Wheat Free: What Supplements Should I Be Taking?

Lots of people, whether on a wheat-free diet or not, take a multivitamin as “insurance” for a poor diet, but nothing can replace a proper diet for health. Too often, multivitamins contain too many of the wrong vitamins and not enough of the needed ones.

The other reason you probably don’t need to take a multivitamin is that with a diet void of wheat, added sugar, and vegetable oils and regular meals of nutrient-dense foods like meats and vegetables, you get most of your nutritional needs from your food.

Although the supplement amounts recommended here are generally safe, consult with your doctor about any possible drug interactions with other medications you're taking.

Magnesium on a wheat-free diet

Magnesium ranks as one of the most important compounds in the body for overall health. Studies have consistently shown that most Americans are deficient in this mineral. Bad food choices and depleted soil levels are the likely causes.

Higher magnesium levels reduce blood pressure by relaxing all the muscles in the body, including the heart. Magnesium dilates the arteries, making it easier for blood to flow freely. Higher levels also allow your body to better control its blood glucose levels. This in turn lowers the risk for diabetes and the inevitable heart disease associated with it.

Try to supplement with 400 milligrams per day of the chelated form. (Chelation is the process of combining minerals with amino acids, which makes them easier for the body to absorb.) Magnesium glycinate or malate are better absorbed and have fewer side effects than magnesium oxide or sulfate. The glycinate form should be taken at night because it aids with sleep, while the malate form should be taken in the morning for its energy boosting qualities.

If you're having muscle cramps, skip the bananas and try increasing your intake of magnesium. People often associate muscle cramps with a lack of potassium, so they eat bananas in hopes of warding off the painful muscle contractions. A magnesium deficiency is often the real culprit.

Fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids on a wheat-free diet

One of the leading causes of inflammation is an out-of-whack ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are considered to be inflammatory, while omega-3 fatty acids are generally considered to be anti-inflammatory. Because inflammation is associated with almost every disease in the body, balancing these factors is of utmost importance. A body free of inflammation tends to be a healthy body.

Omega-6 fatty acids need to be in close ratio to omega-3 fatty acids; the recommended ratio is 4:1 or less. Most people's ratios are far higher than that because of modern dietary choices.

Vegetable oils may be lower in saturated fat than butter, for example, but they have a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Corn oil and soybean oil, which can be found in almost every packaged food, are in the 100:1 range or more.

A good wheat-free diet can help bring down your omega-6 numbers, but you want to make sure you're getting enough omega-3s. Eating wild-caught oily fish (such as salmon) is the best way to get your omega-3s. But if you can't seem to work a couple of servings of fish into your diet each week, supplementing with fish oil is an option.

Fish oil supplements are excellent sources of EPA and DHA (two omega-3s important for bodily function, particularly in the brain). Remember, more isn't better. Fish oils, like all unsaturated oils, can cause oxidative damage to the body, which is unhealthy.

If you already eat fish a couple of times a week, you may consider taking the fish oil every other day only. If you don't eat fish at all, definitely try a daily dose.

Cod liver oil for vitamins A, D, and K2 on a wheat-free diet

Cod liver oil strikes a nerve with older generations because they remember their parents making them take it when they were sick. Its benefits to the immune system still ring true today (not to mention its effects on decreasing inflammation and improving heart function, glucose tolerance, and vision). The big difference now is that the options for flavored oils make the taste much more palatable.

Nutritionally, fish oil supplies higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Cod liver oil supplies lower levels of omega-3s but is rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. When these vitamins are in balance, they prevent the ill effects caused by having too much of any one of them. Here's a look at each of these vitamins in detail:

  • Vitamin A: Some of the many benefits of vitamin A include aiding the immune system, maintaining skin health, fighting cancer and slowing tumor growth, and helping fight diseases caused by viruses, among other things. Some research has shown that high levels of vitamin A can be potentially dangerous, but when balanced with vitamin D, the dangers all but disappear.

  • Vitamin D: Cod liver oil contains a naturally occurring form of vitamin D, which is associated with protecting against heart attacks and some cancers, promoting strong bones, and aiding in a healthy immune system. You can get vitamin D from exposure to UV light and from foods such as fish, eggs, beef liver, and pork.

    Food/supplement sources of vitamin D become more important for those who use sunscreen and/or live in northern latitudes (especially in the winter), plus those who are older (your ability to convert sun rays to vitamin D diminishes as you age). For these reasons, research suggests that as much as half the world's population is deficient in vitamin D.

  • Vitamin K2: Although vitamin K2 was discovered at the same time as vitamin K, only recently have scientists realized that K2 has a completely different function. Whereas K is involved in blood clotting, K2 plays a role in directing where calcium is deposited, mainly away from the heart and arteries and into bones and teeth where it belongs. It's also important for skin, brain, and prostate health.

    Food sources include cheese, pastured egg yolks, grass-fed chicken liver, salami, chicken breast, grass-fed beef, and natto (a traditional food product made from fermented soybeans). Because most people don't eat grass-fed meats or natto, supplementation from cod liver oil is a good idea.

Try the fermented type of cod liver oil. Fermentation, meaning the oil is processed using digestive enzymes rather than heat or chemicals, maximizes the availability of the nutrients without harming the product in the process. Use the recommended amount listed on the bottle; because cod liver oil is a real food and not a manmade supplement, the exact dosage of each vitamin is inexact from bottle to bottle, so there is no specific guideline.

Probiotics on a wheat-free diet

A probiotic supplement helps beef up the good bacteria in your system. Humans are exposed to probiotics from the moment they pass through the birth canal. During birth, bacteria from the mother moves to the infant, whose gastrointestinal (GI) tract starts developing “good” bacteria — probiotics.

A good recommendation is to use probiotics only on an as-needed basis, not daily. Those times include coming off a course of antibiotics, recovering from a chronic illness, or going through an extremely stressful life situation. Heat damages probiotic supplements, so keep them refrigerated. Look for a supplement that has multiple strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, and follow the label for dosage amounts.

Yogurt is advertised for its probiotic abilities, but don't be fooled by the marketing. Modern-day yogurt isn't like traditional yogurt in its raw and unpasteurized state. Today's pasteurized yogurt is void of most of the beneficial bacteria because of the heat involved in processing.

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