How to Choose the Right Dietary Supplements for You
Vitamins and dietary supplements seem to be everywhere, from drug stores to online shops. Single nutrients, multivitamins, fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and weight loss helpers are all considered dietary supplements. There's a lot to choose from, which can make the selection process quite confusing.
Choosing the right supplements isn't easy. Though the FDA regulates them to an extent, it's the manufacturer's responsibility to provide safe products. To find safe, reliable, and effective supplements, follow these commonsense tips.
Set Realistic Expectations
Though they can be beneficial, dietary supplements are not meant to provide dramatic or immediate effects. They don't treat or cure diseases, and manufacturers are not allowed to make such claims. Supplements are intended to support overall health, but it's important not to see them as a miracle cure or a replacement for prescription medications.
Consult Your Physician
Before taking any dietary supplement, be sure to discuss its benefits and risks with your doctor. A physician will know your health and goals almost as well as you do, and they can use their knowledge to recommend the right supplements for those goals. Don't be afraid to ask questions during your appointment; it's your health, and there's nothing more important.
Know If and Why You Need Supplements
Vitamins and supplements are a way to fill in nutritional gaps and ensure adequate intake. Though multivitamins do the job quite well, there are times when single-ingredient supplements are used to treat certain health issues. For instance, a person may take vitamin D for bone health or they may take iron to treat anemia. In such cases, a doctor has likely recommended a specific dosage and a supplement brand.
If you believe there's a health-related reason to take a supplement, it's best to consult your physician before starting. Self-diagnosis probably won't help, and it could even be harmful.
Pay Attention to Your Body's Signals
Every person is different and just because a family member or friend has a nutrient deficiency, it does not mean you do as well. When taking supplements-and at all other times-it's crucial to listen to your body and react properly.
For instance, those who feel tired may need to up their iron intake or add a vitamin B12 supplement for an energy boost. If you're acquainted with your body and the signs it provides, it's easy to pick up on certain conditions early on. It's important to learn which supplements you need, how they work, and how they affect your body. With this information and the tips in this WebMD guide, it's easier to make an informed purchase decision.
Understand How Supplements are Regulated
Dietary supplements are subject to different regulations than foods and drugs. Though manufacturers must register with the Food and Drug Administration, they don't need the FDA's approval to make and sell products.
With that said, the FDA requires manufacturers to follow stringent regulations. All manufacturers must ensure that label claims are factual, and they must report adverse events associated with the usage of their products. Once a dietary supplement hits the market, the Food and Drug Administration monitors the reporting of adverse events and may issue warnings or initiate product recalls.
Once you've learned how many vitamins you're lacking, it's normal to want to catch up as quickly as possible by picking the right one. Though it can be tempting to use supplements to fill in every nutritional gap, it's crucial to take things slowly. Start with one or two supplements, gradually adding in others as needed. With this approach to supplement use, you'll learn how your body handles each one and take notes on any possible side effects.
Become an Avid Label Reader
Product labels, including those on dietary supplements, are designed to be eye-catching. Although manufacturers must follow certain regulations on health claims, it's common to find products that make lofty claims and big promises.
on't believe the hype-where health claims and supplements are concerned, if it seems too good to be true, it likely is. At best, you'll spend money needlessly; at worst, you may put your health at risk. Instead of focusing on the label's claims, read the list of ingredients and the supplement facts to learn who makes it, where it's made, what's inside the bottle and how to take it.
Consider the Supplement's Bioavailability
Even the most expensive supplements are useless if they can't be absorbed by the body. Bioavailability is a measure of the amount of the active ingredient that the body can absorb. Nutrients and vitamins come in numerous forms, and some are absorbed more readily than others are. For instance, magnesium can be found in several forms, such as sulfate, taurate, citrate, chloride, and bisglycinate. Some of these are absorbed sooner, and all have unique benefits. It's worth working with a doctor and doing your own research to find the right supplement form.
Steer Clear of Additional Ingredients and Big Doses
Along with outlandish health claims, supplement buyers should also watch for unnecessary ingredients and excessive dosages. Let's use vitamin C as an example. The supplement aisle is full of options; some of which include immune-boosting herbs. Are these extra ingredients beneficial?
Though these add-ins might seem like a great idea, they come with risks. The longer a supplement's ingredient list is, the greater the risk of side effects. To be safe, begin with only the mineral or vitamin you want to take, and don't buy a higher dosage than your body needs. Follow the label's dosage instructions carefully. Though dietary supplements are considered safe, high doses may be harmful to some people.
Go For Potency
Many times, supplements do not contain enough of the active ingredient. Some brands have nutrient levels that are up to one-third less than what's listed on the label. Just as an excessive dose may bring adverse health effects, getting too little of a key ingredient can also be harmful. Look for brands that are tested by the USP, as they'll have the required amount of nutrients in every dose.
Read the Reviews
Reading unbiased reviews from other consumers is a great way to determine the potential effectiveness of a product, as is reading medical experts' opinions. As with other purchases, it's a good idea to read a few reviews before buying a dietary supplement.
Consider Pre-Existing Conditions
Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from a heart condition or another health issue should carefully consider the benefits and risks of a supplement before using it. Again, we suggest that you consult a physician before taking any type of dietary supplement. After all, there's nothing more important than your health!
Don't Take Supplements Before a Medical Procedure
In some cases, it may be necessary to clear the body of supplements and vitamins before a medical procedure. Talk to your healthcare provider beforehand, because the risks may outweigh the supplement's benefits.
Choose a Well-Known Supplement Brand
Everyone knows there are some vitamin brands that have been around for years-they are well-known, and the company probably offers a great product. If you're shopping in a health food store or a pharmacy, it may be possible to ask someone for advice. However, if you're visiting a discount store or an online shop, the decision-making process may be a bit more difficult. When shopping for supplements in stores and online, look for those that are certified by NSF International, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or ConsumerLabs. Though these certifications do not guarantee a product's safety or effectiveness, they do indicate that it has undergone rigorous quality testing.
Think About the Cost
Dietary supplements can be costly, so look for prices that fit into your long-term budget. As with other things in life, there's often a trade-off between the quality and the cost of the supplement, and you'll need to find the right balance. Keep in mind, though, that even the costliest supplements are only worth the price if you remember to take them as directed.
Consider Eye Health Supplements As You Age
There's a good reason why, as we get older, many of us need more vitamin D: it protects against osteoporosis. The same applies to the rest of the body. Just as our bones suffer from years of wear and tear, so do our eyes. Certain supplements are formulated with zeaxanthin and lutein, which are antioxidants that our eyes lose as we age. If you're getting older, consider adding an eye health supplement to your daily routine.
Carefully Evaluate Online Supplement Sellers
Searching online for dietary supplements will turn up hundreds of sites, from manufacturer portals to fake sites peddling counterfeit products. To stay healthy and safe, stay away from products promising rapid weight loss, cures for health conditions, and improved sexual abilities. Instead of buying into the hype, look for websites offering relevant, up-to-date information and manufacturer contact information that's prominently displayed.
If you're considering the use of dietary supplements, there are a few steps to take first. Learn about a product's potential interactions and side effects, ask about its efficacy, and determine if any safety considerations should be made. With the tips in this guide and a consultation with your healthcare professional, it's easy to find the right supplements for your dietary needs.
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups, and well-established organizations having gone through the tech boom of Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle, after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges, including auto-immune diseases, and being overweight, that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been passionate about encouraging others to live better through whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
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