Essential Supplements for Fall

With the crisp air returning as we head into the mid-fall season, now’s the time that we find ourselves reaching for our sweaters, unpacking our coats and cranking up the thermostats. This is also when we should think about making changes to our supplement regimen. The needs of your body change with the seasons, and to help you ease into the transition of November, we’ve compiled the top three supplements for fall.

Shorter days and less sun exposure increase the need for external sources of vitamin D, a crucial hormone responsible for countless reactions in the body, including helping us to absorb dietary calcium for bone health. Vitamin K2, a complementary vitamin to vitamin D, is a rising star in the supplement world with benefits for bone and heart health. Lastly, the final fall supplement continues its rise in prominence with a wide range of benefits: probiotics.

Vitamin D

The primary role of vitamin D is to allow our body to absorb calcium from our diet.  Without adequate vitamin D, we run the risk of inadequate bone mineralization, as well as long-term impacts on our bone strength. Other important activities of vitamin D include supporting mental health and immunity.

As we pile on the layers and reduce our exposure to the sun — and therefore reduce our body’s production of vitamin D in the skin — this means that we need to increase vitamin D in our diet or add a supplement into the mix. This is incredibly important, as nearly one-third of Canadians do not have enough vitamin D in the blood to support proper bone health. In the winter, this number rises to over 40 per cent of Canadians.

Health Canada recommends that most adults consume at least 600 IU of vitamin D per day, with Canadians over the age of 70 requiring more at over 800 IU per day. To help you visualize this, milk is fortified in Canada at 100 IU per cup. This would require a lot of milk to meet your basic needs, which is why it’s so important to add a vitamin D supplement to your winter regimen.

Vitamin K2

There has been a lot of talk in health circles recently about the benefits of vitamin K2. This vitamin, which is active in the blood and is known as menaquinone, is relatively lesser known among the supplement world, but its role in the maintenance of good health is undisputed.

Vitamin K2 is involved with bone health as it plays an essential role in taking calcium from the blood stream and using it to build bone, making it a good supplement to pair with vitamin D in helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Its bone-building properties have been turning heads, as well as its benefits for reducing a crucial risk factor for cardiovascular disease. As calcium levels in the blood rise, this can cause the buildup of calcium plaques deposited on the inside of blood vessels. Recent research has found that increased dietary intake of vitamin K2 can decrease cardiovascular disease risk by reducing the amount of calcification (or hardening) in the blood vessels. This is an important step that can lead to a reduction in peripheral artery disease.

These two supplements pair up as a super duo, with vitamin D helping to increase calcium absorption from our diet into our blood stream, and then from our blood into the bone-building process with vitamin K2.

Probiotics

With the change in fall activities, getting kids to school and other activities on time have us rushed and worn out, leaving our immune systems at risk. Another fall supplement that’s essential to keeping your body fighting-fit in the lead-in to cold and flu season is probiotics. Defined as live bacteria with healthy benefits, probiotics come in many forms of foods, such as in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and kefir, or in supplement form.

There’s a growing body of research that shows the benefits of probiotic supplementation for the immune system. Probiotics have been shown to reduce the sensitivity to allergens related to asthma and allergic rhinitis (or a runny nose). The reduction in the over-reactivity (anti-inflammatory) role of probiotics on inflammation of the airway is also helpful at this time of year.

The challenge comes when identifying the most potent strains for specific purposes. There are thousands (if not more) of strains of bacteria that live in and on our bodies, and each strain available as a probiotic has been linked to different benefits, whether it’s reducing inflammation in the airways (Lactobacillus paracasei), intestinal inflammation (Lactobacillus reuteri) or gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea (Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii).

Many supplements at your local CHFA Member health food store deliver a wide range of probiotic strains to provide a wide net of benefit. These supplements enrich your inner ecosystem with beneficial bacteria to help prime your body’s immune system for the coming season of illness.

The change of the seasons is a natural reminder to revisit your approaches to maintaining and improving your health. Consider updating your supplement regimen by revisiting vitamin D, introducing its natural partner vitamin K, and priming your immune system with probiotics.

As always, speak with your health care practitioner about which products are right for you before making any changes to your healthy regimen.