Your Vitamin Source
Visit us to find your healthiest you!
Your Vitamin Source
Visit us to find your healthiest you!
Visit us to find your healthiest you!
Visit us to find your healthiest you!
Dietary supplements may be a helpful addition to your health routine, but it's important to keep in mind that the safety and effectiveness of supplements have not been proven scientifically and are largely unknown. To help choose your supplements wisely, We help you keep these tips in mind.
1. Know Why (or If) You Need Them
Dietary supplements are best used to ensure you're getting an adequate intake of specific nutrients—some multiple vitamins that will do the job nicely. But there are times when specific supplements are used to help treat specific health issues, like taking calcium and vitamin D for osteoporosis or iron for anemia. In cases like this, your health care provider has probably already explained how much you should take and maybe offered suggests about particular brands.
If you think you might have health reasons to take specific supplements, you need to speak with your health care provider. Don't diagnose yourself.
And finally, if your goal for taking supplements is to prevent illness, then you might want to reconsider your plan—research studies don't usually find supplements to be helpful in this way. They probably don't hurt either, but the foods you eat (or don't eat) probably have a bigger impact on your health risks.
Are Supplements Really Necessary for Good Health?
2. Brush Up on Your Label Reading Skills
Labels are designed to catch your eye so you'll buy the product. And although supplement manufacturers have to follow specific rules about health claims, you might find yourself looking at a product that says it can do more than it can.
Don't believe it—when it comes to supplements and health claims, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. At best you'll waste your money, and at worst you'll end up with something dangerous.
Look past the claims on the front of the label and review the supplement facts chart and ingredients—that will give you an idea of what's in the bottle and how much to take. You should also find the name and contact information for the manufacturer.
Read about whether it's safe to take expired vitamins.
3. Avoid Mega Doses and Extra Ingredients
So let's say you want to buy a bottle of vitamin C. You go to the store, and you see one bottle of vitamin C; another bottle of vitamin C with immune-supporting herbs; and a bottle of vitamin C with this, that, and some other thing. Are the additional things helpful?
Those extra ingredients may seem like a good idea, but the more ingredients, the higher the likelihood of having some unwanted side effect. Start with just the vitamin or mineral you're interested in taking. Don't buy more than you need.
Follow the dosage instructions on the label. Although dietary supplements are generally safe, taking too much can be bad for you.
4. Choose a Respected Brand
You know there are some brands of vitamins you've seen for years—they've been around for a long time, so they probably offer a decent product. If you're shopping at a drug store or a health food store, you should be able to ask someone for advice. But if you're going to the grocery store or the big box store, you're on your own.
In that case, look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee a product is safe or effective, but they indicate that it's undergone testing for quality.
5. Evaluate the Site When Buying Online
Searching the web for supplements will turn up all kinds of websites, from official supplement company sites to cut-rate cheapo sites, to websites that sell products that are worthless or worse. Don't fall for products that promise cures for diseases, extreme weight loss, or impressive sexual prowess.
Look for sites that offer current, sound information (with references) and include easy access to contact information.
Finally, speak to your health care provider before you take any supplements if:
You're pregnant or breastfeeding
You're going to have surgery
You have any health conditions
You're taking any prescription medications
Watch for Drug Interactions
A number of supplements may interact in harmful ways with prescription or over-the-counter drugs. For example, St. John's wort may alter the breakdown of many drugs including antidepressants and birth control pills. Vitamin K, ginkgo biloba, garlic, and vitamin E may interact with blood-thinners. That's why it's essential that you consult your physician before starting a supplement regimen or making changes to your treatment regimen or prescribed medications.
Your doctor may also be able to notify you of any other potential risks a supplement might pose to your health (especially if you're pregnant, have other medical conditions or are planning to have surgery), as well as offer guidance on the best dosage to take. If your doctor isn't comfortable with advising you on supplement use, ask if he or she can refer you to a qualified supplement-savvy health practitioner. But keep in mind that because of a lack of research on side effects, just how a supplement may interact with a medication isn't known.
Seek out Certified Products
Look for supplements certified by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or the United Natural Products Alliance, as it indicates a higher standard of quality assessment. (The USP's screening process, for instance, ensures that a product will break down properly and effectively release its ingredients into the body.) These organizations have a certification seal that is typically shown on the product packaging.
Check the Label
When shopping for an herbal supplement, it's important to verify which parts of the plant were used in its production. Different components can produce different effects, some of which can harm your health. For example, research shows that while the roots of the herb kava seem to be safe, its stem peelings and leaves may contain compounds that could be toxic to the liver. Talking with your doctor or herbalist can help you determine which plant parts to look for.
Take Heed of Side Effects
If you experience any adverse effects after taking a new supplement, discontinue its use immediately and contact your doctor and poison control center. Although some supplements may have minimal side effects, others are linked to serious side effects (such as kidney damage and gastrointestinal problems), especially when taken at excessive doses.
Also, it's important to know that most dietary supplements have not been tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers or children.
Safety Not Guaranteed
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate herbs and other dietary supplements in the same way it does prescription and non-prescription drugs. Unlike pharmaceutical manufacturers, who must prove a drug's safety and effectiveness prior to putting it on the market, supplement manufacturers are not required to prove the safety and effectiveness of a supplement before it is made available to consumers. (The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act has exempted supplement manufacturers from these regulations).
Although product labels are supposed to list all ingredients accurately, in some cases, products sold to consumers have been found to be adulterated and mislabeled resulting in serious adverse effects. Even if a product is found to be adulterated, the recall is usually voluntary.
Supplements marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding are among the types of supplements found to contain hidden ingredients and even undisclosed drugs not approved for over-the-counter use. Certain Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine mixed herbal products may also be more likely to be contaminated or adulterated.
If you have allergies, particularly to plants, weeds, nuts, bee products, or pollen, you should consult your primary care provider before taking herbs or other supplements.
If you suspect that you've had an adverse reaction from a supplement, let your doctor know immediately. You may also call your local poison control center. Your doctor may report your experience to the FDA or you can also submit a report by completing a form online. You should also report your reaction to the supplement company and the retailer.
Be honest – when was the last time you ate your suggested five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day? Despite your best efforts to eat a balanced diet, you may be falling short of the recommended daily amount of certain nutrients.
Many people turn to dietary supplements to get their recommended intake of those missing nutrients. Supplements can be used to fill in nutritional gaps in your diet and may be especially beneficial for certain groups of people (including pregnant women, menopausal women, vegans, vegetarians and people with food allergies) who may need higher levels of certain nutrients or whose diets may restrict the intake of certain nutrients.
Here are some general tips for adults who are considering taking a dietary supplement. Remember, even though these products are available without a prescription, you may want to talk to your doctor before you begin taking any type of supplement. Supplements may not be necessary for everyone. Your doctor can help you determine if a dietary supplement is necessary.
Tip: Watch Your Dosage
Be sure to follow the dosage recommendations printed on the label, or suggested by your doctor, when taking supplements. Remember, supplements provide additional nutrients to those you’re already getting from your meals throughout the day. And there’s no real health advantage to getting more of a particular vitamin or mineral than you need; in fact, getting too much of certain vitamins or minerals can cause uncomfortable side effects, like vomiting or diarrhea, and more serious health problems, like liver damage.
Be particularly careful when it comes to the following supplements:
Iron: Iron is an essential mineral for the human body whose main function iron is to carry oxygen to tissues. Iron is also important for maintaining muscle and brain function, as well the immune system. However, if you take in more iron than you need, this metal can build up to toxic levels in the heart and liver. Iron overload can cause symptoms from fatigue and joint pain to sexual impotence and depression. Extremely excessive doses can damage your organs or lead to coma and death. Public health officials recommend that adult men and postmenopausal women – groups that rarely experience iron deficiency – consult a doctor before using iron supplements, as it is rare for people in these categories to be iron deficient. The upper level intake is 40-45 mg, depending on age.
Vitamins A, D and E: These are “fat-soluble” vitamins, which means your body will store surplus in your liver and fat tissue. While many vitamins are “water-soluble” and can pass through your body with relatively mild side effects, fat-soluble vitamins can build up to toxic levels over time.
Tip: Take As Directed
Taking your supplement as directed doesn’t just mean paying careful attention to the recommended dosage. It is also important to read the label of all of your prescription and OTC medications to understand how any supplement could potentially interact with the medications you take or the foods you eat.
Always take your supplement according to the directions on the label. For best absorption, some dietary supplements should be taken with food; you may need to take others on an empty stomach. Fat-soluble vitamins should be taken with a meal containing some kind of fat to aid absorption.
Certain vitamins and minerals can affect the absorption or efficacy of some medications (including anticoagulants, certain antacids and antibiotics). Make sure to read the labels on both your prescription and OTC medications thoroughly and talk with your doctor about all the medicines and supplements you take and potential interactions.
Tip: Read Labels Carefully
It’s important to do thorough research when considering a certain supplement – and this includes reading the labels carefully, as they can often be confusing. Supplements cannot claim to treat or cure diseases, and they must bear appropriate ingredient and nutrition labeling. Here are some important things to watch out for when considering a particular supplement:
Claims that seem too good to be true: Many products boast of unrealistic benefits or results. Watch out for anything claiming to be a quick fix or boasting of a dramatic breakthrough.
Natural or Organic Claims: Many people see the words “natural” or “organic” and assume the product is good for you or comes without side effects. However, all supplements can potentially cause side effects or interact with your medications. Therefore, it’s important to read all product labels and talk to your doctor about all of the medications you are taking.
Products that claim to be free of side effects
When choosing a supplement, it’s important to get accurate, up-to-date information. Ultimately, your doctor is your best resource for answering any questions you may have.
Tip: Never Substitute for Food
Over-the-counter vitamin and minerals can be used as a supplement to your diet, but they should never be used in the place of real food.
Tip: Keep Supplements and Medicines Properly Stored
To prevent accident ingestions, always be sure to store medicines and vitamins up and away and out of your child’s reach and sight. And put the medicines or supplement back in its proper place every time you use them.
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