Written by Dr. Laura Jones, Naturopathic Doctor
Likely you have at least one or two supplements you take daily, perhaps just a simple multivitamin or omega-3 fatty acid. Or maybe you remember to take that one probiotic daily because it made such a difference in your health when you started taking it. We all should strive to consume as many nutrients as possible through our diet, which limits what we need to take in the supplement department. However, the demands we put on our bodies, our genetics, and our environment also influence what the body needs. Sometimes, it is difficult to get through diet alone. For patients looking for a simple supplement plan, the foundational items such as a multivitamin, omega-3, probiotic and D3 often are included in our recommendations. But summer brings new considerations when designing a supplement regime. Here are some helpful tips and tidbits that you may considering adding to your routine.
Vitamin C and other antioxidants (Ex: Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Vitamin E) can help to manage free radicals that result from sun exposure, offering some protection from aging skin and cancer risk. It can also support the immune system and limit histamine responses to seasonal allergies, lessening allergy symptoms – especially when combined with bioflavonoids (see Aller-C by Vital Nutrients).
If you’re using sunscreen (and you should, but see our safe recommendations), you’re not only preventing sunburn, but the rays that deliver Vitamin D to your body as well. One study showed that vitamin D deficiency was just as high in the summer as it was in winter. Calcium absorption is also increased with Vitamin D supplementation, so if you’re taking calcium year-round, you don’t want to stop taking Vitamin D during the summer. Reducing the dose should suffice. Average doses are 1000iu to 5000iu daily but are based on individual needs and baseline values.
Summer months mean BBQs and grilled food but unfortunately grilling protein-packed chicken, omega-3 rich fish, or the occasional piece of red meat can be harmful to your body. Cooking meat quickly at high temperatures releases chemicals known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs cause oxidative stress and inflammation at a cellular level, leading to premature aging such as wrinkles, and dementia. They are also carcinogenic. This means they raise our risk of certain types of cancers.
To address the AGEs, L-carnosine supplementation can be helpful. Carnosine is a potent antioxidant which occurs naturally in our bodies. This powerful antioxidant effect can neutralize the impact of AGEs on the body. Natural carnosine levels, however, have been shown to decrease by 63% between ages 10 and 70. A therapeutic dose is 500-1000mg daily.
The summer sun feels amazing, especially after a long New England winter, however, exposure to UV light can increase pro-inflammatory markers in the body. Astaxanthin, a carotenoid, is naturally anti-inflammatory and has been shown to prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, assist with collagen production, and prevents oxidative damage in the body caused by stress and exercise. Astaxanthin is a strong consideration after more sun exposure than you intended or to take daily if you are spending the summer months in the great outdoors.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that contribute to the maintenance of a healthy digestive system. A probiotic supplement can help populate your gastrointestinal tract with friendly bacteria so that you are better protected during summer travel or adventurous eating.
B vitamins have many functions throughout the body and are important nutrients for maintaining energy levels and modulating stress. Certain B vitamins also have roles in the immune system, and B1 has been shown helpful in repelling mosquitos!