What You Should Know Before Taking a Supplement
I love walking into stores in the new year and seeing motivated individuals throwing kale into their carts and following through on their health-resolutions. It’s also great to see supplements and body-care on sale to make getting healthy a little easier on the wallet- because supplements can get really expensive, really fast.
But I have also seen carts filled with a variety of supplement bottles, vitamins, and workout powders, and it’s a good reminder that you should always know why you are taking a supplement and what’s in it. How many of us have ever been convinced to buy a supplement because an ad said you should be on it, it’s been touted as a “superfood”, or your friend’s doctor once recommended it to them? You’re not alone. It’s almost impossible avoid it between tv commercials, magazine ads, and casual conversations with your friends, family, and coworkers.
So, if it worked for so many people and even your friend, then what’s the harm if you take it too? Great question.
Not all supplements are intended to be taken by everybody, or even for general health. They are full of herbs and nutrients that have real effects on the way your brain, heart, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, reproductive organs, and gastrointestinal tract function. Even hormone production can be affected. When taking concentrated nutrients and herbs, each carries its own set of side effects and contraindications for use(including the medications you are on).
I love using nutritional therapy with my patients, and sometimes that means taking supplements. But each supplement is carefully picked out for their unique needs, and the safety profile of the supplement. In addition to the safety concerns discussed above, supplements carry their own risk in discrepancy of what you think is inside them, and what is actually inside them. Unfortunately, there is no FDA regulation of supplement companies, so not every supplement bottle you see on the shelf at your health food store has been independently tested and verified to 1) contain the nutrients and herbs it claims to have, or 2) be free of any unwanted filler, chemicals, heavy metals, or any other contaminants from manufacturing on shared equipment. On the bright side, there is a growing number of companies that go out of their way to have their product sent to a third party testing facility to make sure their product is safe and matches what they claim on the label.
Please talk to your doctor about your specific health concerns, including any current health conditions, and be sure to ask:
Will this interfere with any medications I am on?
Does this have any side effects I should be aware of?
What is a safe dose?
How long should I take it for?
What brands are reliable?
Not only will this save you money but it will also help prevent any adverse side effects you may experience when taking a supplement.