Dietary supplements are an increasingly common sight in homes, at pharmacies, and on grocery store shelves. Over half of Americans will take some kind of dietary supplement in their lifetimes. You can find them in pill, powder, and liquid form, and from big-name brands and store brands. Here are some facts to keep in mind when you’re looking for the right supplement.
You should always check with your doctor before you begin taking any kind of supplement. As long as you’re healthy and eating a balanced diet, there’s no real reason for you to take supplements. They can be helpful with certain health conditions or dietary issues, but shouldn’t be considered a cure or treatment. For example, if you’re a vegan, your doctor may recommend you take Vitamin B-12 to make up for the lack of it in your plant-based diet. Or if you’re at risk for heart disease, you could consider taking a fish oil supplement to aid in heart health. But your doctor should always have the final say on what kind of supplement and what dose is best for you.
Just like medications, supplements can have a variety of side effects you need to watch out for. If you take high doses or several different kinds, then the risk of side effects increases. Supplements can interact with medications too. For example, you should avoid Vitamin K when taking certain blood thinners because it can interfere with those medications and reduce their effectiveness.
Unline medicine, supplements are regulated as foods, not drugs. As with all foods, there are quality checks to ensure the product was manufactured correctly and safely, but there is no such regulation for what is in the product. National brands from private label supplements manufacturers tend to be completely safe, but in things like weight-loss teas, there is much less regulation. There may be more or less of the active ingredients than expected, or ingredients may be included in the product but not listed on the label.
Probiotics, Vitamins and Minerals
When you think of supplements, you probably tend to think of products like multivitamins, calcium and Vitamin C. But there’s way more variety in the supplement world. One of the big deal supplement types right now is probiotics – meant to support the balance between good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. It’s really common to find probiotics in yogurt and some other dairy products, but people also take them to stabilize their gut microbiome when they take antibiotics (which kill good and bad bacteria alike). A probiotic manufacturer must adhere to stricter regulations than those of other supplements due to the live bacteria in the probiotic.
Other types of dietary supplements range from protein and collagen powders to build muscle and preserve elasticity, to minerals like zinc for immune health, to herbs like turmeric to reduce inflammation. Some of them have proven benefits, like Calcium for bone health, while others require more research to prove their effectiveness.
There are many supplements on the market and a plethora of information available on them. If you think you could benefit from a dietary supplement, do some research and make sure you talk to your doctor before you start taking any.