Buying supplements can feel like an overwhelming process. With hundreds of options available to purchase online, from pharmacies, gas station convenience stores, and whole aisles dedicated to them in grocery stores. But just because supplements are prevalent and convenient doesn’t mean that they are all effective, nor does it mean you should be taking them.
It’s essential to know why you are taking the supplement. Ask yourself these questions. What is it for? What side effects does it have? And will it react with other medications that you take?
When buying supplements, it is crucial to know which supplement brands to buy and which ones to avoid. So, before you grab a handful of supplements off the shelf, you need to do your research. Here is what you need to know before buying supplements:
What Is a Dietary Supplement?
Likely, you and your children are already taking dietary supplements in the form of daily vitamins. Nutritional supplements also include minerals, amino acids, herbs or other botanicals, enzymes, and many other ingredients.
What Forms Do Supplements Take?
Supplements come in many forms and aren’t limited to pills or capsules. They also come in tablets, gummies, powders, drinks, tinctures, and energy bars.
What’s on the Supplement Label?
The Supplement Facts label lists the active ingredients and the amount per serving (dose). There is also a section that lists inactive ingredients like fillers, binders, and flavorings.
Should I Take the Suggested Amount?
Supplements come with a manufactured suggested serving size or dosage direction. It is best to consult with your healthcare provider before buying supplements as the dosage you should take may differ from the amount the manufacturer recommends.
Are the Marketing Claims Made By the Company True?
This is a gray area. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means that the FDA does not determine whether dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed. Do some research before buying supplements and check if the advertised claims are backed by scientific or anecdotal evidence.
Can Supplements Replace a Healthy Diet?
No, supplements aren’t intended to replace food they should be used in addition to a healthy diet, not replace it. Supplements can indeed deliver adequate amounts of essential nutrients, if you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods, or if you have difficulty absorbing the nutrients in food. However, it is still necessary to eat a healthy diet. If you want to learn more about how to eat a healthier diet, Dietary Guidelines for Americans and ChooseMyPlate are useful resources.
Are There Side Effects?
Some active ingredients in supplements can have substantial effects on the body. When you take a new supplement, be aware of how it acts on the body, and know that there is the possibility of unexpected side effects. Side effects are most likely to occur if you take the supplement at a high dose or if you take many different supplements at one time.
Can You Give Some Examples of Side Effects?
Yes. Although side effects vary depending on the active ingredients and what other supplements or medications you may be taking. Here are a few examples of possible side effects:
- Possible increased risk of bleeding.
- It can affect the response to anesthesia.
- Vitamin K can reduce the ability of Coumadin® to prevent blood from clotting.
- John’s wort can speed the breakdown and reduce the effectiveness of many medicines like antidepressants, heart medications, birth control pills, anti-HIV medications, and transplant drugs.
- Antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins C and E, have been shown to reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy.
Can I Take Too Many Supplements?
Yes. You can get too much of some vitamins, minerals, and herbs. You may even be getting too much of one nutrient without even knowing it. Check the processed foods that you eat, especially breakfast cereals and beverages, for added vitamins, minerals, and other supplemented ingredients. Since manufacturers fortify these foods, you may get more of these nutrients than you realize, and more isn’t always better. With some vitamins and minerals, taking more than you need won’t necessarily hurt you, but why spend the money on the extra supplements if you don’t need too?
In other cases, like with Vitamin A, taking to much will have side effects like headaches, liver damage, congenital disabilities, and reduced bone strength.
Should I Take Supplements If I Am Pregnant or Nursing?
It is advised that you talk to your healthcare provider before buying supplements if pregnant or nursing. Not all supplements have been adequately tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children.
Should I Give Supplements to My Child?
As we stated earlier, not all supplements have been adequately tested for use by children. Check with your healthcare provider before giving a supplement to your child.
Are All the Brands the Same?
No. Case study: in May 2019, CVS decided to independently test all of the supplements that they carried to assure customers that they were getting what they thought that they were getting. The testing covered safety and label accuracy. 7% of the products did not meet safety or accuracy standards and were pulled off the shelves.
Other research has shown that supplements can be contaminated with dangerous ingredients like lead or pharmaceutical drugs and that the amount of the nutrient stated on the bottle is not the amount actually in the bottle. Not all stores take it upon themselves to independently test and research the supplements that they sell, so unless you have done your research, you don’t know what you are getting.
That’s why we highly suggest you do your homework before buying supplements off the store shelves. Or better yet, make an appointment with us at One Life Medical. Our healthcare team has done the research for you and can guide you in what supplements you should be taking in the right amount for you, and can recommend the best brands. We’re here to support you on your journey to optimal health. Call today for an appointment!