Supplement Shopping 101: My Top 7 Picks

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Supplement101 1080X675 1 | Supplement Shopping 101: My Top 7 Picks

In a picture-perfect world, we’d get all the vitamins and minerals we need from food—real food.

However, we live in a society where only 1 in 10 Americans eats the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and where approximately 70-million people experience some sort of digestive dysfunction regularly (bloating, gas, constipation, GERD, IBS, stomach cramps)—and that’s not including the millions of people with other poor-gut-health related conditions (i.e. skin breakouts, allergies, autoimmune conditions, inflammation, ADD/ADHD, anxiety).

In short:

(1.) We’re not getting all our vitamins and minerals, and

(2.) We’re not digesting the minerals and vitamins we DO eat in the first place.

Enter: Supplementation.

No matter how well we eat, some nutrients are difficult to obtain enough of from food alone.

Supplements are NOT meant to replace food, but instead ENHANCE the nutrient profile you do consume (and help you consume those necessary nutrients on a daily basis).

Unfortunately, the problem most people run into is that they are completely OVERWHELMED by all the noise and information about what to take or what they even need.

  • Infomercials scream at you to buy a fat-burner
  • Your Google search on adult acne swears by fish oil
  • And if you want “all around” wellness, the best answer is a multi-vitamin (duh…obviously)

NOT so fast.

The problem you run in to when you take rands-supplements from the shelves or hodge podge your own “natural” medicine cabinet is multi-folded.

Problem 1: What You See is Not What You (Always Get)

For starters, not all supplements are created equal. Just like the Fruit Loops commercial that says, “A delicious part of a nutritious breakfast!” what you see and hear is not always what you get.

Under a 1994 federal law, supplements are HIGHLY UNREGULATED and exempt from the food and drug administration’s strict approval process for prescription drugs, which requires reviews of a product’s safety and effectiveness before it goes to market.

Thus, one fish oil can be completely different from the next (in fact, generic fish oil is not advised since many formulas go rancid before you consume them altogether through the production and shipping process).

Another issue is that for some (cheaper) companies, the manufacturing process does not put the real deal vitamins or minerals in the supplements in the first place—many generic and grocery store brands often contain the “watered” down versions of the ingredients on the label.

A 2015 study of four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart—found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies

A study (Newmaster et al, 2013) two years earlier tested 44 different products and found that one-third showed complete substitution (i.e. there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place), and many were synthesized with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, used as fillers.

Problem 2: You May Take the Wrong Things

Yesterday, we talked all about Calcium Supplements and how often times, this overly prescribed supplement is not what you actually need at all. Instead, calcium co-factors like Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, Magnesium and enough protein may actually be what you’re missing and the reason why you have osteoporosis, stress fractures or risk for weaker bones.

Another example: Multi-vitamins. Multi-vitamins are ALOT of talk, without as much action. Half of Americans currently take this “all-in-one” supplement, but many studies show that multivitamins either provide no benefit or may even cause harm. One investigation of over 400,000 people who took multi-vitamins (or individual vitamins found in multi-vitamins)  found zero clear evidence of a beneficial effect of the pills for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

And while a multi-vitamin may make you THINK that you’re getting everything you need, if you are UNABLE to absorb or digest these minerals in the first place, then you run into problem 3.

Problem 3: You’re Peeing Them Out

Even though it may not seem like it, some supplements are great for helping you meet your body’s daily and weekly nutrient needs (especially if you’re not getting everything your need from your food for optimal health). However, In order to get ANY benefit from a supplement you take, you MUST be able to digest ‘em. And, as we mentioned ,upwards of 70 to 100—million of you are having difficulties with your digestion and absorption right now.

Which brings me to Thrive’s Top Supplements Do’s & Don’ts—My top supplement recommendations (you can find at many grocery stores or online) for a Baseline of Thriving Health.

Remember, NOTHING replaces a truly balanced diet (not the Fruit Loop’s version of balance, but the Thrive Balance of Protein, Vegetables and 1 to 2 Fats with every meal). Throw in a little bit of digestion-boosting support plus a few KEY general healthy-living supplements, and you up the ante (to feel even more amazing).

You don’t know how great you were meant to feel until you feel it. Supplementation enhances that “slight edge” hack to help you feel it.

Thrive’s Top Supplement DOS & DON’T

7 Supplements You CAN Find on Shelves (at Whole Foods or Your Grocery Store)

  1. I call probiotics the REAL multi-vitamin most any human gut can benefit from—as they provide your body with a healthy dose of much-needed gut bacteria that we really don’t get from anywhere else.Arm thy gut with this “steel armor” to help your micro biome thrive in a flourishing, healthy garden rather than a rotting garbage land fill.Ideally, look for soil-based organisms and strains within the 6-10 billion range—as most of these are well-tolerated by most people. In addition, if you DO suffer from a chronic health problem, also consider adding a supplemental prebiotic (like guar gum or a top-notch formula like Prebiogen) as well, ensures you absorb your probiotic in the first place.In addition, don’t underestimate Fermented Foods (sauerkraut, low sugar kombucha,kim chi, beet kvaas, kefir (water and dairy), yogurt, cortido, etc)—natural food-based probiotics.Whole Foods Market: Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra
    Order: Prescript Assist (my top fave for soil-based formulas)
  1. HCL (Hydrochloric Acid)
    Stomach acid is GOOD for you and is essential for breaking down food from the starting point (in your stomach). Your stomach is one of the most acidic environments in your body and without stomach acid, digestion and gut-lining health is impaired. Signs and symptoms of low stomach acid include: Bloating, constipation, belching or gas, skin breakouts, allergies, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, fatigue, GERD and heartburn)—most of the digestive and health symptoms connected with all things gut. The good news? You can boost your stomach acid with one of these methods:Whole Foods Market: NOW Betaine HCL, Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
    Order: Spectmazyme Metagest by Metagenics 
  1. Digestive Enzymes
    If probiotics are the healthy “soil” and fertile ground in your microbiome, and HCL helps jumpstart the process of digestion to ensure it goes smoothly through the process, digestive enzymes are the “Pac Mans” that eat the food in your digestive system on down the line (small intestine in particular). One to two capsules with a meal can help with the triple threat gut-boost your digestion (and absorption of minerals and vitamins) could benefit from.

    Whole Foods Market
    : Source Naturals Essential Enzymes, Garden of Life Vegetarian Digestive Enzymes (also a version for men)
    Order: Digestzymes by Designs for Health (Use: Dr. Lauryn as your referral you to order from this quality-regulated site)
  1. Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO). Fatty acids do a body good. Fermented Cod Liver helps decrease inflammation (like blood pressure, skin breakouts and cholesterol markers) in the body, boost brain power (decrease anxiety and depression), enhance digestion and absorption.Choose FCLO over a standard Fish Oil supplement to ensure you get the real deal.Unlike many fish oil supplements, Fermented Cod Liver Oil is cold processed through fermentation so it keeps high levels of fat soluble vitamins (A and D) and fatty acids that are not damaged by high temperatures. Vitamin A and Vitamin D help you absorb your fatty acids in the first place. Additionally, cod liver oil is much less associated with rancidity, like fish oil, in research studies (meaning: what you see is what you get).Whole Foods Market: Best bet hands down: Buy wild-caught cold-water fatty fish (eat 1 lb./week or 2 8-ounce servings); Whole Foods has one of the best fish departments around and receives daily shipments from sustainably caught fishermen. For the supplement versions, order online:
    Order:  Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil liquid or capsules; Rosita Cod Liver Oil
  1. Magnesium
    Over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body require magnesium. And, unfortunately, magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies in our country since magnesium is difficult to obtain from food. Nuts and seeds contain a high amount of magnesium, however most people don’t consume nuts and seeds in their raw, pre-soaked forms, so the lectins and phytates on nut shells prevent our absorption of them in the first place. Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include: constipation, muscle cramps, heart arrhythmias, tremor, headaches and acid reflux, and magnesium deficiency is also associated with CVD, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, migraines, PMS, asthma, hypothyroidism. I recommend 400 – 800 mg/day from a combo of food and supplements is an optimal range to shoot for. Since most people get less than 250 mg/d from food, a dose of 400 – 600 mg/d in supplement form is optimal.

    Whole Foods Market:
    Natural Calm Magnesium Powder
    Ancient Minerals Magnesium
  1. B-Vitamin Complex
    Boost energy (and mindset) naturally and just about every other cellular function in your body with some B-Vitamins in your life. A B-Complex contains a spectrum of the B-Vitamins responsible for tons of metabolic reactions; from neural health to metabolism; muscle recovery breakdown of fats, carbs and proteins; cardiovascular health, no PMS—and about anything else you can think of.Whole Foods: Garden of Life Vitamin Code B-Complex  or MegaFood Balanced B-Complex
    Order: Pure Encapsulations B-Complex 
  1. Zinc Tablet. 10-15 mg. per day gives your body a metabolic booster that is essential for practically every function in your body.While it is estimated that only 1 in 10 Americans are technically considered “zinc deficient” according to lab work, a much higher percentage are still largely insufficient based on symptoms and considerations of the forces working against you for deficiency.Excess consumption of grains, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and other minerals (including calcium, iron and copper), as well as stress, low stomach acid and medication use all reduce zinc levels. If you are vegetarian (or worse, vegan), your risk of a zinc deficiency is also increased dramatically since the majority of zinc comes from animal sources. And even if you’re a meat eater, if you are NOT digesting your meats in the first place or eating poor quality conventional meats, then you are also at risk.Signs and symptoms that indicate you could benefit from a zinc supplement include:
    • Acne
    • Anorexia
    • Anxiety
    • Asthma
    • Behavior Changes
    • Constipation
    • Dandruff
    • Delayed Wound Healing
    • Depression
    • Diarrhea
    • Fatigue
    • Frequent Infection
    • Hair Loss
    • Headaches
    • Impaired Memory
    • Joint Pain
    • Learning Disabilities
    • Loss Of Appetite And Taste Perception
    • Sensitive Skin
    • Severe PMS
    • Skin And Respiratory Allergy
    • Slowed Sexual Maturation
    • Unhealthy Weight Loss Caused By Loss Of Appetite
    • Vision Problems
    • White Spots In The Fingernails

    If 3 or more of these symptoms sounds familiar, consider what a Zinc supplement could do for you.

    Whole Foods: Nature’s Way Zinc
    Zinc AG  OR Zinlori  (great if indigestion and digestive issues are your problem)

10 Supplements to Avoid Altogether

Little to no known benefits (even adverse side effects) are associated with this hit list of unnecessary supplements

  1. Adrenal Supplements (sold on shelves at the grocery store)
  2. Beta Carotene
  3. Calcium
  4. Iron
  5. Fat Burner Supplements (focus on digestive wellness plus real whole foods before popping a falsely marketed pill)
  6. Fish Oil
  7. Folic Acid (it’s a synthetic form of Folate)
  8. Multi-vitamins
  9. Vitamin E
  10. Soy Protein or Whey Concentrate (with ingredients of names you can’t pronounce)

Want to stay up to date with more mind and body boosting tips? Download my free 7-Day Gut Healing Cleanse Guide (no crazy diets included) and keep in the loop with Thrive’s Latest Tips.

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