Esther Mills-Roberts suggests 10 summer supplements to help you maintain health and wellness during the hot, sunny season…
August, the month when summer is officially in full swing. The sun cream is being blobbed on, you’re out and active, your fruit and vegetable intakes are on the up and you’re looking forward to getting away and having a well-deserved break. But what are the top summer supplements that can help to maintain health and wellness this summer season?
Good bacteria, great guts
A real summer superstar, that’s backed by great scientific research, are friendly bacteria supplements or ‘probiotics’ as they used to be known. From the early days where research was centred around Lactobacillus acidophilus for traveller’s diarrhoea, scientists have looked at the influence of different gut bacteria species on health in many different ways; production of vitamins and minerals, creating a favourable gut environment for digestion and absorption, modulation of immune response and even influences on heart disease and obesity risk. So, do your guts a favour this summer and find out which formulation (of the bacterial kind) is right for you.
Over 20 years ago, a revolutionary supplement was launched to the UK market based on growth of a green micro-algae called Dunaliella salina, which is especially rich in carotenoid compounds. Research on supplementary intakes of this showed that consuming carotenoids – the colourful compounds also found in fruits and vegetables – helped to safeguard skin against the effects of harmful sunrays, equivalent to sun protection factor 2-4. So, as well as making sure that your diet is as rich in fruits and vegetables as you can comfortably eat, consider a formulation including carotenoids to help you through the summer months.
Berries and cherries
Beautiful berries and cherries, in concentrated form and ready to drink, are exceptionally high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. They are often taken by those in older age, those who are sporty, or those who are interested in the health of the heart or immune system. In particular, Montmorency cherries are a rich source of fibre, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin C and potassium and are a natural source of tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin. Taking them in supplementary form, which is highly concentrated, is a good way to get maximum antioxidant capacity in a manageable smaller amount. As well as this, the drinks taste fantastic and provide a phytonutrient-rich juice enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Coloured like the sun, turmeric is a highly popular supplement that is known for its bright yellow colour. Found in capsules and tablets, they can increase dietary intakes of the active constituents within this amazing spice. Research shows that it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic and antispasmodic properties. As well as conventional supplementary forms, turmeric is often added as a powder to milk drinks and termed ‘golden milk’ or ‘turmeric spice milk’ – which is often sweetened naturally with honey or concentrated fruit juices, and possibly flavoured with cinnamon. It’s beautifully warm and soothing.
Fish oils – that wonderful supplementary favourite that has never gone out of health fashion. Whilst trends and fads come and go, fish oils have stood the test of time. What’s more, as new technologies have been developed in the processing and manufacture of fish oil supplements, so have the variety of forms, essential fatty acid strengths (different levels of EPA and DHA) and also whether they are flavoured or not. Fish oil supplements top up dietary levels of essential fatty acids, which are especially abundant in the brain, and which are known to play a role in heart health (as well as studies to show that they can help to maintain mobile joints). There are many different formulations to choose from: low strength (500mg), high strength (1000mg to 1500mg) and orange, citrus or other flavoured capsules or drinks. These are especially useful for people who don’t like to cook fish on a regular basis.
Green food supplements
Kelp, spirulina and chlorella are available in supplementary form as tablets and capsules, as well as powders that can be added to smoothies and juices. These have been favourites for those wanting to add mineral-rich phytonutrients into their diets, and it’s generally believed that they also top up food intakes of fibre, plant enzymes and micronutrients. This is why they’re still so incredibly popular today.
Ginger and peppermint
So, you’re heading off on holiday. Only one problem – motion sickness. Traditional herbal practitioners from years gone by knew about the gut-calming effects of ginger and peppermint long before formulations containing them became licenced for travel sickness. Calming the gut, they can be taken as tablets or capsules, or even, with peppermint, in oil form (choose one that’s already made up as an oil for food use), or even as teas, they have a wonderful warming (ginger) or refreshing (peppermint) effect on the digestive system. Peppermint is popular for helping to clear wind from the digestive tract.
So, you’re away and you’re eating all kinds of new foods, often rich in fat or carbohydrate based. For those who experience digestive discomfort, going away can present new dietary challenges. Practitioners managing gut health conditions often recommend supplements of digestive enzymes to those who experience food-related digestive discomfort. Including enzymes that help with the breakdown and digestion of foods, they are taken on first bite at mealtimes.
When the sun’s beating down on your body, it’s useful to supplement to help maintain healthy skin structure, and that’s one of the most well-known roles of collagen in the body. Situated within the dermal layers of the skin, and produced by the skin’s fibroblasts, it creates a scaffolding on which the skin structure relies. Most often taken in older years, it’s chosen by those wanting to help with the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But this isn’t the only role for collagen in the body. Different collage types are used for different purposes: to provide tensile strength in the joints, forming part of the gelatinous fluid of the eye or even supporting the muscular structures of the heart. This explains why collagen formulations are now more sophisticated, with hydrolysed collagen peptides, using collagen fibre types of different numbers, being recommended for different areas of the body.
So, you’re sporty and you know all about protein formulations for the growth and repair of muscles, tendons and ligaments. But maybe you’re not sporty and wonder whether there’s a place for protein formulations in your diet. A skilled practitioner will be able to assess this for you, but it’s worth noting that many UK diets are over-dependent on carbohydrates and this can knock out protein in the process. Proteins are vital for body structure repair of many kinds, but they also play a part in hormonal control, in production of digestive enzymes and even brain chemistry. For this reason, ensuring adequate intakes of protein is essential for overall health.
About Esther Mills-Roberts
Esther Mills-Roberts is a degree-trained nutritional biochemist and registered nutritionist. She has a private practice in Stratford Upon Avon.
Esther studied nutrition and biochemistry at Nottingham University and worked for a number of nutritional supplement companies before eventually setting up as a consultant on nutritional marketing, PR, quality standard, labelling and new product development.
She has also lectured and educated many about the science of nutrition, written for a number of health titles, written her own books and has featured on both TV and radio. Esther is a member of the Guild of Health Writers, London.