Where Supplements Fit on a Healing Diet

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fork spearing a supplement capsule that contains vegetables

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
~ Hippocrates.

Nutrient Density

If you’re on a healing diet, you’ll hear this phrase a lot. It’s all about choosing the foods that have the greatest nutrition: high quality meat and seafood, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and healing foods like bone broth and organ meats. When you’re using food as medicine, your food choices become very important.

Although it would be nice if supplements could replace those choices, the experts agree that nature doesn’t work that way. Why not? Lots of reasons, actually:

  • Nutrition in nature is designed to work in synergy. There is no food that contains one nutrient only. That’s not a mistake. One vitamin will help the absorption of another, and fiber and fat make a difference as well. When we eat whole foods, we get everything we’re supposed to get, in the form it’s intended.
  • When we take supplements, we can get too much of one nutrient and not enough of another. “Many nutrients compete for absorption sites in the gut. So, if we supplement too much calcium for example, it may impair absorption of other nutrients: magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and amino acids, creating deficiencies in those nutrients.” (The GAPS Diet, page 296).
  • There are many nutrients that haven’t yet been identified. Supplement manufacturers guess at the “active compound” that makes a food medicinal, but no supplement in isolation is going to be as powerful as the magic combination that exists within the original food. Terry Wahls learned this in her own experimentation. Supplements halted her decline, but it wasn’t until she increased the nutrient density in her diet that her MS symptoms actually improved.
  • Treating the symptom vs. addressing root cause. Most nutrient deficiencies in people with autoimmune disease have their root in digestive problems. The answer isn’t to supplement, because the body will have trouble digesting the supplements as well. The answer is to heal the digestion, so that you can absorb deep nutrition from your food, as intended.
  • Dr. Sarah Ballantyne puts it succinctly: “For most people, simply eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods will provide all the vitamins and minerals required for health, in the appropriate quantities relative to one another for optimal absorption and use by the body.” (The Paleo Approach, page 89.)
  • The image below shows the power of nutrient density. The pink bar is the Wahls Protocol, and the blue bar is the Standard American Diet. The only nutrient requirement that isn’t completely filled under the Wahls Protocol is vitamin D, and that is best gotten from the sun. (The Wahls Protocol, page 151)

Chart showing the nutrition of the Wahls Diet compared to Standard American Diet

Supplement Wisely

  • Does this mean you never need supplements? No. It simply means we should all focus on food first, and supplements second, and make our decisions wisely. Usually, autoimmune symptoms don’t disappear overnight, so it’s not uncommon to have supplement needs as we heal.
  • Read the labels carefully. One of the most common places food intolerances sneak back into a healing diet is through supplements and medication. How frustrating to work so hard avoiding trigger foods, only to discover you’re eating them daily in your medicine! Read the ingredient list carefully. If you don’t recognize a word, do a google search to learn more. Look for allergen statements on the label, which will tell you if a supplement contains things like wheat, soy or dairy. For medications, you can confirm ingredients with a pharmacist.
  • Choose brands with third-party testing. Since the supplement industry has very little oversight, supplement fraud is a huge problem. Some bottles contain ingredients not listed on the label, and others contain much lower amounts of the supplement itself. High-quality brands do third-party testing, which they advertise on their website. This means that their supplements are tested by an independent lab to prove purity and potency. Note: this is very different than “in-house” testing.
  • Try one supplement at a time. When you’re trying to determine whether or not a supplement will help you, you need to minimize the variables. If you start taking 6 supplements at once, and then you improve or get worse, you won’t know the cause. Supplements should give you measurable improvement. They’re not something to take just because someone told you they’re good for you.
  • Don’t take too many supplements. If you have autoimmune disease, you almost always have issues with digestion and detoxification. Too many supplements can overwhelm your body very quickly. Take as few supplements as possible, to meet your most important needs.
  • Potential supplements to research. Here are the categories where supplements might help people with autoimmune disease: digestive support, pain relief, immune system regulation, and support of any organs affected by your disease. Examine.com is an excellent resource. They offer free, unbiased research into supplement effectiveness. One thing to look for is the bioavailability of a supplement; this indicates how easily it is absorbed by the body. Believe it or not, there are supplements on the market that are 90% unavailable to your body.
  • Working with a specialist. Everyone is unique in terms of supplement needs, and working with someone who is an expert in this area, with access to tests, can be very helpful. This can be a doctor who specializes in functional medicine, or a nutritionist/health coach familiar with dietary healing. Be sure to choose someone who is an expert at your particular healing diet. Here’s a list of practitioner directories. The best practitioners will have a “food first/supplement second” philosophy. If they try to recommend too many supplements at once, be wary. Before buying anything, read the labels. If they’re recommending supplements which contain bad ingredients, be wary. If the supplements cost as much as your mortgage, be wary. Finally, if they insist you need thousands of dollars worth of tests, be wary. A good practitioner will be someone who can troubleshoot your issues, help you prioritize, and work on them one at a time. They’ll charge for their services, but it shouldn’t feel like high pressure sales. They’ll help you get better faster and inspire trust. If you’re working with someone who doesn’t fit this description, find someone else.
  • Don’t be a copycat. It can be tempting to just copy the supplement list someone else is taking with a similar diagnosis. This rarely works. We’re all too unique for this. Just like we can all do the same elimination diet, yet discover different food intolerances, we can also take the same supplements and respond completely differently. Accept that you are a unique snowflake and take the time to discover what’s right for you.
  • Supplement needs change over time. Just because you need a supplement now, doesn’t mean you’ll need it forever. As your body heals, and your digestion improves, and your autoimmune disease reverses, your supplement needs will change accordingly.

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Case Studies

I thought it would be helpful to share some examples of people’s supplement journeys: which ones they’ve tried over the years, which ones worked, and which ones didn’t. You can expect to have some trial and error in your own supplement journey as well.

Eileen Laird, rheumatoid arthritis

  • What supplements do you take currently and why? The primary symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is excruciating pain, so my goal with supplementation from day one was pain relief. While diet ended up making the biggest difference, each of these supplements had a measurable anti-inflammatory effect for me also. I tested each one separately before adding them to my protocol: curcumin, cat’s claw, boswellia, black currant oil and krill oil. I also take magnesium, which helps my sleep and digestion.
  • What supplements have you tried that didn’t work for you? The following supplements were recommended to me either for digestive support, or pain reduction. Some made my symptoms worse, while others had no effect one way or the other. These are supplements that come highly recommended in the GAPS & Paleo communities. It’s a good example of how unique we are, and that there is no one prescription for everyone: vitamin D, fermented cod liver oil, high-omega 3 fish oil, prescript-assist probiotic, megaspore probiotic, Wobenzym, CMO, bromelain, and ginger.

Christina Feindel, Hashimoto’s and celiac

  • What supplements do you take currently and why? Because of my history of vitamin D deficiency and anemia, I take vitamin D and iron supplements as needed according to my lab results and/or symptoms. As I get more vitamin D and iron from sunlight and food sources since going AIP — and also digest my food better — I have been gradually tapering the amount I supplement. I also take a small dose of magnesium despite having good blood levels because it seems to keep me from grinding my teeth at night.
  • What supplements have you tried that didn’t work for you? In the beginning, I was so desperate to feel better that I tried pretty much anything and everything you often see recommended for thyroid patients, immune regulation, adrenal fatigue, and leaky gut. I’ve taken vitamin C, selenium, calcium, 5-HTP, adaptogens, antioxidants, Repairvite, probiotics, apple cider vinegar, evening primrose oil, B vitamins, oregano oil, and multivitamins. Some of them, like 5-HTP, made me feel worse, while most seemed to make no difference at all. I definitely needed to get my diet and lifestyle in line to reap the most benefits, and then supplementing became unnecessary.

Robyn Latimer, lupus

  • What supplements do you take currently and why? Fish oil – because it cools inflammation in my body, especially my joints. Vitamin D – I live in Ohio so I don’t get adequate sun exposure for half the year. Supplementing keeps my levels up. Magnesium – it is very difficult to get an adequate amount of magnesium from food no matter how healthy you eat. It also helps my sleep two fold: I fall asleep quicker, and I have a deeper, more restful night. Turmeric – This is my favorite supplement. It makes me happier, I have better blood flow, my hands and feet rarely feel cold, and my joints feel better, too.
  • What supplements have you tried that didn’t work for you? Astaxanthin, CoQ10, and fermented cod liver oil. I tried them all based on their reputations, but I didn’t find they had any effect on me.

Whitney Ross-Gray, multiple sclerosis

  • What supplements do you take currently and why? I’ve been paleo for 4 years and my MS is now 99% symptom-free. The only supplements I still take daily are magnesium and fermented cod liver oil, for general health support. I also take R-ALA on days I’m doing fasted workouts.
  • What supplements have you tried in the past? Four years ago, when I first went paleo, I supplemented aggressively. I took HCL and digestive enzymes for many years, to heal my digestion. Now, my digestion is the best it’s ever been, and I no longer need digestive supplements. I took resveratrol and curcumin daily for inflammation relief, but now I only take them if I’m stressed or I eat a trigger food and feel inflammation. I took vitamin A for my optic neuritis, but stopped when I realized I was getting enough from food. I used to supplement vitamin D, but two years ago, my office installed natural, high spectrum lighting, so I no longer need it. I took ashwaganda for a while, because I thought it would help me manage my stress, but I stopped when I found out it is a nightshade. I took probiotics until I realized I am better off getting them from fermented foods. I do notice a difference with my digestion (mostly regular BM’s vs. non-regular) if I don’t eat enough fermented food. I also took dopamine support in the beginning, to help me transition from my old diet to my new diet, as well as to help me quit drinking. It was a short-term supplement.

What About You?

Do you take supplements? Have you found them helpful, harmful, neutral? How much do you focus on nutrient density in your diet? Share in the comments below.


As you can see, everyone’s supplement needs are unique. I’m neither a doctor nor a nutritionist. Please work with a qualified practitioner to guide your own supplement experiments.

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100 comments on “Where Supplements Fit on a Healing Diet”

  1. Hi Eileen! I have a question: I’m starting AIP in the new year but I take curcumin supplements for pain killers that include sunflower oil. Is that allowed? I’m having trouble finding an answer about a small amount like that. Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Clare. Officially, sunflower oil isn’t allowed on the AIP but I agree with you that it’s a very small amount and you’re likely getting more benefit than harm. Pain relief is very important. Just make sure it’s allergen-free in all other ways. (No wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, gums, artificial sweeteners, etc.)

      1. Thank you so much for the reply and I’m glad to hear it! As a follow up, if the curcumin isn’t powerful enough to help my headaches can I take traditional painkillers while on a gut healing diet? Or does that cancel out the good I’m doing with AIP?

  2. A little tip – always pay attention if the packaging of one of your “tried and true” compliant supplements changes their packaging – major clue they have adjusted their ingredients/formulation.

    1. Sara, I don’t count calories, nor do I recommend that practice to others. It’s focusing on the wrong things. When it comes to vegetables, the goal is to eat a minimum of 6 cups daily and up to 14 cups. Most people do well at the 9 cup average. If you are losing too much weight, you want to be sure you are also including healthy fats in your diet, adequate protein from meat and seafood, and starchy vegetables daily as well. For more guidance, tune into Podcast Episode 46, which is a Q&A with a dietitian. Her name is Amy Kubal, and she’s also available for 1:1 consults. When feeling overwhelmed, it can be very helpful to have a guide. She also has expertise in helping people make sure they are eating enough to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Wishing you wellness in every way!

  3. Thanks, very helpful post! I have hashimoto’s but have also been diagnosed with lyme. My symptoms are varied and I’m unclear whether they’re from the autoimmune component, lyme (or both). I’ve been strict AIP for almost a month now and haven’t noticed any change in symptoms. I was planning on continuing on for at least another month but my ND recently prescribed some supplements (cat’s claw, banderol and cordyceps) that contain non-compliant ingredients (ethanol-grain, alcohol & myceliated brown rice). I’m wondering if starting to take these will impede my AIP progress…any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Lauren. They might. I recommend looking for alternative brands that are AIP-friendly. For example, Life Extension’s Cat’s Claw is AIP-friendly. If you choose to go with your ND’s recommended brands, treat them like a reintroduction. Pay attention to how your body feels, and if you have a negative reaction, be aware that one of those ingredients might be the cause.

      1. Hi Eileen,
        Great, thanks so much for this and for everything you do. Your articles and recipes have been such a help to me along this (sometimes confusing) journey!
        All the best,

  4. Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting back on my (overwhelmingly varied!) supplements. This post is very helpful in giving me the confidence needed to push forward and take another step towards better healing. Thank you 🙂

  5. Cutting grains and legumes from my diet made me concerned about B vitamins. I have recently learned that thiamine deficiency is common with the AIP diet. Do you know why it doesn’t seem to be given attention in the diet protocols? I was getting weaker and weaker the longer I’ve been on AIP (9 weeks now). I will begin supplementing B complex and see what happens. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Amy. I don’t know where you heard that, but it’s simply not true that thiamine deficiency is common with the AIP. Grains are actually a very poor source of B vitamins. Here’s a quote from Loren Cordain: “Compared to fruits and veggies, cereal grains are B-vitamin lightweights. An average 1,000 calorie serving of mixed vegetables contains 19 times more folate, five times more vitamin B6, six times more vitamin B2 and two times more vitamin B1 than a comparable serving of eight mixed whole grains.” And that doesn’t even take into account meat and seafood which are rich sources of B vitamins. That’s why B deficiencies are more common among vegetarians. If you feel weak on the AIP, I recommend you consult with a functional medicine practitioner to find the root cause, rather than self-diagnosing. Are you eating enough food overall? Does your digestion need support to be sure you are actually getting nourished by your food? Are you going too low-carb? Many people get adrenal fatigue if they don’t include enough starchy vegetables in their diet. If you’re worried about getting enough Thiamine specifically, the best sources are pork, salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna and organ meats.

  6. Actually, I do have a supplement question: has anybody found a B-12 spray that is AIP compliant? They all seem to contain a LOT of ingredients that I cannot use. Thanks!!

    1. Kristin, I don’t use a spray but I love the Seeking Health Hydroxo B12 lozenges, and have taken them for a couple of years now with great results. I tried sprays and injections before that, and this has made a huge difference. I also worked with a naturopath in making the decision though, since I was B12 deficient. Night and day from where I was a few years ago thanks to that and AIP!

  7. I’m so happy to see this post, Eileen. You give wise counsel when you say that every body is different and therefore our needs and tolerances will differ too. I kept trying to take a probiotic, for example, and continued to feel horrible. So I finally said “enough,” and now have been feeling much less pain. I still cannot tolerate fermented veggies, but I’ve learned to listen to my own body and stop trying to do what everyone says I should do. Our bodies do give us some good guidance as well if we listen. Many thanks to you!

  8. I was diagnosed (though not convinced of the doctor’s certainty of this) with hidradenitis suppurativa a few weeks ago, but have struggled with pain and lesions since December. I am currently 11 days in on AIP. I saw a certified nutritionist/dietician to help me implement changes and give me dietary recommendations. He recommended two products. One is called i26 HyperImmune Egg and the other is NuMedica Gluten Sensitivity GI Restore. After reading Tara Grant’s book, The Hidden Plague, and learning more about AIP, I’m not too sure if these are products I should take on this diet and with this condition. I was wondering if you have ever heard of them.

    1. If you’re AIP, you’ll want to avoid those supplements, since one is made from eggs, and the other from dairy. If you feel those supplements are beneficial to you right now, then I recommend postponing the AIP until you either no longer need them or find AIP-friendly alternatives.

      1. Dear Eileen,
        Love the way you write and admire your patience with, and concern for your readers. You seem so genuine!
        I am doing a lot of reading on your site and am a bit confused about postponing the start of AIP because of needed supplements since the diet is so nutritious. I can’t consider it as my AIP attempt at a 30 day elimination that leads to reintroducing foods but it is what I have been trying for now until I get stronger. Strict adherence on all foods but hanging on to some iffy content supplements.
        I have also wondered about high quality topical or inhaled essential oils? are they OK in general? Is it necessary to stay away from any oils derived from any seed, nut, or eliminated food? I am not trying to sell anything so I won’t mention the products, but I have some that help me with joint and intestinal pain and often eliminate my need for pain killers. After just two weeks off nightshades they seem even more effective. One oil blend includes fennel seed oil and others may have oils from exotic or medicinal seeds. What is your view of essential oils?
        I have to follow FODMAP which either eliminates or drastically cuts down portion size of many AIP allowed vegetables and fruit. I have long term Hashi, IBS, airborne allergies, chemical sensitivities and asthma. I improved on Perfect Health Diet, then added FODMAP for more improvement, but really crashed in December when I hit a wall and a big thyroid flare up. Hopefully AIP eliminations will do the trick.
        Thanks for all your help.
        I’m anxiously awaiting your Guide book… and the two recommended AIP/FODMAP recipe E books. And, and, and…. Tupperware food storage boxes, lid stand, Fido fermenting jar, and the Instapot (good bye to a counter full of crock pots.) If you think maybe even 15% of your breakfast recipes book has fodmap free ideas I’ll order that too! Buying all your great recommendations is going to help me spend all the money I’ve “saved” being too sick to go out and splurge once in awhile! Thanks for all you do!

        1. Hi Barbara. Thanks for this comment. This is a really good example of you knowing your body well and adapting the protocol for you. If you can find AIP-friendly alternatives to your favorite supplements, that’s ideal. If not, I do understand your choice to keep taking them while being strict with food portion of the diet. The same goes for the essential oils, especially if they work as well as painkillers for you. My advice is to watch how you feel – if you improve, that’s wonderful. If you hit a healing plateau, you might want to reconsider the supplements, just in case they are blocking your full healing. They might be easier to remove at that point, also, as your symptoms diminish as you follow the rest of the AIP. Do pay attention to lifestyle, too. To answer your last question, the AIP Breakfast Cookbook has a Low-FODMAP modification guide at the end of the book. 16 recipes are Low-FODMAP as written and another 34 are easily modified (and the modifications are described). Wishing you healing in every way!

  9. I’m interested in trying the krill oil as well by Pure Encapsulations. Do you have a link to it on amazon? Also, Eileen, are you taking a probiotic and if so, which one? And what is your take on fish oil versus cod liver oil?

    1. Kristi,
      I ordered one bottle of krill oil from Pure Encapsulations, and my only reservation about this one is the price — not sure if all krill oil is pricy but this one sure is (even on Amazon). So I’m not sure if I will continue with it and try another brand or go back to Cod Liver Oil (Carlson’s liquid with lemon), I’m just trying one thing at a time and seeing what works and doesn’t after reading Eileen’s articles and posts.

    2. Hi Holly. Here’s a link to Pure Encapsulations Krill Oil. I take NOW Neptune Krill Oil, which is less expensive yet still works for me. I’ve tried both high quality fish oil and cod liver oil, but noticed no benefit. The krill oil is the only one where I felt an anti-inflammatory effect. That said, we’re all different, so I recommend doing your own experiments. As for your probiotic question, I’ve tried a number of them over the years and have yet to find one where I feel a benefit. I’m still testing new ones all the time, but so far, fermented foods work better for me (like sauerkraut and kombucha).

  10. I know each person is unique, but is there a recommended starting point in terms of dosage for the cat’s claw and krill (and add them in separately it sounds like to see if there is a reaction)? I know it’s best to start small, but was wondering if there is more information or links to other sites about the dosage for people who are not working with practitioners.

    1. I can’t prescribe anything for you, but I can tell you what I did. I followed the dosage advice in this article for the Cat’s Claw, and followed the dose on the bottle for Krill oil (which worked out to 1000mg once daily). I did try each one separately, and when I felt a positive effect, I tried increasing the dose to see if it would increase the effect, but it didn’t. Interestingly, for me, with every supplement I’ve taken that has helped, there’s a “top out” effectiveness.

      1. Thanks Eileen. I am trying the Pure Encapsulations Cat’s Claw, but it has “3% oxindole alkaloids” as well as having 450 mg per capsule (the article you posted suggested Cat’s Claw without oxindole and 60 mg 3 x day for RA, so not sure how that all works, but I am trying one bottle to see. Can keep you posted.

        1. Yes, that oxindole is often referred to as TOA, and I guess it can be harmful sometimes? The brand I take is TOA-free, 600 mg (like the article recommended). If yours doesn’t provide you with benefit and you’d like to try mine, I take Saventaro.

          1. Thanks for the info. The article recommends 60 mg a day so I am a bit confused about the dose, and the Pure Encaps brand doesn’t distinguish between TOA’s and POA’s but I imagine I can find out. Either way the brand you use costs less and sounds like it works for you.

          2. Sorry – that’s what I get for replying too quickly. Typos happen! To clarify, the article recommends 60 mg TOA-free cat’s claw daily, divided into 3 doses. Saventaro is perfect for this, because each capsule contains 20 mg TOA-free cat’s claw.

          3. Good to know, and thanks. I found out the Pure Encapsulations Cat’s Claw does have some TOA’s in it so it sounds like Saventaro might be a better option because of that as well as price (and because it seems to work for you). Thanks again!

  11. I am so grateful for this post! I am definitely missing something in my AIP diet (possibly not enough fish, not a good variety of starches and veggies). I’m working to better track and vary it, but I was also looking for supplemental support. Great article!

  12. Thanks for the response, and I am happy to let you know. I did decide to try the cat’s claw first for a month (Pure Encapsulations) and then will try the krill oil after that, so I am trying one thing at a time, as a few of you mentioned in the thread above.

    Also, I should have clarified that while the AIP has helped me immensely the last two months (especially finally being able to try going dairy free for awhile, which made a big difference with my skin and cravings), I have been gluten free and nightshade free for almost ten years, so I was working my way there over the years. Really love your blog and hearing your personal experience, thank you!

  13. Thanks so much for this post and all the helpful comments. Even though I know we are all unique and food and supplements have varying effects on us, I still love to hear what works for people with similar conditions, since so many of us have tried so many things!

    I especially appreciated your comments about what has worked and not worked for you with RA. I have Psoriatic Arthritis (recently diagnosed after 20+ years with psoriasis), and have been on the AIP for a couple of months with huge positive changes (still a work in progress), and trying to simplify my supplements too. I may try the Pure Encapsulations krill oil since you mention neptune krill oil (which it is) after years on Carlson’s lemon flavored cod liver oil, so I really appreciate the personal experiences and all the great comments from readers. Thank you.

    1. Hi Felicia. I’m so glad you’re seeing improvements on the AIP already. Once you’ve had a chance to try the krill oil for a while, let me know if you notice a difference. I’m always curious to hear people’s experiences.

      1. Hi Eileen,

        I’m responding to your request to let you know after I tried the Neptune Krill oil, and I did try one bottle of the Pure Encapsulations brand. Maybe needed to take it longer, but not sure on the results, and the price makes it a challenge for me, so I went back to Carlson’s lemon flavored cod liver oil (liquid) which really works for me, especially mood wise for some reason. Thanks for all the helpful info and connection to other readers too.

  14. Great article – thankyou Eileen!
    It is very tempting to take all the supplements “under the sun” when you are sick in the hope that something will help… This article clearly states why that may not be such a great idea.

    For me, I am celiac, I also have fibromyalgia and I suffer from a number of mental illnesses as well (Depression, PTSD, anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder (also known as complex PTSD). This has influenced the supplements I take.

    Vitamin D is a must for me as I live in Canada, and while we get plenty of sun, for the greater part of the year it is simply too cold to expose much skin (you don’t want to be sunbathing when it is -40 degrees!).
    I also take a high quality omega-3 supplement, a Vitamin B complex, a magnesium supplement (magnesium citrate) and melatonin.
    I know some say to avoid melatonin as it is a hormone, but it works for me to help with my severely-disordered sleep… and taking that is better than taking addictive sleeping pills…
    I also use essential oils.
    But for the most part I try to get most of my nutrients from my diet.
    I have just bought some 5-HTP to try to see if it helps though….

    1. Charlotte, it’s a year later and I’m wondering how it’s going for you. I just now read your post and am wondering, have you checked into L-theanine? I’ve also had some good luck with adaptogens such as tulsi (holy basil). I’ve had very disordered sleep and some related ‘issues’ and have found melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP, DHEA and tulsi to be helpful–nearly all at a practitioner’s suggestion and all brought into conversation with practitioner. My sleep has improved but still has a way to go. I currently ran out of DHEA and 5-HTP (lack of foresight and prac away from work now). Am dialing down melatonin. Essential oils impact hormones…or at least some do so and quite strongly. I still use some but am wary because of that–plus they are antimicrobials (some super strong) and I am grappling with low digestive flora and systemic candida.

  15. Thanks so much for all this helpful information, Eileen, and thank you also for your generous spirit. What a gift to so many people who are traveling paths that so often feel/are isolating! Thank you.

    In terms of supplements, I just went through mine and cut out a few (at least for now). At least one with rice had gotten past me. And I’m not sure about gelatin for me right now as I’m in a reintroduction of animal proteins phase of healing (after having gone vegan to dial down cartilage inflammation and other dis-comforts).

    A few questions for you, Eileen, or for anyone else who has some wisdom to share:

    1) I’m looking for a quercitin which is AIP-friendly. Recommendations?
    2) I am currently taking melatonin but would like to shift off of it–but the one I’ve been taking has rice (whoops!). Any recommendations for one that does not have rice and comes in a 1 mg dose so I can dial it down.
    3) I take magnesium citrate both for the magnesium and for digestive regularity. Any recommendations for an AIP-friendly supplement OR supported suggestions of why I might want to consider not taking it?
    4) Digestive enzymes. At this time, I think I need them (and it’s also been recommended from a few practitioners with varied modalities). Any recommendations that are AIP-friendly and also low histamine? I’m entering into discerning a possible histamine intolerance–basically doing AIP and paying attention to symptoms in relationship to high-histamine foods like bone broths, etc.

    Thank you.


    1. Hi Jon. Good catch on the rice in your supplement. That’s in a lot of them. Some people tolerate rice, but many don’t, so it’s best to keep supplements allergen-free, if possible. As for you supplement questions, we really can’t offer that kind of 1:1 advice here. Everyone’s needs are too unique. I recommend you look at The Paleo Mom Consulting. I know you’re on multiple healing protocols, so some expert guidance could be very helpful.

  16. Ohhh. I just now realized that ashwagandha is a nightshade. I tried it a few years ago after hearing several miraculous anecdotes. It made my chronic fatigue 5x worse. I felt like an utter zombie whenever I took it. Out of the dozens of supplements I’ve tried, that was the worst reaction. Many simply don’t have any noticeable effect. Ones that have a noticeable positive effect for me: magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, sublingual B12, B-complex, potassium gluconate, digestive enzymes, DGL.

    Speaking of nightshades, I’ve been (subconsciously?) growing more averse to tomatoes over the past few years. And I’m starting to accept that I can live without white potatoes, my life-long favorite food group. I am starting the AIP January 1st!

  17. Hi Eileen!
    I feel so happy (and lucky) that I discovered your site and get so much valuable information from your posts! Because of my MS I was on vit D through winter but in summertime I decided to be off it as I get plenty of Greek sun 🙂
    I’ve been on Wahls paleo diet for almost 2 months and following a biochemist’s advice I’m currently on:
    Ω3-6 oil blend capsules 500mg (3x a day)
    vit B complex plus 1000 mg vit C (1x a day)
    Co-enzyme Q10 200mg (6x a day)
    It’s only today that I read your post about supplements and having a look at my supplements’ ingredients I found out that the Ω3-6 supplement contains:
    Sunflower seed oil*,
    Sesame seed oil*
    Evening primrose oil*
    Soy lecithin: GMO-free,
    Rice and oat* bran and germ oils
    (*Certified organic)
    Are all these ingredients gluten-free??? Do they comply with the grain-free Wahls’ diet????
    I’m so confused!!! I think that all my diet efforts have been wasted…
    What do you think on that? Should I get another Ω3 supplement???
    Your opinion does count!

    1. First the positive – your diet efforts have definitely not been wasted. That’s a hugely beneficial change for your health, and one supplement won’t derail you altogether. However, it’s good to remove it as a potential obstacle to your healing. Now that you know what’s in your supplement, you can seek alternatives. There are brands that don’t have any of those ingredients you list. Dr. Wahls recommends Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega. You might also consider eating wildcaught seafood to meet your omega 3 needs. Here’s a good article that compares the two: Fish vs Fish Oil Smackdown.

  18. I feel both happy and sad reading through the experiences of various people on this page; happy because I think I’ve found the antidote to my MCTD and sad because i’m in Nigeria where it’s so difficult to do any of this successfully. I hope to leave the country as soon as I can to a country where I can successfully work this protocol, get my health back to an appreciable stage and then maintain it. But in the mean time, i’ll be avoiding all the avoidables as much as I can. Thank you all so much for sharing and giving me hope.

    1. Every step is a step in the right direction. Just do your best, and know you have a whole community of people, on your side. Wishing you health and happiness.

  19. Jeffrey Bergman

    My wife was diagnosed with rhuematoid arthritis in December 2013. She has been both very weak and in extreme pain most of the time since then. We both thought that the traditional treatments for RA were not for her, because of the side effects. We found a functional doctor who proceeded to do intensive blood, stool, saliva testing to get a baseline. He advised her to immediately go on the paleo diet. Well all the results came back in about a month and she has RA and hashimotos. We left his office with $500 in supplements (protease, d3, fish oil, s-Acetyl glutathione, methyl protect, gamma e, e200, primal defense, coQmax, adaptocrine, vitamin c, Nia vasc, apple pectin, and med caps GI. Along with prescription thyroid med) and a order for blood work for food sensitivities. Three weeks latter the food sensitivity test results were in and she can’t tolerate beef, pork, eggs, celery, cashews, almonds, dairy, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and many other foods. She can tolerate chicken, turkey seafood and fish, rice, white potatoes, coconut, walnuts, pecans, peas, lettuce, olive oil, and corn. My question is she being given supplement overkill? most of the foods she can tolerate are not paleo and very limited should she follow this type of diet?

    1. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so I can only give you my opinions, gleaned from my own research and personal experience. The advice to try the paleo diet was good. Food sensitivity testing is notoriously inaccurate, so unfortunately, I think that was a waste of money. An elimination diet, like the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, is the gold standard for accurately discovering food intolerance. I recommend that rather than following sensitivity test results. As for supplements, my guess is that the price was high due to the brand your doctor sells. You can probably find less expensive alternatives on your own (maybe even the same brands sold less expensively online). I would also ask your doctor how long he expects your wife to take those supplements and when he plans on reducing their number. Some doctors do a large amount of supplements up front to jumpstart healing and then taper off. If he has no intention of tapering, that’s a red flag for me. As for the thyroid medication, that is often needed longterm for Hashimotos. Gentle hugs to your wife; I know exactly what she’s feeling. And hugs to you as well; it’s never easy seeing the ones we love in pain.

  20. Omigosh! I’ve never even heard of most of the things mentioned here! It’s pretty overwhelming. I just take calcium because I’m a woman of a certain age, and vitamins D and B12 because of my MS. I just started trying to implement the Wahls protocol as best as I can based on my reading in the last few days until the book arrives. But it’s impossible for me to tell what works or doesn’t as I am currently symptom free. I’m scheduled to start an MS drug therapy trial in a few weeks, and I’m a little bit concerned about how the eating changes and drug could possibly interact…? Eileen do you (or anyone) have any suggestions? The drug is Aubagio. Does anyone here have any experience with it?

    1. Hi Susan. Take a deep breath. You don’t need to know everything all at once. There’s a supplement section in Terry Wahls’ book that you will find very helpful. You also needn’t worry about the diet interfering with your medication. It’s a nutrient-dense diet, which is always beneficial for health. My only advice to you is that you might want to do some more research into your calcium supplement. It often does more harm than good: http://chriskresser.com/calcium-supplements-why-you-should-think-twice.

      1. Thanks as always, Eileen. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your calm, steady voice. I will check it out. TW book should be in my local bookstore by Wed.

  21. Thanks for such useful posts and for taking the time to share your journey (your post on continuing pain medication has been an absolute life saver!!). One question I have, how much Curcumin do you take a day? I’ve seen so many differing views on the web. I’m thinking of starting on 500mg a day, maybe increase to 1000mg a day after a while if I feel it’s of benefit….?

    1. I think the type of curcumin you take is more important than the amount. Curcumin in its normal form is very poorly absorbed by the body, but if you choose one that has been made bio-available, that’s much better. I take Life Extension Super Bio-Curcumin. It’s only 400mg, but studies show that’s equal to 2772mg normal curcumin, in terms of how much is absorbed. I tried doubling my dose to two capsules daily and noticed no difference, so I simply take 1 daily. I have found it’s most effective for me first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. But since we’re all different, experiment yourself and see what works best for you.

      1. Do you or your readers have experience with Meriva curcumin for pain and inflammation? I hear great things about it, and it’s supposed to be more available too. Was just wondering if you tried that one out too.

        1. Hi Felicia. I researched this, and it’s actually not more bio-available than the BCM-95 (which is the kind I take in Life Extension’s Super Bio-Curcumin). They’re tricky with their marketing which sometimes makes it look otherwise. Also, Meriva is soy-based, which I avoid. To be fair, Life Extension is rice-based, and the only other way to increase absorption is with black pepper added, so all current bio-available curcumin supplements contain an ingredient that isn’t AIP-friendly. So, if you try one, treat it like a reintroduction and see if your symptoms improve or worsen. I tolerate white rice well, and I feel clear positive benefits (and no negatives)from the Life Extension curcumin. But we’re all unique!

          1. Thanks, Eileen, that’s really helpful and good to know about the Life Extension curcumin. I was aware that Meriva turmeric contains soy, but in reading studies about it (“Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex”) and talking with others who are cautious about the soy issue too, I go back and forth with it because it seems to have an obvious positive effect on my joints and pain levels. Perhaps there will be a more AIP-friendly curcumin complex reasonably priced coming out at some point? In the meantime, I really appreciate all your research and information.

          2. If Meriva makes you feel better, stick with it Felicia. This article is really about getting people to look at their supplements and really test whether they’re necessary, and also to find the healthiest brands available. You’re being very mindful about your own supplement experiments. That’s the key. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

          3. Thanks again for all the helpful responses — I will likely try the Life Extension Super Bio-Curcumin after this round with Meriva, as I’m wondering if the soy in the Meriva is contributing to more hot flashes/other symptoms, not sure. Is that why you avoid soy? Trying these one at a time definitely helps to sort it all out, thanks for the good suggestions.

          4. Yes, I’m very careful about hormone balance, because it doesn’t take much to throw me off. Vitamin D in supplement form even throws my hormones out of balance, because it’s a hormone also. (Sunshine doesn’t do that to me.) Here are a few other reasons I avoid soy though: http://realfoodforager.com/7-reasons-to-avoid-soy-like-the-plague/ . That said, your experience might be quite different, and I’ve never tried Meriva. Here’s to n=1 self-experimentation. It really is the key to our individual health.

    2. Just wanted to follow up and thank you for the heads up about Meriva curcumin (containing soy). I know it works great for some people (I tried Source Naturals) and it sure seems to help with pain, but it seemed to aggravate hot flashes for me, which I don’t even normally have. So I am going back to Pure Encapsulations for now and their Curcumin C3 Complex, which is AIP-friendly but a new one for me. Thanks again, and I’ll keep you posted.

      1. Felicia, I just heard that Meriva has come out with a soy-free version. They’re using sunflower oil as the lipid base instead of soy oil. Still not AIP, but at least no soy, and I think most people would be able to tolerate the sunflower oil well: http://amzn.to/2gOdiNH

  22. Hi Eileen,

    Another fantastic post!!! I wanted to share my supplement regimen with your readers for Crohn’s and Lupus:

    I currently take:
    *Chamomile tea for acute inflammation and pain (for lupus or Crohn’s)! Helps tremendously!!!
    *Omega 3 fish oils (only omega 3, not 6) – 3 t0 4x per week
    *B complex vitamin – daily
    *Vitamin C – 4x per week
    *Vitamin A & D (daily during winter)
    *Digestive enzymes (when I eat raw veggies)
    *Calcium/Mag – daily

    Things I’ve tried that don’t seem to have a huge impact on inflammation/digestion:
    *Cod liver oil
    *Vitamin K
    *Oregano oil
    *Turmeric (pill)
    *Peppermint tea

    There are so many others. I’ve been experimenting for 10 years. The supplements I take now help and I have a easy, realistic regimen.

    Great post, Eileen!!


  23. I’m probably taking too many supplements. When I was first diagnosed with RA, I was desperate for any type of relief. I saw a naturopath in January 2012 who must make a tonne of money off of selling supplements. She put me on turmeric, Nutrasea (fish oil) plus Vitamin D, magnesium and probiotics. I’ve continued that but upped my fish oil to 4xRDA (which may be too much). I saw her again in January 2014 and she added zinc, vitamin C and echinacea. I think the echinacea was a bad idea so I am off it. I’m now also taking iodine, since we don’t eat anything with iodine, plus folate to combate the MTX. I am feeling overwhelmed by everything that I have either read or been told and it’s hard to know what to do. I am looking at getting tested for nutritional deficiencies/surpluses just to rule out some of this but am put off by the cost (~$600!). I do feel that after being on a paleo diet for a year that I shouldn’t need so many supplements, but I find the Perfect Health Diet’s recommendations confusing. Do I need those supplements always or only when transitioning from SAD to Paleo + “safe starches”. Now that I’m on the AIP (since Feb 1 but only realized I had to ditch the NSAIDs Feb 25), I want to be more careful about what I am consuming. My BMs are normal, I am losing weight that I need to lose, but I haven’t had any relief from my RA symptoms, and I have definitely noticed a worsening since dropping the meloxicam. Not sure if you have any personal experience/suggestions – Eileen or others…

    1. Naturopaths are notorious for overprescribing supplements, so that doesn’t surprise me. In the end, we all need to evaluate recommendations and make our own decision on which path to take, because you’re always going to get differing advice. I don’t support the Perfect Health Diet supplement recommendations, because it’s way too long a list. I think Paul Jaminet based those recommendations on the assumption that most people aren’t focused on nutrient density in their diet. However, if you’re doing the autoimmune protocol correctly, you should be eating lots of healing foods that provide the nutrition you need (bone broth, organ meats, seafood and a wide variety of vegetables). As I say in the above article, those foods will give you more nutrition than any supplement ever could. Whatever you decide to do, at the very least, check your ingredients to make sure they don’t contain allergens. If you want to start reducing them, try removing one at a time and see if you notice a difference in how you feel. I recommend keeping the supplements that are helping you, and giving up the ones that make no difference. As for NSAIDs and the AIP, I have a completely different perspective as someone who knows what excruciating pain feels like. I believe you need to heal enough that your pain is reduced (or find supplement alternatives that act as effectively) before going off your NSAIDs. You haven’t been on the AIP long enough to really feel the pain relieving benefits. Dropping NSAIDs cold-turkey is a guaranteed increase in pain for someone with RA, and since pain causes leaky gut as well, there’s no benefit in suffering. I wrote about this in detail here. I hope that’s helpful. Since I’m not a medical professional, simply consider this as the opinion of another RA warrior, and in the end trust yourself to make the choices that are best for you.

      1. Eileen, thank you so much for your thoughts, which I will certainly take under consideration. I hope to provide you an update when I am further along this AIP path. Thanks sooo much for your AIP recipe roundtables!

      2. “Naturopaths are notorious for overprescribing supplements, so that doesn’t surprise me.”

        If so I was lucky with my naturopathic doctor. When I first saw her I was weak and did not know what was going on with me. She put me through an elimination diet and she recommended multivitamins, CoQ10, Vitamin D, magnesium and fish oil. But more importantly she helped me eliminate all the medication that MDs kept prescribing to me. I am really grateful to her for this. She does not sell any supplements herself and her main goal is to cure by nutrition and life style change. She really listened to me and helped adjust the supplements accordingly, as I started to feel better she recommended that I cut the doses, so I would say that not all naturopaths are overprescribing supplements. But I agree that “we need to evaluate recommendations and make our own decision…”, as you say.

        1. Zeynel, thank you for sharing this and busting me on my generalization. If your naturopath has a website, feel free to add it here in the comments.

          1. Sorry, I didn’t mean to contradict you, just that I only had experience with one naturopath and it was good experience. For the website I will have to ask her first if she wants her website posted here. By the way, what you wrote above about vitamin D was interesting. Do you think, I should worry, for my salicylate intolerance, about the “other ingredients” in vitamin D that I am taking. For instance, they list safflower oil as an ingredient, which I think high in salicylates. Thanks.

          2. No need to apologize, Zeynel. I’m glad you shared your experience. I think all naturopaths go into the field with a desire to help people, but when you sell supplements for profit, it’s hard for that not to unconsciously influence decisions. And to be fair, some patients want a “magic pill” instead of doing the work needed to truly change their diet and lifestyle. When Terry Wahls trained in functional medicine, supplements were a big part of the protocol she was taught. It was her personal and professional research that showed nutrition through food is much more effective at reclaiming health. As for your question, if you have salicylate sensitivity, I do recommend finding an alternative brand that doesn’t contain salicylates, or as the days get longer, focus on getting your D naturally through sun exposure.

  24. I have taken loads of supplements while working with various natural practitioners for Lyme disease. At first, they were just to support my body function, but now I’ve been able to tailor back a lot and just do FCLO, a greens mix, extra d3/k2, and b-12. Most everything I take these days is food-based and free of excipients.

  25. Anjanette: What kind of “immediate difference” do you see with probiotics? I tried it for a couple of weeks but did not notice any difference. I was taking Pure Encapsulations Probiotic-5 (10 billion CFU per capsule).

    1. Keep in mind that as I say in the article, everyone’s unique. It’s quite common for probiotics to be very beneficial for some people, yet have no impact (or even a negative impact) on others.

  26. So interesting! I don’t have an official diagnosis for anything, but I have several underlying problems that I’ve tried to address via diet and lifestyle changes. One of them is my dental health (which I think is related to other issues like mineral absorption). I have seen good results from taking FCLO, but after taking a blood test I found that my vitamin d levels are suuuuuper low regardless. I took a different vitamin d supplement in a higher dosage and my teeth got worse! Still another combination and both my teeth and my vit d levels tanked.

    The only supplements besides FCLO that I’ve seen tangible results from have been lecithin for chronically plugged breast ducts, and probiotics. I notice an immediate difference without probiotics! It’s crazy!

    I’ve taken plenty of other things but haven’t seen changes either way.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Anjanette. Vitamin D supplementation is tricky. I heard one scientist say that we’re trying to replace sunshine with a pill, and of course, that doesn’t work. She actually questions if it’s really the D that’s beneficial in the sunshine anyway, or rather a number of things that can’t be quantified and come together from the sun’s effect on our body.

  27. I am taking vitamin D3 1000 IU because I hardly get any sun. I used to take magnesium 160 mg 3 times a day for about a year, but now I take only occasionally. The reason is that in latest blood tests magnesium was close to the high end. But I think there is a difference between what you see on the blood tests and on cellular level, but I am not sure how that works.

  28. Thanks for the article, it comes at the right moment for me. Considering some supplements, but realize now that I should start with one. Would like to try Betaine with Pepsin, as I am so deficient in vitamins.

  29. Hi there,
    I am doing the Wahls paleo version and must say I feel good since then. I take some supplements with it.
    What about spirulina chorella and kelp. I take these supplements because I don’t like the real food witch provides these nutrients . I also take a lot vitamin D3 (3000 IE) because recent study proved that it reduces over 30 % of the relapses in MS. I also found out the positive effect of taking cold showers. It works al lot better for my immunity than any supplement can provide.

  30. Thanks for a very informative article Eileen!

    I have been on the AIP for almost a year and experimenting with supplements since the start. I strongly agree with only adding one supplement at a time in order to tell what is working and what is not. More often than not the supplements I have tried either have had no effect or have worsened my symptoms.

    For all those unsure about their supplement regime or adding new supplements to their diet, I recommend keeping a supplement journal (in conjunction with a food journal) to help monitor any changes the supplement may be contributing to (positive or negative).

    Finally, just as not enough of a nutrient can be detrimental so can too much of the nutrient. As Chris Kresser says it’s a U-shaped curve!

  31. This is a great article Eileen! Here is my experience in using supplements with Crohn’s disease.

    What supplements I currently take and why? L-Glutamine, quercetin+vitamin C to promote gut healing. Vitamin D in the winter since I don’t get enough sun. Vitamin B12 shots because my ileum was surgically removed so I can’t absorb it at all. Magnesium at bed time to help my sleep quality. Saccharomyces boulardii (a probiotic) to ward off bacterial overgrowth, particularly from c. difficile which I have had before.

    Supplements I’ve tried in the past? Other probiotics (none of them made a difference that I could tell, and now I focus on getting them from fermented foods instead), curcumin/turmeric, fish oil, colloidal silver, oregano oil, DHEA.

  32. Great article, Eileen! This is a subject I’ve been giving a lot of thought to recently. I take a lot of supplements that don’t seem to make me feel any differently. I’ve been AIP for 3 months now, and my plan is to start weaning off some of the supplements as I heal my digestion. Bonus: the money I save on supplements I can put towards buying more high-quality food! Thanks for a great article!

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