Do Nutritional Supplements Really Add to Your Health?
Nutritional supplements refer to a wide range of products. They are designed to enhance your health, improve overall performance, and positively affect your physical and mental well being.
The term supplement covers a range of categories including vitamins, sports supplements, weight loss products, teas, herbs, and anti-oxidants. Nutritional supplements are found in almost all health food stores, online, and in many traditional stores as well.
Throughout history, nutritional supplements have been used to maintain health, treat a wide range of ailments, and to improve overall health.
Many traditional medicines come from what is considered supplements.
Perhaps one of the most common forms of nutritional supplement is vitamins. Many people take multi-vitamins and doctors often recommend them. Use caution when taking vitamins by educating yourself about maximum dosages, drug interactions, safety precautions, and health risks associated with each vitamin. Some are risky if taken in excess. Awareness is essential.
Consult with a doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.
Used to Enhance Overall Performance
Other popular supplements are used in sports, where they are used to enhance performance and speed up recovery from injuries.
Many supplements used for these purposes cause debates about effectiveness. Some have even been pulled from the shelves and production discontinued.
For example, Ephedrine. Used in many weight loss products, ephedrine caused serious heart problems for some users. It is now a regulated substance.
Another example is Creatine. Some people claim that it causes liver damage, while others say that it is safe when used appropriately. There are many forms on the market with Creatine Monohydrate being sold as the safest, according to an article in Healthline.
So these are two examples of supplements, one originally thought to be safe but in reality not, and the other with two completely different opinions about its safety.
Again, knowledge is key. Educate yourself. And then you need to decide what your gut feeling is and follow it. Does the information surrounding the health product make sense to you?
How to Decide?
My personal take on health products is:
- If it is chemically produced in a lab with ingredients not derived from nature, use extreme caution.
- If it is a naturally derived supplement, educate yourself about where it comes from, who manufactures it, and what other ingredients are added to the supplement. Use caution.
- Always determine what ingredients you are about to introduce into your body. Some supplements are more “pure” than others. Check out the ingredients label.
- Determine possible side effects and weigh these against the benefits.
- If you come up with more positives than negatives and have considered any interactions with other products you are currently taking and there are none or only minimal, then most likely it is a good product for you.
- Check with your doctor.
The FDA, Deal Breaker or Not?
One of the most important things to know about nutritional supplements is that they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is why many product claims on packaging labels and advertising materials include the message, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration” or something to that effect.
Because supplements are not regulated, the manufacturing, processing, and packaging methods can vary greatly from one product to another.
When using supplements, be sure to research the company and choose a reputable supplier. The safety of supplements may also be unknown due to the lack of regulation. Again, careful shopping is necessary.
Natural, Not Poisonous
Many producers and users of supplements claim they are safe because they are natural or made from “all natural” ingredients. While this seems like a logical claim, as a consumer you must use your best judgment when considering the use of supplements.
Many substances found in nature are not safe and are in fact toxic, poisonous, and even deadly.
After all, poison ivy is “all natural,” but you are not going to rub it all over your skin, even if a great sales pitch tried to convince you that it’s the best moisturizer around.
And there are many nutritional supplements that are natural, safe, and useful for improving and maintaining your health.
For example, goldenseal and echinacea are awesome immune system boosters. During cold and flu season they help in reducing these symptoms by supercharging your immune system to help fight off the viruses. These are both consumed regularly in my house during this time.
As with any consumable, careful shopping and research is essential. There are a number of factors you need to check:
- The strength of the dosage you are taking.
- If the total product is non-GMO.
- Does it contain additives and/or fillers. If so, are they harmful and why they are in the product.
- If the capsule casing is all natural or contains chemicals.
Remember, if a claim seems too good to be true, it likely is. Be aware of product pitches and use good judgment before purchasing and using any nutritional supplement.
Buy supplements from a reputable company and manufacturer.
Consult with your physician before beginning a supplement routine.
Supplements And Nutrition
A well-balanced diet that includes all food groups is a great start to ensuring you are getting the correct amounts of necessary nutrients for optimal health.
However, with the introduction of chemicals not only sprayed for insect control but now engineered into the organism (seed) itself, our food is not providing the total amount of nutrients we need. In addition, meat is injected with hormones, antibiotics, and steroids approved by the FDA. Really? This is not how nature created food for us. It is harming the overall nutritional value of food and actually making it harmful.
For example, one of the chemicals engineered into food seeds is found in RoundUp. And we know what RoundUp does…KILLS weeds. And it was engineered into the seed so the plant resists insect blight. But we are eating the food product of that plant? There are SO many things wrong with this!
In addition, the American diet is high in starches and sugars, highly processed, and does not provide good wholesome nutrition.
And not everyone likes vegetables which are low in fat and calories and are important sources of many nutrients. Some people are allergic to nuts and poultry which are excellent sources of protein and good fat. What do you do if you are the fussy eater or the one allergic to a food group that is highly nutritious? How can you be sure that you get proper nutrition?
The answer is in Supplements. And an understanding of them.
Again, before taking supplements, consult your physician to make sure you have the proper ones for optimal nutrition. Also, your doctor can advise you about dosages and possible interactions with medications and other health products.
A Wide Variety
- Multivitamins and vitamins – Dietary Supplements.
- Protein supplements – Dietary Supplements.
- Minerals – Dietary Supplements.
- Herbs – Herbal Supplements.
- Teas – Herbal Supplements.
- Specialized supplements – Dietary or Herbal Supplements.
- Spices – Have medicinal properties beneficial to your health.
Multivitamins are the most prescribed supplements. Regulated and concentrated amounts of essential vitamins are packed in a tablet or gel capsule.
Protein supplements are commonly used by people to build more muscle.
Mineral supplements include calcium for bone growth and potassium to maintain healthy blood pressure and decrease bone loss.
Probiotics, tinctures, dietary supplements, and memory enhancers are commonly classified as specialized supplements.
A Sample List of Dietary and Herbal Supplements and Their Associated Medicinal Purpose
This is only a sample list. Nature has provided us with many different supplements that aid our bodies in healing and preventing disease. A full discussion is prohibitive and best left to individual articles.
- Magnesium – a mineral dietary supplement that aids in preventing kidney, thyroid and heart disease.
- St. John’s wort – an effective herbal dietary supplement used for depression
- Vitamin E – a vitamin dietary supplement that is an antioxidant.
- Copper – a mineral dietary supplement that aids in the absorption of zinc in the body to allow it to maximize its beneficial effects. Copper also helps the body function normally, aiding in the prevention of heart disease and promoting healthy skin and hair.
- Folate – a mineral dietary supplements that contribute to the production of red blood cells, manufacturing of DNA for cell replication, and aiding in the metabolism of amino acids.
- Iron – a mineral dietary supplement that supplies energy to every cell in the body and is a vital component of hemoglobin which supplies oxygen to muscles.
- Vitamin B6 and B12 – these belong to Vitamin B complexes which help with a host of ailments such as alcoholism, depression, diabetes, hair problems, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and stress.
- Tea – a group of herbal dietary supplements that contain antioxidants that are effective in preventing cancer and heart disease, as well as helping to keep blood pressure at normal levels.
- Vitamin D – essential vitamin supplement to help in preventing osteoporosis.
- Selenium – a mineral supplement that contains an antioxidant that can counter various ailments, including cancer.
- Vitamin A and carotenoids – vitamin dietary supplements that promote good eyesight.
Vitamins, minerals, herbals, tinctures, and more all contribute one or more benefits to your health. Studying about them allows you to consider alternative methods to contribute to your health.
Supplements and nutrition must be complementary.
For example, if you consume large amounts of carrots and squash, be careful about taking additional Vitamin A. This is because you can take too much Vitamin A which can cause a yellow or orange tinge to the skin.
Overdoses on minerals and vitamins can even disrupt normal hormonal function.
When it comes to supplements, other than Vitamin C (which the body flushes out excess), too much of a good thing can be hazardous to your health.
Hence, a correct program incorporating supplements with nutrition in the correct dosages must be set up. You can educate yourself and decide what is best for you and then consult with your doctor about your program. Or you can just go to your doctor and request his advice. This prevents overdoses or taking unnecessary supplements.
The FDA (again)
The US FDA, in recognition of the growing market and the need for supplements, has taken steps to regulate their production, dosage, and sanitation. This was done to ensure good-quality products. It is also partly due to the increasing number of unprescribed supplement used among consumers.
The agency also stresses the importance of informed use among supplement users. It is not enough to know the name of your supplements, you need to know what deficiency it corrects and how it works.
Your doctor can request tests to diagnose what you are lacking to ensure you take only what you need. Once you start a supplement regime you can discuss additional supplements to add based on how well you are feeling.
Supplements are just that. They are meant to supplement a good, healthy, and wholesome diet. However, sometimes the food available does not provide every nutrient you need. Sometimes you as an individual need more of a particular nutrient.
When selecting supplements, make sure they are natural, of good quality, and do not have unnecessary ingredients.
A note about doctors. As always, I encourage you to seek medical advice. However, if you are not getting the answers you need, consult with a different physician, such as a Holistic Health Practitioner whose educational background is specific to natural medicine.