Supplements 101 Part 2 of 2In my previous post, I discussed the five questions everyone must ask before taking any supplement. Now, we’ll review the eight key supplements to take for your good health.

Before we examine these top supplements, keep one very important caveat in mind: The best supplements for you may vary depending on your current diet, health and any current medicines you take. So you should see your doctor before taking any supplements for your own safety.

1. Vitamin D

Although commonly found in cold water fish like salmon, halibut and sardines and fortified foods (cereals, dairy products and juices), the best and most natural source of vitamin D is your body’s daily exposure to sunlight.

However, depending on the season and your work schedule, you may not get enough exposure to sunlight to make a difference. For instance, work schedules and the seasons can limit our ability to get outdoors, especially during colder times of the year. Also, when taking vacations in warmer weather, the sunscreens you wear on your body can block the sun very effectively.

In fact, some studies in 2014 have underscored the need for vitamin D, from raising survival rates among cancer patients to lowering the risks of preventing the progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.

2. Calcium

Out of all the supplements listed here, calcium may be the least necessary, unless you don’t eat leafy, green vegetables, fish and dairy products regularly.

Your teeth and bones store almost all the calcium in your body, which may explain why taking a calcium supplement—at least 1000 mg—prevents bone loss, osteopenia and osteoporosis. More recently, scientists have discovered calcium, in combination with vitamin D, may improve the cholesterol levels of postmenopausal women.

Medline Plus advises consumers to look for the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) logo word or the word “purified” on calcium supplement labels. Also, be careful about calcium supplements containing dolomite, unrefined oyster shell or bone meal, as may have high levels of toxic metals, including lead, in them.

3. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 may be one of the lesser known supplements you need to take, but it’s one of the most important. Not only does this nutrient protect the health of the human body’s blood and nerve cells, but it also helps to create DNA.

Although the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 is low for teens and adults (ranging from 2.4-2.8 mcg), epidemiological studies have found more than 20 percent of older adults have less than what they need. Moreover, many older adults over age 50 don’t have enough hydrochloric acid in their bodies, preventing them from getting enough vitamin B12 through food alone. As a result, doctors have prescribed vitamin B12 supplements ranging from 25-100 mcg in older people, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Deficiencies in vitamin B12 can also occur when you take certain medications, including proton pump inhibitors (Prevacid or Prilosec) for the long term, histamine H2 receptor antagonists (Zantac or Tagamet), the diabetes drug metformin and the antibiotic chloramphenicol (Cholormycetin).

4. Iron

Iron supplementation is important but can be tricky. Too little iron due to blood loss—particularly women during their child-bearing years due to menstruation or people who donate blood more than twice a year—can trigger anemia. Not to mention, the healthy RDA amount of iron a pregnant woman needs jumps to 27 mg, according to the National Institutes of Health.

On the other hand, taking too much iron can poison your body, and an inherited disease like hemochromatosis allows the body to buildup too much iron.

5. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil

There’s no doubt about benefits of eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, naturally found in fatty fish (catfish, halibut, salmon) and plant-based sources (vegetables oils, tofu, walnuts).

However, as mentioned earlier, the problem lies in getting the right amounts, as most people don’t consume the right balance of fatty acids for their good health. Instead of consuming foods rich in omega-3s, American diets are dominated by high levels of health-harming omega-6 fatty acids, like those found in palm, soybean sunflower and rapeseed oils, that have been linked to depression and heart disease.

Supplements 101 Part 2 of 2On the other hand, the advantages of taking a fish oil supplement are its rich sources of omega-3s that may benefit people with a number of health obstacles, including cardiovascular and sleep problems.

6. Aspirin

More doctors are prescribing a low dose aspirin tablet—81 mg—at least every other day, if not daily, to lower one’s risks of a second stroke or heart attack and preventing one altogether.

This low dose routine works by slowing down the blood’s clotting action by decreasing the risk of platelets clumping that forms blood clots.

However, if you’re interested in pursuing this therapy, be sure to see you doctor first, as there are many reasons why some people shouldn’t take a low dose aspirin, from existing stomach ulcers to allergies and asthma.

7. Multivitamins

Recommendations about the value of taking multivitamins seemingly change by the day. A recent Annals of Internal Medicine editorial says using them or supplements is “waste of money.”

That said, taking a multivitamin that contains 500 mg of calcium and 1,000 IU of vitamin D may be a good two-for-one solution for your health, if you’re not getting enough of either from your diet.

Iron is another consideration. If you’re a healthy adult over age 50, you won’t need iron in a multivitamin, unless you donate blood more than twice a year. And, a woman going through menstruation will also need that iron.

8. Probiotics

Seemingly, there are studies being released every day that spell out all the reasons you need to be taking a daily probiotic for your continued good health. Boosting your body’s immune system by replenishing some of the key strains of beneficial bacteria is one of just 10 very important reasons to take them.

When you’re doing research to find the best probiotic for your health, I strongly recommend taking ones containing multiple strains of bacteria, as they have been found to be more effective in treating many health problems, including diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, immune functioning and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).