The Truth About Supplements – Part Two

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fruits_vegetablesIn last week’s post we talked about why supplementation, although it may seem like the right thing to do to ensure you get the adequate nutrients you need on a daily basis, may not always be right for you. We talked about the dangers of certain nutrients building up within the tissues of the body, which can lead to toxicity along with the additional burden placed on the body when a supplement made with inferior ingredients and offering poor absorption is used.

On the other hand, I also mentioned that since our soil is so nutritionally depleted, it’s unlikely we’re getting the nutrients we need from diet alone. This post continues the discussion, giving you more information so you can make an educated decision about whether supplementation is right for you. 

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, one in three people take at least one supplement each day and government figures show that Americans spend $11 billion annually on vitamins and minerals.

The media today shines a light on so many different supplements and praises their effects in the body. Unfortunately, they rarely discuss the possible negative effects these products can have if your body is not lacking in the nutrients. Just as there are deficiency symptoms of nutrients, there are also toxicity symptoms that need to be addressed and considered. The vitamins to be cautious of with toxicity are especially the fat-soluble vitamins –  A, D, E, and K – because these are the ones that will be stored in the body.

What I’ve seen personally in my business over the last 21 years is that many people count on supplements as a “back up,” so if their diet is lacking they can easily get the missing nutrients from a supplement instead. Foods that provide certain nutrients have so much more than one specific benefit to them. For example, a vegetable may have vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and so much more. Choosing a specific supplement for one nutrient over a food that provides multiple benefits can lead to a very unbalanced nutrient profile. I’ve also seen how many people hear about a supplement and assume that if it’s right for someone else, it’s right for them as well.

What are the cases in which I should be taking supplements?

This is a question to be taken up with a qualified health practitioner before beginning any kind of supplement regimen to make sure that you are taking something you need and you’re not taking any medications that could react with these supplements and can cause harm. Supplementation to your normal diet regimen is necessary when its potential benefits are essential to what your body needs, and this is something that a health care provider can tell you. There are diseases and disorders in which vitamin or mineral deficiency is a symptom and supplementation is necessary, for example in iron-deficiency anemia. The phrase “too much of a good thing” can be applied to the use of supplements however, and consumers need to be aware that overloading on certain supplements can have negative effects in the body.

So, before purchasing supplements, keep these tips in mind:

• Consult with a qualified health care provider about nutrient interactions with any medications you may be taking.

• Consult with a Registered Dietitian or qualified nutritionist to find out if your diet is sufficiently providing you with the nutrients you need. Optionally, nutritional testing can be done to determine your current status.

• If your diet is lacking in nutrients, find out which foods can provide you with the nutrients you need.

• If you decide to supplement, make sure the quality is superior in order to gain the most benefit from what you’re taking.

• If you’re unsure about which nutrients you need and want to do this on your own, a quality daily multivitamin can be a good start, giving you much of the recommended nutrients you need for the day without overloading on just one nutrient.

Photo by Carol Moshler.

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