Are they right for you?
When it comes to supplements, one thing that is forgotten is what they are: supplements. The term supplement means to add on, enhance, improve, complement, or accompany. In other words, they’re not seen as absolutely necessary for good health, but rather as nice extras that can benefit some.
And while supplements can’t replace a healthy nutritious diet, they can make up what may be lacking in your diet. Hence why store shelves are full of vitamins, herbs, and other dietary supplements. How do you know if they’re safe or beneficial for you?
You’re about to find out.
Who Needs Supplements?
For people on special diets – whether because of a food allergy or intolerance, a low-calorie diet to lose weight, or a vegan diet for preference – supplements may help fill in the gap for missing nutrients. A multivitamin or supplement such as calcium may be beneficial. There are many other reasons to seek out a supplement as well.
It is recommended pregnant women take folic acid supplements and prenatal vitamins to reduce the risk of spinal chord and brain birth defects of the baby.
To protect bone health of postmenopausal women, a supplement of vitamin D and calcium may be needed. Also, those with heart disease may benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements, and since people older than 50 year often have difficulty absorbing vitamin B-12 from food, a B vitamin supplement may give the boost they need.
Who Should Avoid Supplements?
Helpful as they may be, vitamins and supplements should not be taken by people with certain medical conditions. In addition, some supplements interact with medications or with other supplements, causing adverse side effects. So if you plan to use supplements of any kind, be cautious.
Besides a daily prenatal vitamin or folic acid, pregnant and lactating women should not take supplements, as they may harm the baby. Or if you’re going to have surgery, stop taking supplements. Some may cause bleeding or other dangerous complications.
Taking diuretics, blood thinners, heart medications, aspirin, steroids, or immune-suppressing medications? Be very careful when considering supplements. A number of supplements have the potential to interact with these drugs and can lead to severe reactions.
Those who have a history of cancer or who are currently being treated for cancer should also avoid supplements, as some supplements may encourage cancer cell growth.
Do Your Homework
In the event your physician isn’t an expert on supplements, do some research on your own to learn all you can about a supplement you’re considering as well as the condition you’re hoping to treat.
Before starting a supplement, remember the following:
- Just because a supplement was helpful for a friend doesn’t mean it will be effective or safe for you.
- In America, dietary supplements are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration the same way food is. However, supplement manufacturers don’t have to prove the safety or effectiveness of their products, and the FDA can only remove a supplement from the market if it later proves unsafe.
- High doses of certain vitamins can be dangerous. A multivitamin with 100 percent or less of the recommended daily value of minerals and vitamins is sufficient if you eat a balanced diet.
- If a supplement claims that it’s all-natural, has a money-back guarantee, or that it will cure a disease, beware. Such statements are likely too good to be true.
- Look for brands that have the NSF International, ConsumerLab, or US Pharmacopeia seal to guarantee the supplement doesn’t contain harmful ingredients or contaminants.
- Know what to expect from a supplement: what it claims to do and what possible side effects are associated with it.
- As with prescription and over-the-counter medications, you should take supplement as directed, whether with or without food.
No Supplement for You?
If you’re not interested in supplementing your diet, no problem. Just make sure you eat a well-balanced diet that has plenty of fruits and vegetables.
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