FAQ9 With A Vegan Chef: Do I need to supplement and which ones?

For today's FAQ With a Vegan Chef we talk all about supplementing. For years I was very anti-supplement. All of my macrobiotic teachers said that if you eat a healthy diet you should be able to get everything you need from your food. Now all the plant-based doctors are saying that as well. In an ideal world this would hold true. But so many factors come into play when it concerns our diet and absorption of vitamins and minerals. And we need different things at different ages in our life. 

First, the soil that our food is grown in is not as mineral-rich as it was in previous years. If you aren't buying organic your food is heavily sprayed with pesticides and contains lower nutrient content. Secondly, many people have poor intestinal health, are lacking good intestinal flora due to poor diet and overuse of antibiotics, and do not absorb nutrients as well. This goes back to the point that every body is different. We all have different constitutions and different conditions going on inside of us. Many plant-based doctors are in super good health, eat really good diets, and absorb what they need from their food. Like Dr. Fuhrman for example. But we can't compare ourselves to him.

After being vegan for many years and never taking supplements I decided to give them a try. I'm not perfect, I don't take them everyday, but I've noticed I feel much better supplementing certain things. Keep in mind that this is working for me and maybe you don't need to take the same supplements. Every body is different. I'm just sharing what I do with you. It's always a good idea to consult your doctor and get blood tests done to see if you are missing anything in particular. 

I asked my Facebook community to give us their thoughts on supplementation and what kind they take. Most people were in the same boat in what they took, if anything. Feel free to share with us in the comments below what you do. What has been discovered is that many people, vegan or not, are vitamin D deficient. This is because we spend so much time indoors and the best way to get D is outside with the sun. It doesn't hurt to take a D3 supplement and this is a vegan brand available. Evidence shows that D3 is more absorbed than D2, which is easy to find vegan.

If you are vegan the consensus among most is it doesn't hurt to take a vitamin B-12 or B complex supplement. I didn't start taking one until I was 8+ years vegan and it does seem to help with mental clarity and fatigue for many. If you get your blood work done you may be in fact B-12 deficient, but this doesn't just apply to vegans. My father was really anemic as an omnivore and B12 deficient (who ate mostly carbs and no veggies) and he is no longer anemic after 5 months on a high-plant diet. So this is something everyone should get checked out.  I like the Garden of LIfe Vitamin Code Raw B-12.

In my opinion, if you are eating a healthy whole foods diet you should be getting all the other micronutrients (calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, selenium, potassium, etc) from your food. I don't feel like I need to take a multi-vitamin. And as I said before most people do not even absorb these in pill form. Here is a video from Dr. Doug Graham about supplements that is an interesting view. As a woman, I do take iron around my cycle. 

I haven't been sick in over 10 years. Not a flu or a cold. Part of this is probably because I ate pretty well as a child, we never had sweets in the house, and I have a strong constitution. Another reason is due to my whole foods vegan diet. Also I take the supplements below on occasion for preventive measures. If I ever feel like something is coming on I boost these up and have a bowl of miso soup.

Immune Boosters

Probiotics – Many believe that immunity is linked to our gut. Poor diet and overuse of antibiotics kills the good intestinal flora in our gut, which in turn lowers immunity. So it's not only my opinion that everyone should be taking probiotics to boost immunity. I take the vegan kind in pill form that you keep in the fridge. There are many other kinds including liquids. Find what you like but make sure it is full of Lactobacillus.

Grapefruit Seed Extract – The second time I went to Asia, I took this in pill form to protect myself against bacteria in the water and food. I wish I would have done this the first time because I got the worst food poisoning. GSE is known for it's antiviral, antifungus, antibacterial, and antimicrobial. 

Oil of Oregano – This is also known for being antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic. An added bonus; it's shown to be anti-inflammatory too! It comes in pill form and liquid, though I find the liquid to be way to strong (and icky). 

I strongly encourage you to try more natural means when you get sick or feel something coming on. There is no reason to immediately resort to antibiotics before trying to let your immune system fight it off first. Antibiotics kill off good intestinal flora that is there to protect you against disease and sickness. That's not good! A healthy gut means you will be able to fight off icky stuff more affectively and efficiently. 

Tell us in the comments what is your experience with supplementing. What do you take? Do you think it's important or unnecessary? Have you noticed an improvement in your health after starting to supplement?

Disclosure: Some links above are connected to my Amazon Affiliate program. When you buy on Amazon through my site I get a few cents, which helps contribute to free content, recipes, and videos coming to you on this blog. Thanks!

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  1. Wow Christy, you haven't been sick in 10 years?!  That is IMPRESSIVE.  I'm on the same page with you, regarding supplementation, I think foods to a great job of giving us what we need (as they have for ions), but a few immune boosters may be helpful.  I'll have to look into those.  Thanks!

    1. The only time I've been sick is with food poisoning and I did feel like crap after I got colon hydrotherapy done which wipes out all your good intestinal flora with the bad stuff. It was a good test to see that we do in fact need good bacteria in our guts to keep us well!

  2. You mentioned taking a D3 supplement. Do you know if there is any difference between D2 and D3 (besides D2 being plant-based)? Does D3 absorb better?

  3. I am nursing, so I am still taking my prenatals at the time but usually, I don't take a multi.

    I also take DHA, to ensure my little guy is getting some in his diet, through my breastmilk.

    I tested low for Vitamin D last year and started supplementing with D3, which of course isn't vegan but at the time that I was tested I was taking D2 regularly and obviously it wasn't working. On Dr. Mercola's site you can read about a study between the two- turns out D3 is 87 percent more potent than D2, in raising vitamin D levels. If I hadn't of just gotten pregnant when I got tested, perhaps I would have increased my D2 to see what happened. I just didn't want to chance it. Now that it's summer time, I don't supplement but get out in the sun a few times a week. I'm getting my levels checked again next month and I think this is important for everyone, vegan or not.


    I also think B12 is important for vegans. I know there is a debate about it but again, it's something I think we all need and should supplement since our soil is depleted these days and all the rinsing and washing of vegetables doesn't leave us any B12 residue left on our produce. If anything, getting tested would be a good way to find out if one needs extra supplementation. I don't take a megadose like you'll find at the store but get enough through my prenatal. Some people think that eating nutritional yeast does the trick but I've read otherwise and that it is not the right kind at all(methyl is the best  in terms of absorbability).

    I have also been taking a probiotic for a couple years now and haven't had a bad cold since. I've gotten a mild bug once or twice but nothing like I used to, even when people around me are getting sick. I think probiotics are a great idea for everyone!

    That's awesome you haven't been sick in 10 years! You must be doing something right 😉

    1. Thanks for sharing all this great info! DHA is also important depending on your diet. My dad’s last test results showed he was low there and needed to supplement.

  4. Thank you for all this valuable information. I was thinking about having a colonic to see if it help my acne, but I read your comment so I don't know if it's a good idea anymore. 

    1. Are you already vegan? That is the best thing for acne, but also giving up processed food completely (including sugar and bread products) and upping your fruits and veggies will really help with acne. That will help way more than a colonic.

      I have lots of friends that do enemas regularly and that doesn’t seem to have the same affect as colon hydrotherapy.

  5. Hi Christy – Looks like you and Austin are a good fit:)  Interesting and pertinent subject.  I've been on heavy duty antibiotics – 2 days of IV and then was given 12 days of pills.  I've only taken half (they make me sick).  I got in the middle of a dog fight:(  Ended up in the hospital with a 102 temp.  I wonder if all this was necessary?  I've also been on heavy duty probiotics and will add the grapeseed extract tomorrow.  Do you think I should add the oregano as well.  I just wonder if my body would have taking care of this given the chance.  I hate to think I've compromised my immune system.  The doctors said my blood work was great and wounds are healing beautifully.  What's your take?

    1. I'm not a doctor so I'm hesitate to give advice. Like I said every body is different. You might have been able to fight any infection on your own. Definitely make sure you are taking probiotics and take good care of yourself. Miso soup helps build good flora as well. Glad your blood work was awesome and you are healing well!

  6. I became a vegetarian 1/1/2012. I felt so great! I stopped eating meat and animal products in the hopes it would clear up my eczema. I got really out of balance about 6 months down the road. I would get really sick drinking beer and alcohol. I got reoccurring yeast infections. I researched what could be the cause and I quit drinking. I was not getting better. So I tried quantum biofeedback. Through quantum biofeedback I found out what stresses were causing imbalances in my body. It also told me what nutrients I was deficient and what supplement I was already taking we’re effective and which were not. It worked better than a blood test in helping me find balance. I believe that I was thrown off so much because of alcohol, just being a social drinker. Alcohol hinders nutrient absorption. . Some of the deficiencies were b complex, amino acids, omega fatty acids, and I needed more oxygen in my blood. I was prescribed a candida cleanse and after that a parasite cleanse. Quantum biofeedback helps you find out exactly what your bodies individual needs are whether it is dietary, emotional or physical. I highly recommend it to vegetarians and meat eaters alike. I used Dragonfly Therapies here in Colorado. You can google it.

  7. Did I mention, no more eczema and no more candida infections. I did have to cut out all sugar intake for a while and no longer touch alcohol.

  8. I’m hesitant to supplement as well. But like you there are a couple that I do take both regularly and semi-regularly.

    I’ve had restless legs ever since I can remember so I find a combination of daily exercise and a Magnesium powder drink daily keeps this at bay.

    I also suffer from Hayfever with the seasonal changes so also take a daily Ultra Vitamin C powder which I mix up with the Magnesium.

    As a triathlete I am also regularly extending myself in training and competition, so I find an Iron/B12 supplement can assist when training hard, racing and celebratory drinks afterwards to fight fatigue and keep my red blood counts up.

    The other supplement I take is an Olive Leaf capsule when I feel that I may be coming down with a cold, etc and that generally keeps any lurgies at bay 🙂

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