When it comes to essential supplements for health and nutrition, I am a self-declared minimalist. I don't like to waste money on things I don't really need, and I definitely don't like to take a supplement because I heard it's good for my age/skin/bones/hormones etc.
I see patients every week with a laundry list of supplements that they take because they read they should or because their doctor said so. Often these include vitamins, minerals, oils, and synthetic nutrients that are unnecessary, expensive, and often potential health risks.
When you're eating a diet of real food, there's no need to load up on multivitamins, and additional supplements should be in your life for known reasons that are specific to YOU – not your age, gender, or market sector.
This said, I'm going to walk you through my essential supplements. Technically I could probably live without them, but I'd really rather not. Here's 7 supplements I can't live without and why…
#1 – Fish oil or cod liver oil
Nearly every single night before bed, I used to take four capsules each of fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) and high vitamin butter oil. In times when I slacked on this combo, I tended to feel more susceptible to getting sick, injured, and cranky; and my teeth were more prone to sensitivity.
These days (especially as we travel around the world) most of our nutrients come from food and plenty of time outdoors. We supplement only on an as-needed basis.
My family and I no longer take FCLO and here's why.
Still, cod liver oil is good for you. While fish oil contains important omega 3 fatty acids, pure cod liver oil has the added benefits of being naturally rich in the fat soluble vitamins D and A.
As a mostly indoor and sun-block slathering culture, we are notoriously low in vitamin D, which can contribute to a weakened immune system and hormone imbalance. Vitamin A is essential for brain and immune system health and in particular known for it role in eye and skin health.
Why you may want it too:
You don't eat fish daily; you don't get 20 minutes of sunshine on full arms and legs for 20 minutes each day; and you don't eat liver weekly.
Keep in mind that:
- You can't get vitamin D or true vitamin A from vegetable sources
- Conventional cod liver oil should be avoided because the vitamins A and D are first destroyed in production and then added back in synthetic form and the wrong ratio. Click here for the cod liver oil supplement I recommend.
- If you decide to only take fish oil (this is my favorite), be sure to also get enough vitamin D and – for adequate vitamin A – consume liver weekly or take a high quality desiccated liver supplement, like this one.
#2 – High vitamin butter oil
I was skeptical about a butter oil supplement for a long time – I mean, my family eats 40 pounds of butter every three months for goodness sake – but when I developed my first cavity after baby #1 and second cavity after baby #2, I began to realize that my body's need for vitamin K2 was more than what food alone could provide.
Vitamin K2 is a little known but extremely important fat-soluble vitamin. We classically think of Vitamin K for it’s role in blood clotting, however, this task is accomplished by vitamin K1, which is found in leafy green plants.
Vitamin K2, on the other hand, is primarily found in dairy and liver from animals raised on grassy, sunny pastures as well as fermented foods. Vitamin K2 plays a key role in helping calcium to be properly distributed to bones and teeth and prevents this mineral from being deposited into soft tissue such as blood vessels and kidneys. Vitamin K2 also aids in the synthesis of important fats involved in brain metabolism.
High vitamin butter oil (HVBO) is a concentrated supplement made by centrifuging the oil of grass fed butter to concentrate the vitamin density. Taken with minimally processed cod liver oil, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2 work synergistically to optimize many healthy functions in the body.
High vitamin butter oil is estimated at eight times more potent than regular butter. HVBO is also casein and lactose-free – safe for most individuals with sensitivity to dairy.
Why you may want it too:
You are concerned about teeth and/or bone health; you're pregnant or a new mom; and/or you don't eat grassfed dairy products on a daily basis.
#3 – Soil-based probiotics
My family takes probiotics as needed to support healthy digestive function which is essential for health throughout the body – especially immune and nervous system/brain function. We include probiotic foods daily – such as sauerkraut, cultured ketchup, and kombucha – but sometimes the body needs more support.
While there are plenty of great probiotic supplements on the market, I've been loving this soil-based probiotic – which is packed with 29 soil-based species that are inherently resilient – tests show that even after exposure to temperatures of 98F and higher for two years they still maintain 95% viability.
Before refrigeration, our ancestors used traditional methods of culturing and fermenting that not only preserved food, but also cultivated rich probiotics served at every meal. Beneficial lactic bacteria (in yogurt, homemade ferments, and most probiotic supplements) are great, but they're not as hardy as soil based organisms. If they're robust enough to withstand extreme outdoor conditions, they can also proliferate with more ease inside the human body.
In the olden days our food was harvested locally – fruits and vegetables were dug out of the earth or picked off of a tree and rinsed before cooking or eating. Now our food is sprayed with bleach (even the organics, folks!) or worse before shipping thousands of miles to sit on a shelf before we buy it. The methods used to keep food fresh longer eradicates nearly all living micro-organisms – good and bad – from our food.
Why you may want it too:
Past or current poor diet, issues with digestive, immune or skin health; psycho-emotional issues (minor or more severe). You don't grow your own food and/or eat fermented foods daily. You've taken antibiotics or birth control pills.
#4 – Vitamin D
We don't take a vitamin D supplement daily because we get this nutrient from cod liver oil and southern California sun. But we do keep a bottle on hand for instances when one of us senses an oncoming cold, flu or other virus, and it really makes a huge difference in my family's ability to ward off illness.
Why you may want it too:
You don't put your trust in flu shots, and/or you want to be able to lend your immune system a helping hand when it's fighting an infection for you.
While it is optimal for you and your family to get daily vitamin D through food based sources, in particular cod liver oil, you may want to supplement daily in cases such as a rare sensitivity to FCLO or a super picky child who can’t swallow capsules.
The Vitamin D Council and other experts recommend an average of 35IU per pound of body weight per day for those with normal levels and states of health. In the case that one is getting a cold or flu, it is suggested to take a super-high dosage for no more than 3 days. This dose is 900IU per pound. Remember, it is recommended to take this for a short period only.
#5 – Colloidal silver
I admit, I was extremely skeptical about ingesting silver until I did the research. When small enough particles, colloidal silver ions works as a potent antimicrobials because the ions are absorbed into single-cell organism (bacteria, virus, yeast, and others) they interfere with cellular energy production and kill the organism.
The metabolism of these single-celled organisms is different than that of human cells, which explains why silver is not toxic to humans but can wipe out other microorganisms.
For local, topical use on cuts and burns, as an eye drop for eye infections, or for an occasional nasal wash for a stubborn sinus infection.
Why you may want it too:
You want a healthy and effective alternative to antibiotics to have on hand which can also take on viral and fungal infections, topically and internally.
#6 – Elderberry syrup
Elderberry syrup is a mainstay in our house because with this dark sweet liquid, my kids happily take their cod liver oil. But beyond its magic as a “spoonful of sugar”, elderberry has its own super powers in fighting off viral infections.
Elderberries (also know as sambucus or sambucol) have long been used in folk medicine to prevent and treat the symptoms of the common cold and flu. These tiny purple-blue fruit are rich in anti-oxidant flavinoids and anti-inflammatory anthocyanin. Even modern studies have proved the efficacy of elderberry extract.
Why you may want it too:
You have small humans that need a bit of encouragement to take their other supplements. You don't want to be debilitated by the flu.
#7 – Gelatin
Gelatin makes this list as my secret essential supplement for beauty. Sure, it's fantastic for joints, digestive health, and even optimal brain function, but I pour this non-gelling version in my tea every night with the intent of having more resilient skin, hair, and fingernails.
For all of these reasons, we consume bone broth (which naturally contains gelatin) most days in soups, stews, sauces, or cooked into white rice. For days where broth is at a deficit, I sprinkle hydrolyzed gelatin from pasture raised beef – which dissolves easily and is nearly flavorless – into tea or smoothies as a little insurance policy for my family's health.
Why you may want it too:
Brains, strength, beauty. I mean – aside from being vegetarian – why wouldn't you want more gelatin in your life?
For most folks I meet, it's safe to say that you'll probably need and want these supplements above too. But don't just take my word for it. Consider your own health history and goals plus your current lifestyle and nutrition to determine exactly what's best for you. Remember, you will know your own body better than anyone else.
That said, if your essential supplements resemble mine, read on…
Get all these essential supplements in one easy place
I recently discovered an online source called Perfect Supplements that seems to have been created just for me. Not only is their shop stocked with all of my essential supplements at the best possible prices, but everything they carry has been chosen with care and integrity.
Wanting to share this great find with you I connected with the folks at Perfect Supplements. Inspired by our common interest in real food nutrition, we have worked hard to create a special Holistic Squid corner with all of the essential supplements I think you may want or need.
This means you can hop on over and get all of the great products that I recommend without having to waste your time scouring the internet for sources and deals.
You can pick and choose from the entire site or my recommendations, or to make it even easier, we've put together three packages:
- The Holistic Squid Essentials – includes everything above. Click here to check it out
- The Holistic Squid Prenatal Essentials – includes everything above PLUS my favorite food based prenatal vitamin and desiccated liver for the extra nutritional needs of mamas-to-be. Click here to check it out
- The Holistic Squid Kid Essentials – includes liquid versions of FCLO and HVBO. Click here to check it out
Thank you so much for this! This list is great! And I love perfectsupplements.com. Will definitely be buying from them!
Regarding Prescript Assist, my husband and I have taken it, but how should I dose it for my 18 month old and 3 1/2 year old? I’ve been giving them a Garden of Life “kid” one, but I am skeptical about its potency and am pretty certain it’s not soil-based.
Also, I read (somewhere? can’t remember where) that soil-based probiotics can “react” with chlorinated water (when taken together) and create carcinogenic compounds, which are really dangerous. Do you know anything about this?
Love your blog! Thank you for all the info you share!
Hi Roxanna, I think your best bet is to always use filtered water. I would certainly try to avoid drinking chlorinated water anyway. Hope this helps!
“You don’t eat fish daily; you don’t get 20 minutes of sunshine on full arms and legs for 20 minutes each day; and you don’t eat liver weekly”? Goodness, three strikes and I’m out! Must look into cod liver oil…
Hi, I was wondering if you have ever tried or heard of Rosita Real Foods cod liver oil? Would love to know how you think it compares to the Green Pastures FCLO. Thanks!
Hi Vanessa, thanks for the question. It’s a great product, however a little pricey and the only drawback is that it doesn’t come in capsules, which I prefer. Hope this helps!
Have you heard of zeolite? What do you think of it?
Hi Charlotte, I’m adding this question to my What Would Emily Do list of questions…Thanks!
So grateful for this–thank you!
Hey Char, it’s a pleasure – glad it is helpful!
Can PrescriptAssist capsules be opened? (assume so in order to give to kids….) ??
Hi Ana, yes you can empty the capsules and give to kids – just be aware that the powder is black 😉 This is normal. Hope this helps!
I notice you said that you take your FCLO at night….I heard that it’s not good to take that or any other vit-D type of supplement at night because that is the time our body prepares for sleep….vitamin D at that time could affect your body’s natural day-night rhythm. have you heard of that theory and what do you think of it?
Hi Jen, thanks for the question. I have never had trouble taking FCLO at night. If you find that you are sensitive to it, you can take it in the morning. I just don’t like to taste the FCLO all day 😉
Great article! Thankyou! I am interested to know how much Colloidal Silver you take and do you take it daily? There is a little nudging for me to take this but not sure how much…thankyou
Hi Jo, thanks for your comment. I only take CS as needed. I follow the recommendations for weight and dosage that are listed on the Sovereign Silver bottle – this is the one I use anyway.
Do you have a suggestion for an ok tasting liquid cod liver oil for little ones? My daughter is 10 & able to swallow some pills I just feel liquid would be easier.
I give my little ones (3 1/2 and 1 1/2) the Green Pastures FCLO (in Oslo orange) mixed with a little maple syrup (I love Whole Foods’ 365 Grade B maple syrup – it’s very potent, you only need a little) and tart cherry juice. In fact, I mix it all up in a shot glass. They both love it. My husband and I do this as well. It makes the oil much more palatable.
Taking the FCLO straight is difficult for just about anyone.
I hope this helps!
Hi Izzy, you can check out my tricks for taking cod liver oil here. Hope it helps 🙂
Perfect Supplements looks like a good source, but I can’t find the Supplement Facts… They might consider adding that! Thanks.
Thank you for this!! Already placed my order! 🙂
MR PALEO says
Hi Sguiggles !
Your recommendation for vitamin D3 is too low, and you left out vitamin K2…. but I could not narrow my own “recommendations” to just 7… as it depends upon too many factors (sex, age, conditions, etc.).
MR PALEO (Arnold Wiseman on LinkedIn)
I was wondering what you think about Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend? Would that work as well as taking them separately? Would there be any additions benefit to taking butter oil and cod liver oil in two separate products. Just wondering! Thanks so much for all you share! I wish there was someone like you local! I would much rather take my family to see someone like you, than spend tons of money going to a conventional doctor, whose only service is to prescribe antibiotics & recommend needless tests. I get lost researching the best things to do for my families health online! Your site has been a refreshing and very useful guide to helping me wade through the TONS of health advice and recommendations. I am more apt to listen to someone who is not is not trying to sell there helpful information all the time. I was stunned to see your Immune Boosting Protocol given out for free! No one is doing that, and I was thoroughly impressed and thankful for the straightforward & super helpful information. I am very new to this game & your site has been AMAZING so THANK YOU!!
Hi Jenifer, there isn’t any benefit of having it as a blend or separately, really as long as both are being used. The real benefit is in the cost factor as to which way will be more cost effective. Hope this helps.
I am relieved to know that I already take the majority of these recommendations. HOWEVER! Can you please tell me more about Daily dosage, do you take Colloidal Silver daily? and the others….seasonally? What about for kids and starting with age 9 months. With four little’s….it is just easier to have a simple protocol for now. I would love for you to tell me more about how much, how often, and age appropriate dosages. This too would benefit me in conversation with my customers. Love you information. Also, would you use CS as ear drops during ear infection? and for a 9 month old?
Hi Jennifer, thanks for your comment. I would suggest you go through my Immune Boosting Protocol ebook. You should get one automatically if you sign up for the newsletter. However, if you are already a subscriber and you somehow missed it, you can email on email@example.com and we’ll pop one over for you. This protocol gives all my specifications on what I suggest for boosting the immune system.
I am currently taking Garden of Life RAW probiotics – I am looking to switch to a soil based probiotic, like the one you mentioned (thanks for the info!) – I am interested to know the difference between the one you recommend and the Garden of Life Primal Defense – it seems like it is a soil based probiotic, but I wasn’t sure what the differences were? Can you help point me in the right direction? Thanks!
Hi Ali, both are good supplements. The main difference is that Garden of Life Primal Defense includes 12 species of beneficial microorganisms in the form of the HSO Probiotic Blend., while Prescript Assist has 29 beneficial organisms. I hope this information helps point you in the right direction.
Thanks for the link on the supplements. It’s nice to have it all in one place.
Hello! Do you take the silver daily?
Hi Lauren, no, we only take it as needed.
Leigh Ann says
Hi Emily! Do you have any recommendations for taking magnesium? Also, are there any supplements that shouldn’t be taken together? Just trying to figure out how to work it all in throughout the day. Thanks!
Hi Leigh Ann, I have found magnesium applied better topically. There is a magnesium spray or you could take baths with the magnesium flakes. There is also Natural Calm, which is used internally for constipation. So it really depends on why you want to increase your magnesium intake. As long as you have a balanced intake, there shouldn’t be any you specifically shouldn’t take together.
Hi there, happy to have found you! Love this concise list. WE are on it! Coupon code- bonus! Thanks!! Question, do you have tips on how to get a 4 year old to take the probiotic capsules? Not sure how to pull that off. And, any tips on how to do the CLO is a plus too! Thanks Lovely Mama!!!
Hi Rebecca, Sure – you can open the capsule and add the contents to something like elderberry, smoothie or maple syrup to get them to take it. And for the cod liver oil, I’d recommend you read this. Hope this helps!
james hobe says
Hi Emily! Do you have any recommendations for taking calcium acpsule? Also, are there any supplements that shouldn be taken together? Just trying to figure out how to work it all in throughout the day. Thanks!