Supplements are quite the topic of conversation lately. Many people wonder, "Should I take supplements?" "Are supplements safe?" Ideally, we should be getting our vitamins and minerals through foods in their whole, natural, and organic form. However, health professionals may prescribe supplements for a variety of reasons, such as poor eating habits, nutrient depletion from the medications we take, food processing and cooking that can deplete nutrients, stress, and disease processes. If you look at the health food store, it can appear as though there is a supplement for any and every possible ailment, but there is a great deal of misinformation out there, which can make it hard to make the right choice. Let's break down the truths and myths of supplements:
- Generally, supplements are not unhealthy as long as they are taken correctly and are prescribed by a licensed professional.
- Keep in mind that dietary manufacturers do not have to prove a product's safety or efficacy before it is marketed.
- You should read labels closely: supplements have binders and fillers in them.
- The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements has a series of Vitamin and Mineral Fact Sheets that provide scientifically-based overviews of a number of supplements.
- Supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure disease; however, reports have shown that under the care of a health professional, supplements have been shown to significantly reduce or eliminate certain symptoms of the disease process.
- Supplements are intended to supplement the diet, not replace it.
- “Natural" doesn’t always mean safe.
- If a supplement works for one, it will have the same effect for all.
- Fact: each person can react differently to the chemical make-up and mechanism of a supplement.
- If a small dose of a supplement is good, then a larger dose is better.
- Fact: you should never take more than prescribed unless instructed by a healthcare professional.
When considering taking supplements, a question you may want to ask yourself is:
Do I really need them?
Always speak with your healthcare provider before taking supplements. You should work together to determine whether a vitamin/mineral is right for you.
When starting supplements, monitor yourself for side effects. If you suspect you are having an adverse reaction, stop taking the vitamin/mineral and notify your health professional immediately.
In the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle or improved health, supplements can be a great addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.