Everything You Need to Know Before Taking Supplements

Updated on October 26th, 2020
Things to Know Before Taking Supplements

Getting enough nutrients every day is essential for health. Nutrients give you the energy to build muscle, complete daily tasks, repair body tissue, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent infection. The “key” nutrients are calories, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Our body requires all of these every day. 

Most people get adequate nutrients by eating an array of foods each day. However, if you have some health problems, you may need to limit foods that would generally give you enough nutrients for good health.

An ailment can also change how your body processes certain nutrients, so supplements can ensure that you are receiving the necessary nutrients you require. 

It’s crucial to check with your dietitian or healthcare provider before taking any supplements because some can be quite dangerous to people with comorbidities. Your medical practitioner can tell you which specific supplements are right for you. Here are some key things to know:

Difference between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins

Few vitamins are water-soluble, which means our body uses what it requires of them and gets rid of any excess through urine. On the other end, fat-soluble vitamins are stored by our body for extended periods in the case of excess.

Particularly vitamins K and A require special attention and be sure you are not taking more than the upper intake level [1].

Few vitamins can lessen the efficacy of other medications

When speaking with your physician about whether or not a supplement is right for you, one factor they should look into is other medicines you’re taking.

For instance, Vitamin K can be deadly for anyone taking blood-thinning medication since it can lessen the effectiveness, as noted by the NIH (National Institutes of Health). Similarly, Chemotherapy treatments can be impacted by vitamins E and C.

And St. John’s Wort, which is considered a remedy for mild depression symptoms and can lessen birth control pills and antidepressants’ effectiveness [3].

Supplements come in many sizes, shapes, flavors, and forms

Most people are familiar with liquid supplements in shakes, special drinks, or juices with calories, protein, minerals, and vitamins. There are liquid supplements just for kidney disease patients, but you must consult your healthcare provider before taking them, particularly if you are on a fluid restriction.

There are also bars, puddings, cookies, and other foods that can be used in place of liquids. If you are not adequately nourished, then your social worker may be able to help you get these supplements through your insurance [4].

[Also Read: Best Multivitamin For Men’s Health]

Supplements span a wide spectrum

The supplement market is a multi-billion dollar business, and nutritional supplements include an array of products. Some are available OTC (over the counter), while others need a prescription. Few supplements have a lot of calories and protein, the nutrients that support you put on weight.

There are also weight loss supplements, and on the other end of the spectrum, bodybuilding supplements. Supplements can be for single nutrients, such as iron or vitamin D, or multiple nutrients, such as a multivitamin. Herbal products also come under the category of nutritional supplements.

Supplements are required when our diet doesn’t have adequate micronutrients.

Individuals often turn to supplements when they do not get an adequate amount or right micronutrients needed to live a healthy life. Several aspects could cause this, including access to healthy foods and a limited diet, like veganism or dairy or gluten-intolerance.

It could also be an issue when we say “yes” to junk food instead of the fruit salad. When you are taking a lot of processed foods or don’t have a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins in your diet, you could need a supplement.

And in some instances, even if you fill your plate with a colorful collection of goodies from Mother Nature, a supplement may still be a wise addition, thanks to climate change.

Our foods’ nutrient density has altered due to the depletion of nutrients in the soil due to unnatural farming practices. That means that the veggies we eat might not have as many vitamins in them as they did several years ago.

[Also Read: Best Multivitamin for Women]

Excess of anything is still a bad thing

Whether it’s having another glass of red wine or giving in to our sweet tooth, moderation is key in much of our diet preferences, and supplements are no different.

While there is no fixed number of daily supplements that apply to each individual, you should book an appointment as early as possible with your physician if you worry you are taking too many.

You should keep a record of all supplements you take, so when you go for your regular check-up, you can share the information with your physician. Your physician should be up to date on all the latest research and can confirm the safety of the products as it pertains to your health, particularly including any medicines you may be taking.

One “supplement” that you must limit (if you have any at all) are energy drinks, which are technically part of the same group as the multivitamin you’d pick up at the shop.

They typically have extremely high taurine and caffeine levels, which aren’t naturally present in food at those levels. If you abuse these supplements and drink excessive energy drinks, you can end up in the emergency room with heart problems.

Bottom Line

With all of this data, it’s simple to understand why most experts agree on one thing regarding supplements — you’re better off receiving your nutrients from food.

A well-balanced diet that incorporates all the necessary minerals and vitamins will keep you from worrying about any ineffective supplements, excess vitamins, and potentially unregulated and dangerous ingredients. Your physician can quickly test for a deficiency if you’re bothered; chances are, you don’t require them.

No study on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods, including nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

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