Are you confused when it comes to knowing which supplements to take? Does walking down the supplement aisle at your local health food store leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, wondering how to choose the best ones? When a friend tells you about the latest and greatest thing they are taking, do you rush off to buy it hoping it will work for you too?
I get it. I have formulated more than 500 products, patented over thirty novel ingredients, and am known as the World’s Greatest Formulator and the Ingredientologist but I didn’t start out that way.
I was just like you – unaware of the benefits certain supplements held and more importantly, how they could specifically help ME.
Now I speak regularly at conferences, on podcasts, and on local radio about the benefits of supplements in addition to healthy lifestyle habits like nutrition and exercise. Supplements can’t “fix” an unhealthy lifestyle but they can SUPPLEMENT and fill in the gaps when appropriately added and effectively dosed.
One of the top questions I’m regularly asked is, “What are the top supplements you recommend?”
This comes down to bio-individuality (meaning different bodies need different supplements) but if I had to list my top 10, here is what I would say:
My Top 10 Supplements List
Berberine/Dihydroberberine – I believe Berberine is the most important thing you can take. The name Shawn Wells has become synonymous with both Berberine and Dihydroberberine and I’ve been quoted as saying it is the most powerful and #1 ingredient that we know of for battling aging and disease and promoting wellness. It helps with blood sugar management and has been shown to be more effective than Metformin.(1,2) Metformin has been shown to be anti-aging on a number of fronts, with one study showing two to two and a half extra years of life!(3) Berberine outperforms Metformin and Dihydroberberine outperforms regular Berberine. Berberine or Dihydroberberine can help with advanced glycation end products or AGES. AGES can lead to inflammation and oxidation and glycation, inflammation and oxidation are the main pathways for aging and disease. My preferred brand is Genius Brand.
Multivitamin with Methylcobalamin & 5-MTHF – Methylcobalamin, the naturally occurring and active form of B-12 plays a role in synthesizing and metabolizing serotonin, a chemical that influences mood. 5-MTHF is an active form of folate that supports methylation. Up to 40% of the population has a genetic mutation called MTHFR that reduces the body’s ability to convert folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) to usable folate in the body. This mutation can also impair the absorption of certain vitamins and affect the body’s ability to detox. Taking methylfolate bypasses this conversion deficiency and can improve the health of those with this mutation. I like the Thorne brand.
High DHA Fish Oil – High DHA Fish Oil helps with phospholipids in the brain and has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression. EPA and DHA are nutrition all-stars and are well-known for supporting heart health, brain health, cognitive function, and more. DHA and EPA each have very specific functions. EPA levels seem to be closely correlated to mood while DHA has been shown to improve both memory and reaction time. DHA has also been found to elevate levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a very important growth factor for the brain and central nervous system.DHA may also be more effective than EPA at improving markers of heart health, and recent research shows that DHA appears to be superior to EPA when it comes to promoting a healthy inflammatory response. Based on the current body of research, a good recommendation is to take at least 500 – 1000mg (possibly as high as 2000mg) of DHA daily, and it’s a good idea to complement that with regular consumption of oily fish (e.g., wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, oysters, mussels). I like NOW foods, Nordic naturals, Barlean’s, and Carlson’s.
Prebiotics, Probiotics & Postbiotics –Prebiotics are short-chain fibers that are fermentable and used for fuel by the bacteria in the gut, though make sure you resolve any dysbiosis before using. My favorites are FOS, GOS, and a phage called PreforPro Probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut, where not only your digestion happens but also about 80 percent of your immunity. I prefer stable probiotics in spore form or that are microencapsulated. My favorite strain that is gaining great data is lactobacillus plantarum. Postbiotics, I believe, are the biggest game-changer when it comes to your health. They are the bioactive compounds that probiotic bacteria produce when they consume prebiotics (fiber) and this is a whole new area. Butyrate is one of the key short fatty acids that probiotics produce and it is pivotal in our overall health. (Butter is one of the best sources!) Tributyrin is the triglyceride form and is better absorbed than the free fatty acid. Probiotics are commonly recommended for many reasons and are popular due to their ability to help keep harmful microorganisms in check, promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, support a healthy digestive tract, and aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. While there are many brands out there, there is no one-size-fits-all option so you may have to experiment. I tend to lean toward formulas containing soil-based organisms or spore form since there’s solid evidence that they are more stable and can help support a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
Vitamin D3 + K2 – Low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with depression and both the sun and supplements can help. There are vitamin D receptors located throughout the body, including the various cells of the immune system. Vitamin D insufficiency is common and is associated with increased susceptibility to viral infections. A recently published study found that vitamin D deficiency was associated with a significantly increased risk for COVID-19, but a brand-new randomized controlled trial sounds encouraging—it showed that supplementation with vitamin D drastically reduced the severity of symptoms associated with COVID-19, reducing the rate of admission to the ICU from 50 percent (no vitamin D supplementation) to 2 percent (vitamin D supplementation). I find that supplementation is best tailored to one’s vitamin D status. I like to test vitamin D levels instead of making broad-stroke recommendations. Some people may need to supplement with 5,000-10,000 IU daily. I like the Thorne Brand.
Collagen – Collagen protein, and more specifically hydrolyzed collagen peptides, contains an incredibly unique amino acid profile. Collagen is high in proline, hydroxyproline, glycine and arginine, which are the same building blocks that make up the collagen-containing tissues in your own body—such as your joint cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles. While high-quality protein like whey is important for building muscle, collagen protein is critical for promoting full-body recovery. I take up to 40 grams of collagen daily and many people will benefit from at least 10-20 grams a day. Usually, different types of collagen (e.g., I, II, III, V, and X) work best to support the most robust array of full-body benefits. The brand I recommend is Biotrust.
Curcumin/Tetrahydracurcumin –Curcumin is the powerful polyphenol that is thought to be responsible for many of the benefits associated with turmeric, including profound anti-inflammatory effects and a potent ability to support the body’s antioxidant and detoxification systems. Studies have revealed that curcumin has antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects.(4) Not surprisingly, studies have shown that curcumin may also have beneficial effects on inflammation, cancer, joint health, blood sugar management, infections, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, mitochondrial function, athletic performance, and more. Because of curcumin’s poor solubility and absorption, I prefer liposomal curcumin or CurcuWIN (an optimized curcumin preparation), with a dose ranging between 500–1,000 mg a day. A new form called tetrahydrocurcumin may even be superior to curcumin for inflammation, antioxidant activity, and bioavailability—for this, I recommend 200 mg of CurcuPrime twice a day. This form is just now hitting the market so look for products soon.
Alpha-GPC – Alpha-GPC is a naturally-occurring choline, which refers to a class of molecules that are used for various functions in the brain. Supplementation with Alpha-GPC offers several potential mental and physical benefits including improved cognitive function, attenuated cognitive decline, increased power output, and increased growth hormone production. I prefer the branded form, Alpha-Size which supports mental acuity/normal cognitive function.
Creatine – Creatine is one of the most studied sports nutrition supplements of all time, and it is backed by a tremendous amount of evidence—both in the lab and in the real world. In my opinion, it is one of those “no-brainer” supplements that everyone should try to see how it works for them. Many people will find that it helps improve performance, builds muscle and increases strength—and there may even be cognitive and detoxification benefits. For daily use, I recommend five grams of creatine monohydrate such as Creapure.
Ashwagandha & Rhodiola – The adaptogens Ashwagandha and Rhodiola help normalize numerous systems and functions in the body, including the adrenals and the body’s stress response. Ashwagandha is highly regarded for its ability to promote health and longevity, slow the aging process, revitalize the body, combat stress, and improve feelings of well-being. It can also improve energy levels and mitochondrial health.(5) I would recommend looking for an Ashwagandha extract that is standardized to at least 5% withanolides, which are thought to be the compounds responsible for the benefits associated with Ashwagandha. A typical dosage is 300mg taken twice daily. My favorite form is Sensoril. Rhodiola, or Rhodiola Rosea is another one of my favorite adaptogens. Rhodiola’s most popular applications include relieving fatigue and improving concentration, memory, and productivity.(6) Studies have shown that supplementation with Rhodiola can also enhance learning, improve sleep, reduce irritability, increase strength, improve quality of work and feelings of wellbeing. I recommend using a Rhodiola supplement containing 3% Rosavins and 1% Salidrosides (the “active” components of the adaptogen). Dosing is typically 288 – 680mg per day. I’ve also recently formulated RhodioPrime 6X, a 6% salidrosides product and the strongest Rhodiola product which is about to hit the market so stay on the lookout for that. I hope this list gives you a better understanding of the Top 10 Supplements I regularly recommend. Again, you can’t out-supplement a bad diet so begin by eating more whole foods, less processed foods, and drinking more water. If your lifestyle is sedentary, add in a ten-minute walk every day. Pinpoint the areas in your life that are causing you the most stress and see what improvements can be made. Supplements are designed to be just that – supplementary.
In good health, Shawn
Wei W, Zhao H, Wang A, et al. A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012;166(1):99-105. doi:10.1530/EJE-11-0616.
Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013