Do hunter gatherers take supplements? Probably not. Why? Well, they don’t have access to amazon.com. Just kidding, that’s not why they don’t need supplements. A hunter gatherer lifestyle naturally consists of all the things a body needs: antioxidants, proper omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, good bacteria in the gut, mineral water, ample amounts of protein and plenty of sunlight.
Since I live in a box, drive in a box on wheels, to work in a box – all to just return to my box and to pay for my box. Getting all the things listed above is pretty difficult – even when you’re eating healthy and exercising. So, my family and I use certain staple supplements to offset the fact that I can’t hunt all day and eat local gathered fruits and vegetables all day. Below are the staples that we include in our diet and these are just suggestions so be sure to consult your doctor before taking any of these, especially if you’re pregnant (which my wife is but we chose to ignore the doctor regarding our 5000 IU intake of Vitamin D).
There has been a lot of stuff in the news about how multivitamins have been shown to be useless or not that beneficial. The study they cite is normally using this data, but that same data was used in another study and found that multivitamins help to prevent cancer in men. Without going too much into it, I still take a high quality multivitamin and my wife takes a high quality prenatal vitamin. Sure, the best way to get all these vitamins is from real food which we try to do, but we can’t always get these in our diet daily – so for that reason we use a multivitamin.
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2. Vitamin D
You’re probably Vitamin D deficient. That’s just the reality. We don’t spend as much time in the sun as we need to. If you’re unsure or want to check you can go to your doctor and ask for your 25(OH)D levels tested. The first time I got my test I was just barely in the range of not being deficient (36 ng/mL), and I was already making an attempt to get in the sun more. I then realized that I needed to supplement vitamin D orally to get my levels higher. Sure you can get vitamin D from fish, pastured eggs and raw milk – but it’s still not enough. You need sun to have your body synthesize the vitamin or you take a supplement. I now take 5000 IU daily, as does my pregnant wife, and my levels are now at 74 ng/mL. The Vitamin D Council recommends a range between 50 – 80 ng/ml, therefore I aim for that.
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3. Fish Oil
This one isn’t really controversial. We all should be taking fish oil, it’s even one that my pregnant wife’s doctors are ok telling her to take in high doses. Fish oil is important because we should be shooting for an omega3/6 ratio of 1:1. That ratio gets thrown off from things like industrial seed oils and grain fed cattle. That’s why we should be cooking in butter, coconut oil, lard, olive oil, etc… and consuming grass fed meats. The standard american diet’s omega 3/6 ratio is about 1:30! Getting our ratio to 1:1 is pretty difficult but worth it as it reduces overall inflammation, reduces our risk of cancer, lowers our risk for heart disease and many other health benefits that you can google. How much do we need? Mark Sisson suggests that 1–3 grams of fish oil each day is a good way to restore balance.
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4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is good for boosting your immune system, therefore when I feel like I’m getting sick I take a good amount of vitamin C (2000IU). To keep my immune system boosted, I normally take a slow release 1000IU every day. According to this cancer.gov site there have been lab studies that have shown that high doses of vitamin C may slow the growth and spread of prostate, pancreatic, liver, colon, and other types of cancer cells. Granted those higher doses of vitamin C are way beyond 2000 IU, they’re administered through IV and in the 100,000 IU range. Nevertheless vitamin c is a powerful vitamin that I find essential for my health.
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Maintaining gut flora is essential for health. Now I could get the proper bacteria in my gut by eating dirt but that’s not really an option. I’m never really around dirt to get the benefits of good bacteria present in the dirt and I’m normally around Purell dispensers and antibacterial soap all day. For that reason I take a probiotic supplement daily. Sure you could get some good bacteria from some yogurt, kefir or kombucha but I like to get a good amount of bacteria in my gut from a probiotic supplement to counterbalance the 20 trillion colony forming units (CFU). The probiotic I take is about 25 billion CFU which is only a fraction of what’s already in the gut but it sure is better than the measly 1 billion CFU in the one you probably see on TV most often.
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6. Mineral Drops
The purified water we drink typically has the minerals removed. Especially the water from the tap or refrigerator. Therefore I find it essential to add back in the minerals with these drops. I think it makes the water even taste better but you also get the benefit of adding back in the minerals that they normally take out. Things like calcium in drinking water have been associated with reduced risks of kidney cancer. Once again it would be ideal to get these trace minerals from inadvertently consuming dirt from foraging or something, but the produce in my grocery store is sparkling clean. However when I do use herbs from my garden I tend to leave some dirt on there just for good measure.
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7. Protein Powder
This one is something the whole family uses and comes in real handy for our almost 2yr old daughter. She needs protein but she really only likes chicken and I can only eat so much chicken before I go crazy. Therefore we have been making this chia flax pudding for her that I wrote about here and we add in Primal Fuel. Primal Fuel is great because it has protein and fat. If you just pick up some other whey protein powder it’s most likely got a bunch of other junk in it and probably “low fat”. Whey protein is a great way to add extra protein in your diet and it’s animal based protein therefore it has a higher bioavailability than say pea protein or brown rice protein. If whey doesn’t work for you, you can always use cricket flour.
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The 7 vitamins & supplements listed above are just some ways our family makes up for the fact that we can’t hunt and gather all day and be truly primal 24/7. These things help us get one step closer to living a more primal healthy life. What are some other vitamins and supplements you or your family use to close that primal/modern world gap?