At any given point in our lives, there are parts of our body that need a little more love and attention, or a boost of extra nourishment. And while good diet and exercise are often the best forms of medicine, nutritional supplements can act as an insurance plan for your health, providing you dietary support in areas of need.
Which supplements are worth taking?
When it comes to nutritional supplements, it can be difficult to know which ones to take as there are tens of thousands of promising options. Some may sound great for you from the surface but contain unintended side-effects that may affect your body in the long-run.
Which supplements are worth taking?
Rather than listen to the sales person’s advice or choosing a supplement based on the number of Google Reviews, here are 5 essential things you should do before taking new supplements:
1. Discuss the new supplement with your doctor
Thinking of taking a new supplement? Make sure you speak with your doctor before purchasing the new product. Whether its minerals or vitamins, natural or synthetic, it’s important to give your doctor a visit for several reasons:
- Certain medications and body types do not mix well with supplements. Doing so may lead to a number of health hazards.
- Some dietary supplements may generate negative health side effects.
- Pregnant women need to be particularly cautious before ingesting new supplements.
2. Figure out which form of supplement is right for you
Today, there are many different forms of supplements available for purchase online and in-stores. Some of the options include capsules, tablets, tinctures, liquids, powders, gummies, and topical creams. But which form of supplement is the best?
This depends on two main factors:
- Health of your body and digestive system
- The type of supplement in question
First, you must consider the health of your body. If you have difficulties digesting food or minerals, you might want to try capsules or liquids rather than a hard tablet. This is because capsules are more easily digestible and is thus a more palatable way of consuming the supplement. Similarly, liquids and powders are a better alternative for those who struggle with pills.
Also, some supplements are better taken in certain forms over another due to certain characteristics like taste or intensity. Bitter supplements (such as goldenseal or yarrow) are best in capsule form in order to prevent the unpleasant taste. Most B-complex vitamins have unpleasant tastes and are commonly found in capsule form.
Some botanical products are best taken in the form of an herbal tea. For example, mint, chamomile, ginger, and licorice. These supplements generally have calming effects that are amplified when consumed in the form of tea. Chamomile, for instance, when taken as a tea can produce a relaxing effect on the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. However, if taken in capsule form, chamomile may only benefit the stomach.
Other compounds, like omega-3 fats, are best taken in liquid form rather than capsules for greater intensity. For example, one tablespoon of High Lignan Flax Oil offers around 7,000 milligrams of omega-3 fats, whereas one capsule of the same oil will provide just 1,000 milligrams.
3. Consider your current medications
Some dietary supplements may increase the effects of certain medications, while other dietary supplements may decrease it. In other words, some combinations of medications and nutritional supplements just don’t mix well.
For example, medication for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), depression, heart disease, and birth control are less effective when combined with St. John’s Wort, an herbal supplement.
Furthermore, the National Capital Poison Center advised people taking blood thinners like Advil and Warfarin to stay away from ginkgo biloba (an herbal supplement) and other supplements like primrose and licorice. Combining these supplements will increase the potential for internal bleeding or stroke.
Some combination of medications simply reduces the effectiveness of the drug and/or supplement, while other combinations can lead to dangerous and even life-threating effects. Speak with your doctor and pharmacist to avoid dangers.
4. Research the product through various sources
Before deciding on any herbal supplement, make sure you conduct thorough research. Here are some considerations:
- Is the herbal supplement safe? Manufacturers must follow guidelines and good practices to ensure they consistently meet quality standards. Companies aren’t allowed to make a specific medical claim, for example, “this herb reduces pain,” or “this herb cures cancer.” Avoid companies that make medical claims and also choose companies with a long track record of success.
- Know what’s in the herbal supplement. In the U.S. and Canada, companies are required to include certain information on all herbal supplement labels. This includes the name of the herbal supplement, a comprehensive list of ingredients, and serving sizes. If you don’t understand something, ask your pharmacist or doctor.
- Find scientific research evidence. Many drug and health agencies around the world are great at policing the markets, however, they don’t always have up-to-date research on herbal supplements. Kratom, for example, has been widely researched by many notable scientists include Chris McCurdy, Ph. D from the University of Florida and Charles Veltri, Ph. D from Midwestern University. Reddit is a great resource for scientific findings on unconventional and emerging supplements. Many times, new emerging research and articles are uncovered in these avenues long before government agencies begin recognizing the research as facts.
5. Buy quality natural products and supplements
When you walk into a vitamin store, you’ll notice hundreds of herbal supplements and vitamins with different ingredients, amounts, and sourcing, and available in every imaginable shape, size, and color. But not all vitamins are created equal. Some are really high-quality while others are produced with cheap ingredients. Why is this?
Compared to pharmaceutical drugs sold at pharmacies, herbal supplements are loosely regulated by government agencies. Law prohibits manufacturers from selling adulterated or mislabeled products. but there is little oversight to ensure compliance. To ensure you are purchasing only high-quality natural products, here are several things to consider:
- Many ingredients are known to be poorly absorbed yet are used simply because they’re cheaper or take up less space in the tablet or capsule. Look for these vitamins in a high-quality product: vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iron and turmeric.
- Just because there’s a certain ingredient in the label, doesn’t mean there’s enough of that ingredient to benefit the person taking it. Some manufacturers put a tiny bit of an expensive ingredient in the product to make it seem like a high-quality product. This is called “fairy dusting”.
- Some leading supplement companies take a minimalist approach, claiming that less is more. Don’t buy into it. With dietary supplements, more is more.
- Always conduct thorough research on dietary supplements before adding them to your daily regimen. Some things to look out for include ingredients added for cosmetic reasons like titanium dioxide and artificial dyes, some linked to cancer. Some products contain minerals contaminated by lead. See if the company has any history of product recalls or negative user reviews.