves. It helps promote relaxation without drowsiness. Many people take L-theanine to help ease stress and unwind. People also take it with caffeine in order to counter the effects of having too much of it.
Why I take it and what it’s done for me: I only take L-Theanine when I start to experience some heightened anxiety or side effects from caffeine. I also take it if I’m just feeling anxious in general. It really does relax me, and I find that my symptoms almost immediately go away within 10-15 minutes.
How/when I take it: I’ll take a 200mg capsule as needed.
Suggested brand: Nature’s Trove is the brand that I currently have. I’m sure there is a purer capsule that can be found, but this one works for me.
What CBD is: CBD is a concentrated liquid extract of the marijuana plant, but it doesn’t contain THC, so it’s not psychoactive. Instead, it’s purpose is to aid in pain-relief, inflammation, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.
Why I take it and what it’s done for me: I started taking CBD when I was going through a transition in jobs (and moving to Denver) and was noticing my anxiety picking up again. I had heard about the benefits of the tincture, and I followed a few bloggers that advocated for the use of it. I decided to give it a try and have been LOVING IT! I take it every single night before bed, and some mornings I put it in my Matcha latte or bulletproof coffee. At night, I put it into my sleepytime tea and I swear it helps me sleep. It’s calming and it’s a bit sedating – so it’s great for a good night of sleep for me!
How/when I take it: As mentioned above, I drink it every night with my sleepytime tea. I put about .5 mL into my mug. In the mornings, if I put it into my Matcha or coffee, I’ll use a little bit less. I have tried taking more than .5 mL and didn’t really like how relaxed I felt, so I stick to around the .5 range.
Suggested brand: I currently purchase from Evolution CBD, but I’m almost out of my recent tincture and I’m thinking I’m going to explore some of the farmers’ market vendors here in Denver. When purchasing the oil, just make sure that it is certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and has no heavy metals or insecticides. Also, make sure it is water-soluble if you are wanting to add it to your lattes or tea!
What this vitamin is: Vitamin D3 is produced naturally in the skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. It then transforms into a hormone that helps with the absorption of calcium and phosphorous – aka BONE STRENGTH! Almost 99% of your Vitamin D supply is used for regulating the calcium in the body; the remaining part is utilized for strengthening the immune system and muscles, and regulating your mood and cognitive health.
Why I take it and what it’s done for me: I take Vitamin D3 during the winter months (typically November – March) because I find that the lingering clouds and cold weather can really impact my mood. During these months, I seriously swear by this supplement. I take about 5,000 units daily and truly notice a difference in how I’m feeling. The winter slump just doesn’t consume me when I’m taking Vitamin D.
How/when I take it: As I mentioned above, I take this supplement during the winter months when the sun is out less and I’m spending less time outside. I take around 5,000-10,000 units in the morning with the rest of my morning supplements. I start to ease off of it once the weather starts to warm up!
Suggested brand: Thorne Research (I suggest purchasing the 5,000 IU capsules!)
There are so many supplements out there that can aid in mental health, gut and hormonal issues. I have started taking the ones above because I’ve done my own research, read books, asked questions and spoken with others who have experimented with the same ones. What works for me may not work the same for you, but I am a huge advocate for the ones that I’ve mentioned above!
If you are looking for a good resource for discovering the right supplementation for mental health issues, please read The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. This book is full of so much information and is backed by research and professional insight. It’s taught me everything that I know about supplementation for anxiety and depression.
For a resource related to supplementation for hormonal issues, please read WomanCode by Alisa Vitti and then start reading her blog posts and other content on the internet! She is incredible and has so much knowledge surrounding the topic. Her website can be found here: https://www.floliving.com/. I also have a dear friend that is open about her experience with PCOS and has been working with a holistic practitioner to determine the right supplementation and lifestyle practices for that. Give her a follow @veggiebellie on Instagram!
Supplementation looks different for everyone because everyone is different. Take time to do your own research, ask questions and try things! Journal about your experiences with certain supplements because that will help you determine what truly works for you and what doesn’t. Also, I don’t believe that you’ll see TRUE changes unless you focus on living a healthy lifestyle alongside supplementation. Make sure that you are exercising and moving forward in your own wellness journey! Whole-body and brain health take much more than supplementation – you have to take care of yourself in every area of your life if you want to see REAL changes in how you feel.