The Paleo Diet – Part 6
What About Supplements?
If you eat a paleo like diet, do you need supplements? Yes. There is an abundance of toxins in our environment, food, water and air to which our ancestors were never exposed. Many toxic chemicals are used to grow and process food. There are hundreds of thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to that have never been tested for safety. Our medical system is dominated by mostly toxic drugs, making our healthcare system one of the leading causes of death in this country. The death toll from supplements? The CDC has released the number of deaths from supplements in 2013, Zero. That's right. No one died of vitamin, mineral, herbal, homeopathic or any other kind of supplement.
Because of all the environmental toxins, plus the effects of electromagnetic radiation from our electronic gear, and the depletion of essential minerals from our soil, we need to supplement.
What To SupplementMagnesium — Magnesium is very important as all of our agricultural soils, including organic farms, are depleted of magnesium. Magnesium is great for pain, spasm, restlessness, anxiety, depression, insomnia, constipation and in the production of over 300 enzymes in the body. Take 400-1,000 mg daily in split doses.
Vitamin D — We can only make vitamin D in our skin from sun exposure when our shadow is shorter than we are. Here in Colorado, our vitamin D “winter” lasts from October to April. Mid-day sun exposure for 20-30 minutes enables us to make 20,000 to 50,000 IU's of vitamin D. Sunblock stops all vitamin D production. Vitamin D, and moderate sunlight exposure actually reduce the risk of skin cancer. Most people won't be out in mid-day summer sun nearly naked to get their vitamin D, so take 1,000 IU daily per 25# of bodyweight.
Omega Three Fats — Our brain is 25% DHA. DHA and EPA are the primary active forms of omega threes, and are essential fats — meaning we have to eat them, we can't make them. There are also plant source omega threes, called ALA – alpha linoleic acid. We can convert ALA to DHA and EPA, but it requires an enzyme that most of us have little or none of, meaning there is only about 2% of ALA that is converted to DHA and EPA. Flax seed oil is not a substitute for fish oil.
EPA and DHA have potent anti-inflammatory effects and are key components of our brain, nervous system and cell membranes. Sources for EPA/DHA are:
- cold water fish, such as wild salmon, sardines, tuna
- fish oil capsules and cod liver oil
- eggs yolks – especially from pastured hens
- pasture fed meats
- small amounts in pasture cheeses and butter
DHA and EPA are well studied and are known to prevent and treat ADD, to prevent heart attacks and stroke and aid in the prevention of dementia.
Both omega three fats and vitamin D have significant effects on gene expression. The presence of these essential nutrients may prevent “disease genes” from being activated and may “turn on” healthy gene expression.
B Vitamins — The B vitamins are beneficial for the brain and nervous system and play many roles in our health. In nature, B vitamins are found in protein foods.
Things that deplete our B vitamins are stress, processed food and environmental toxins, sugar and alcohol.
Vitamin B12 is found only in animal foods. When someone becomes vegan, it may take years before all the liver storage of B12 is depleted. But once it is depleted, an irreversible nervous system damage called pernicious anemia happens.
Vitamin A — It is important to know that there is no vitamin A in plant foods. Carrots have zero vitamin A. We have some limited ability to convert beta carotene from plants to vitamin A. However, children under five, the elderly, and those with kidney or liver compromise, cannot make this conversion. Millions of cases of blindness and death by infection happen to children world-wide from deficiencies of vitamin A. Vitamin A is known as the “anti-infection vitamin.” Infants and children should have pre-formed vitamin A from liver, cod liver oil, egg yolks, butter and cream. Skim and low fat milks have very little vitamin A.
Vitamin A works best in conjunction with two other fat-soluble vitamins, D and K2.
Vitamin K2 — Vitamin K1 is from plants and is used mostly to regulate coagulation. Vitamin K2 is produced by fermentation, either in the stomachs of animals that eat K1 or fermentation of K1 containing vegetables, such as kim chee, sauerkraut, or natto, a fermented soy product also known as “stinky tofu,” the richest source of vitamin K2.
We are just discovering how incredibly important Vitamin K2 is. While it also can play a role in coagulation, it's biggest role may lie in calcium regulation. We have receptors in our bones and teeth that are activated by K2 to deposit calcium. Lack of vitamin K2 is a huge, largely unrecognized factor in bone loss.
Paradoxically, there are also vitamin K2 receptors in our arteries, kidneys, connective tissue and other soft tissue locations that when activated by K2 prevent the deposition of unwanted calcium. Arterial calcification, or atherosclerosis, is a leading cause of heart disease and strokes.
Why are we deficient in K2? Vitamin K2 occurs in all the foods we were told not to eat because they contain cholesterol and saturated fats, such as egg yolks, liver, butter, cheese and meat – all higher in pasture fed animals.
Other things that adequate K2 will benefit are diabetes, arthritis, brain health, cancer prevention, kidney disease and fertility.
Interestingly, Dr. Weston Price identified a growth factor found in fish eggs, butter, and other foods that he called “Activator X.” He found that activator X combined with cod liver oil was remarkable in healing cavities, bones and fertility problems. He developed a butter oil, ghee essentially, from cows grazing on rapidly growing grasses in the spring. He had a test for activator X and tested thousands of butter samples from all over the US. It was not until 2007 that it was discovered that Price's “activator X” is actually vitamin K2.
A paleo like diet, rich in pastured animal products and organ meats will provide adequate K2, but will not make up for a lifetime (for most of us) of K2 deficiency. Supplementing with 90 micrograms of the MK7 form of vitamin K2 is a maintenance dose. For those with bone loss or high calcium scores on a heart scan, a range of 300 to 1,000 mcg may help reverse these situations, along with vitamins D, A and the mineral magnesium.
Vitamin C — Humans and guinea pigs are the only mammals that can't make their own vitamin C. When under stress, C-making animals release the equivalent of about 12,000 mg of vitamin C daily. It is an anti-oxidant and is important in the formation of collagen, for bones, skin connective tissue and the collagen lining in our arteries, which, once lost, leads to inflammation in blood vessels, followed by plaque buildup.
The structure of vitamin C is similar to glucose, and the more sugar and starch in our diet,the less available vitamin C is.
Vilhjalmar Stephansson, whose one year, all meat diet was mentioned in Part 1, did not suffer scurvy as was predicted. A low carb diet significantly lowers the need for vitamin C, and the small amounts found in organ meats seems to be adequate for human needs.
However, in our toxic, carbo contaminated environment, supplementing with 500 to 2,000 mgs of vitamin C from a non-corn source will meet most peoples needs, combined with lots of green leafy vegetables.
Curcumin — While not an essential nutrient like all the above, curcumin, an extract of the spice tumeric, has many benefits, as anti-cancer, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, with benefits for the brain and the joints.
There are many other supplements that can be beneficial for certain conditions or people, such as lipoic acid, milk thistle, CoQ10, zinc, iodine and selenium. Herbal beverages such as coffee, green and white tea, and many other herbal teas and mushrooms can have many health benefits as well.