Monday, February 2, 2015

What Vitamins Should I Take?

I always wonder if I am taking the right vitamins and supplements in the right amounts.  In TheWahls Protocol, Dr. Wahls notes that it is best to get our nutrients from food, since they are found in proportions that work together, and probably include many that haven’t even been discovered yet.  However, she does make a recommendation for some supplements.

In 2010, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I consulted with a naturopath, Dr. Lamson at the Tahoma Clinic, who immediately said we would construct a “bullet-proof vest” for me during my treatment.  I felt safer just hearing him say that!  The supplements I take today are part of my bullet-proof vest, and I used his notes as a starting point to make this list.  I also considered recommendations from two books that I have chosen for advice during this year of health:  The Wahls Protocol and The Rosedale Diet.

Please remember this list is for me, not a general guide.  If I hadn’t had cancer, I’d probably still only be taking the single multivitamin I took for most of my life, and the occasional extra vitamin C when I had a cold.

Here are the supplements I came up with for myself for this year:

·      Multivitamin – Thorne Basic Nutrients III – The III means this is the version without copper or iron.  This is the one my naturopath recommended.  The label says to take 3 – 6 capsules daily.  I never worked up to more than 2 per day while in treatment, and I’m going to stay at that level for now.  I’m afraid if I try to take too many pills, I’ll start skipping them and feeling negative about taking them.  Also, high-quality supplements are expensive!

·      Vitamin D3 – I’ve discussed this with my oncologist, because I was quite low during chemo.  I took quite a lot until tests showed I was getting too high, and now I take 1,000 IU per day.  I no longer get tested at my cancer checkups, so I’ll need to watch this myself with my primary care physician.

·      Amino Acid Supplement – JoMar Labs Pure Form 21 Blend.  Amino acids are involved in energy production, among other things, and my naturopath recommended this blend of 21 amino acids.  It includes L-Arginine and L-Glutamine recommended by Dr. Rosedale, but not L-Carnitine.  My naturopath had recommended a different product for L-Carnitine, which I’m going to let go for now, since we eat a fairly large amount of red meat, which is a good source.

·      Coenzyme Q10 – This is an easy decision, as it is recommended by all three of my resources, in the same amount, 100mg / day.  It aids in energy production, lowers blood pressure and is a powerful antioxidant.  Dr. Rosedale says people who take statin drugs to lower cholesterol need CoQ10 because those drugs deplete it.

·      Omega-3 Fatty Acids – All three resources mention fish oil, so this is another easy decision.  Rosedale specifies Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil, and I already had Carlson’s Fish Oil in the fridge, from Whole Foods.  I take 1 tablespoon / day.  This is the hardest to remember, as it’s a liquid in the fridge instead of a pill in my pill box!  (btw Carlson's fish oils don't taste fishy at all - they have a mild lemon flavor.)

·      Probiotic – to keep the good gut flora outnumbering the bad ones.  A recommendation I’ve heard often is to vary the brand each time you buy it so you are always getting a different mix.  And remember to keep it in the fridge!

      ·      Melatonin – recommended by my naturopath to help me sleep better, and also helpful for cancer patients.  
·      One prescription Rx – an aromatase inhibitor called Anastrozole.  This is prescribed for people after treatment for hormone-receptive breast cancer.  Taking it for 5 years after treatment helps keep the amount of estrogen in the body very low and keeps the cancer from coming back. 

Of course, having little to no estrogen is not so great for a woman for other reasons.  The worst side effect is joint pain, but others include hot flashes, older-looking skin and memory issues.  I’ve been lucky and none of these are too bad, but I’m wondering if some of my joint pain will go away after the summer of 2016 when I can stop taking it.  I’m pretty sure at that time, my oncologist will suggest going another 5 years for additional safety, and I think before I do that, I’ll go a few months without and see if it makes a difference.

I’m adding to the list above a few items that I have on hand, from purchasing them after reading some book or other, and not finishing up the bottle.  In the interests of not wasting my money already spent, I’ll use up any that are not past expiration, that were mentioned by any of my three resources, but I don’t plan to buy more.

·      Glucosamine Chondroitin and MSM Complex, healthy joint formula  from Whole Foods.

·      Curcumin antioxidant support – contains turmeric.  I have read it’s helpful to sprinkle turmeric powder on salads, which would be more economical.

·      Ashwaganda – a Himalayan herb that is a member of the nightshade family, prescribed by my naturopath to support me during chemo, with which my oncologist agreed.  I have been taking it ever since, but recently read something (wish I could remember where) that said one should not take ashwaganda indefinitely.  I only have a couple of weeks’ worth left and I won’t buy more without checking back with the doctor.

And last, here are two items that are recommended that I am going to skip for now.

·      Calcium / magnesium – there is a small amount of each of these in my multivitamin, though not the amount Dr. Wahls recommends.  My naturopath pointed out that Epsom salts contain magnesium and that it is absorbed when added to a bath.

·      I am noting that the Tahoma Dispensary has digestive enzymes that match what Wahls calls for.  Did not order at this time, but perhaps I will try them in the future.

In order to remember to take all my pills, I have two large daily pill boxes, and a small one for the probiotic in the refrigerator.  I’m supposed to take the probiotic before breakfast, and the amino acid supplement on an empty stomach before breakfast and dinner, and the rest with my food.  I tend to remember when eating dinner at home, and often forget at breakfast and when eating out.  I'll work on making it a habit, morning and evening.

Whew, it was surprisingly difficult to come up with a definite plan, even though I had a head start from my naturopath.  I haven’t consulted with Dr. Lamson since I “graduated” from cancer treatment, but I had a different naturopath (Dr. Donna Kachinskas, who had been a student of his) as my primary care physician until going on Medicare, which doesn’t cover naturopaths or their recommendations.  I’ll schedule a follow-up with her sometime soon to review this list of supplements.  As I do better with my eating, I’d like to reduce the list to a more manageable and affordable number of pills.


  1. I enjoyed your post. I'm looking at different vitimins and my list includes some of yours. My first priority is something for my digestive tract. Today I started an Antioxidant Power of 20+ servings of Fruits and Vegetables. It's a powder form and gluten free. Thanks for the great info.

    1. I'll be interested to hear how the antioxidant works out. I think starting a probiotic was helpful for my digestion. Thanks for reading and commenting!