Five basic supplements recommended by naturopathic doctors

By Leisah Woldoff

It’s no surprise that as we get older, our body also ages, which sometimes means that it needs a little help performing functions that it used to do by itself. Dr. Alissia “Dr. Zen” Zenhausern, a board-certified naturopathic physician providing integrative health options at her practice, NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, offers some advice on five supplements she often recommends to clients.

She stresses that patients should always consult their physician before taking any supplements to make sure they are safe to take with their current medication or medical condition.

Digestive enzymes: People often reach a point, many times in their 50s, when they find their body reacting to a food they used to not have any problem eating. After experiencing heartburn, indigestion or abdominal pain, they may take Tums or an acid blocker.

Yet those medications won’t help if the pain is caused by an enzyme deficiency, according to Zenhausern.

“As you age, the enzymes that help break down food normally will decrease,” she says. Therefore, using an enzyme supplement gives “the body the digestive enzymes that your body normally produces.”

She recommends using digestive enzymes that contain betaine-based HCl, which helps with acidity. It’s recommended to take them 20 minutes before or after eating. Her personal favorite is Pure Encapulations, as it is gluten-free and non-GMO.

Fish oil: Fish oil offers anti-inflammatory benefits, and because the leading cause of death for women is heart disease, fish oil is especially beneficial for women, Zenhausern says.

The Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil also protect the brain, as well as reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.

However, the side effects of a high dose of fish oil could be dangerous to some people, such as those on blood thinners, so “always check with your doctor,” she notes. “Safety always, for both supplements and medications.”

Both the liquid and pill forms usually have a fishy aftertaste and fish oil pills are usually huge and hard to swallow. She recommends keeping both in the fridge or freezer to decrease the fishy taste. One liquid fish oil she prefers is OmegAvail made by Designs for Health, which comes in flavors like key lime pie and citrus sorbet.

Probiotics: As you age, your gut bacteria loses its strength, Zenhausern says, so probiotics help the digestive system by adding good bacteria.

Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include bloating, indigestion, skin conditions and allergies. “A lot of time what’s happening on your skin is a reflection of what’s happening in your gut,” Zenhausern says.

Depression can be another symptom and it can be caused by low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter produced in the gut.

In general, you need to make sure you have the right balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, Zenhausern says. “If you don’t have enough good bacteria, that creates space in the body for more bad bacteria to lodge itself.”

She cautions that since probiotics contain bacteria, it may have an adverse effect on those with suppressed immune symptoms or those going through chemotherapy.

She also notes that most probiotics need to be refrigerated. “It’s live bacteria so if it’s not refrigerated, you kill the bacteria and so you’re taking a supplement and it’s not doing anything for you,” she says.

She doesn’t recommend prebiotics, substances that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, because they also feed the bad bacteria.

Turmeric (curcuma longa): Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that is believed to help prevent or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It’s powerful on its own as an herb, but if it’s eaten as a food source, such as sprinkled over food, it must be eaten with black pepper to offer the same therapeutic benefits.

Vitamin D: “We live in one of the sunniest places in the world and a lot of people think that they would have plenty of vItamin D, but almost about 80 percent of my patients have low vitamin D,” Zenhausern says. More and more research is showing that having elevated vitamin D in your system can help strengthen your immune system and fight fatigue. “Keeping your Vitamin D levels optimal is really important.”

NMD Wellness of Scottsdale is located at 8149 E. Evans Road, Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-809-6884 or visit