Conventional practitioners seem to have a unified message regarding supplements on the Plant Paradox diet (or any diet). The message being: they’re a waste of money. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of figuratively running in the other direction when I hear a trending TV or Internet doctor mention the word.
The problem (or solution) with supplements is they aren’t treatments for symptoms. In other words, there’s no “pill for an ill.” Therefore, many doctors will say not to bother. Instead, take this [insert heavily marketed, pharmaceutical-funded clinically-proven drug].
When that particular drug causes side effects, there’s another one waiting on the next page of the prescription pad! (Allergists are notorious for this–I once walked away with prescriptions for 2 nose sprays, 4 pills, 2 creams, and 2 inhalers.) Pretty soon, you’ve got a medicine cabinet full of drugs that may be harming as much as they’re helping. But hey, at least all of your symptoms are under control (or not).
Supplements on the Plant Paradox
Dr. Gundry used to operate this way–he had the catchphrase “supplements make expensive urine.” But then he stopped working for insurance companies. After that, he started examining blood work–lots and lots of blood work. And what he found was that the things we eat–foods, vitamins, minerals, plant compounds, and yes, supplements–have measurable effects in the body. In fact, supplements have such an effect, he can tell in the blood work when a patient switches to a different brand.
What supplements does Dr. Gundry recommend?
Supplementation, while unnecessary for some, is a key component for many on the Plant Paradox diet. In this study of patients who went into remission from autoimmune disease, they supplemented with some of the most important plant compounds lacking in our modern diet. Dr. Gundry recommends these key supplements for additional support on the Plant Paradox protocol. They are:
- polyphenols with probiotics
- green plant phytochemicals
- essential vitamins & acids
Polyphenols are chemicals that naturally occur in the fruits and leaves of plants. They protect the plants from UV rays and biological attacks–viruses, fungi, insects. Typically, the more a plant is stressed, climate-wise, the more phenolic compounds it has. (This is, I believe, why Dr. Gundry recommends wines from grapes grown at higher elevations.) (1)
Many of us lack polyphenols from our diet. Rarely do the plants we eat come from a stressed growing environment. Even if they did, we usually don’t eat the leaves, which have more polyphenols than the fruits. These important compounds are shown to decrease incidence of type 2 diabetes, actively dilate blood vessels, and increase longevity. (2)
Polyphenol Supplements on the Plant Paradox
Here are a few of the sources Dr. Gundry recommends for supplementing with polyphenols on the Plant Paradox protocol:
- first cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil (this brand is my favorite)
- grape seed extract (recommends 1/day)
- resveratrol (1/day)
- pine tree bark extract (1/day)
- green tea extract
- cocoa powder (non-alkalized–I like this brand the best)
- cinnamon (make sure to get Ceylon)
- mulberry (get a leaf extract instead of the berries)
- pomegranate (I have used this powder in smoothies)
- Longevinex (Dr. Gundry writes he has taken this for the past decade)
- beverages: red wine, green tea, coffee
- foods: dark chocolate (the darker the better–this one’s my favorite)
Green Plant Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals is the name given to the broad class of chemical compounds–including polyphenols–produced by plants. Not all of them make good supplements on the Plant Paradox diet. The phytonutrients found in green plants like spinach, however, have been shown to control appetite and protect against deadly disease. (3)
Green Phytochemical Supplements on the Plant Paradox
According to Dr. Gundry, our gut bugs have an insatiable appetite for leafy greens. The more we give to our good gut bugs, the more they crowd out the bad bugs. Most importantly, they give the benefits back to us in the form of good health! More is better in the case of these phytonutrients.
There are over 25,000 identified phytonutrients found in plants. You could probably pick just about any green leaf and buy the extract, but here are some Dr. Gundry has singled out for their benefits:
- spinach extract (recommends 2/day)
- DIM + broccoli extract (1/day)
- modified citrus pectin–decreases number of bad bugs in the gut (1-2/day)
Firstly, prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers that pass through the GI tract intact. Secondly, they feed the gut bugs in the large intestine. Think of them as the fertilizer for all the leafy greens you’re eating (right?). There’s a whole category of approved foods on the Plant Paradox Diet that contain these prebiotic fibers.
Anecdotally, these starchier foods can be bothersome to those with SIBO, IBS, or diabetes (large amounts definitely bother me). Too many can stall weight loss or even cause weight gain. This is where one may want to supplement with small amounts of prebiotic fiber until they can tolerate more of the starchy foods (or a bigger supplemental dose).
Prebiotic Supplements on the Plant Paradox
Good sources of prebiotic fiber will cause your good gut bugs to multiply. This has been known to result in more…trips to the bathroom. So, start small and work your way up to the suggested dose on the bottle/can! Certain fibers are more efficient than others at fermenting in the colon. (4) Dr. Gundry identifies three especially beneficial fibers:
- psyllium husk powder (I take the NOW brand every morning with my probiotic–start with 1 tsp and work up to 1 T/day)
- galactooligosaccharides (Dr. Gundry recommends this brand–1 packet/day)
- inulin powder (1 teaspoon/day)
Essential Vitamins, Acids, & Minerals
People with chronic illness (including me) are often deficient in multiple vitamins, acids, and minerals. Our gut bacteria are responsible for providing us with these. And, well…if we’re chronically ill we’ve “decimated our rainforest.” Certainly it’s best to work closely with a doctor to monitor individual deficiencies. Most people, however, can benefit from the following:
Studies estimate that over a billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient or insufficient. And, this includes 100% of Dr. Gundry’s autoimmune patients. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a vast array of diseases. Moreover, it’s believed to play a role in every system in the body (see also: the gut). Dr. Gundry recommends starting with 5,000 IUs a day or 10,000 if you have an autoimmune disease. I take this brand with breakfast every morning. (5)
Thanks to the work of people like Dr. Ben Lynch, we now know that the synthetic folic acid (a B vitamin) in our breakfast cereals and flours is unusable. Ironically, it can cause B12 deficiency in up to half the population. Stopping the folic acid may be enough. However, you can also supplement with methylfolate (1/day) and methyl B12 (2 sprays/day) to help counter the decades-long effects of folic acid. (6)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids (read my fat article to learn about those) are crucial for brain health. And it’s no surprise–what with the rise of fake fat–that most of us are highly deficient in it. One study showed that people who lacked these fatty acids have poorer memory and smaller brains. (6) In other words, the “low fat” diet craze of the past few decades has done more harm than good.
There are several good supplemental sources of omega-3 acids with DHA. Personally, the Carlson’s liquid one is my favorite. I take a tablespoon a day. My 2-year-old daughter takes it too. She’s always asking for her fish oil. Whatever your source, Dr. Gundry recommends at least 1000 milligrams of DHA per day.
Your Individual Needs
The list of recommended supplements on the Plant Paradox diet overwhelmed me in the beginning. Therefore, I started this protocol by taking exactly none of them. I’m glad I did. It was a slower process, but it gave me a chance to test the waters with a new way of eating before adding in supplemental support.
Now that I’m well on my way to healing, I’ve incorporated many of Dr. Gundry’s suggestions. Similarly, I’ve also included suggestions from my own functional medicine practitioner. They have helped tremendously. In short, there’s no one way to supplement. Make the recommendations work for your overall health plan and you’ll be well on your way to success with the Plant Paradox lifestyle.