Most people take supplements and vitamins with the goal of improving their health and wellbeing. Taking supplements as part of a healthy, balanced diet is a great way to reach your health goals, but it’s important that you use them wisely. Dietary supplement products are not always safe to use or good for you, depending on the type of supplements, the brand, and many other factors. And, purchasing dietary supplements isn’t always as simple as looking for the one with the best health claim on the label.
The good news is that before you start taking dietary supplements, spending some time getting all the information on the facts will help you make the wisest decisions about what to take. You can use the information to put together a simple checklist that you can go through with your doctor and take with you when purchasing supplements to find one that is the best fit for your health needs.
Supplements and FDA Regulations
Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, they are treated more like foods than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, supplement manufacturers do not have to prove that their products are safe and effective before selling them on the market. Because of this, what’s inside the bottle of supplements might not always match what’s promised on the label. Even ‘all-natural’ supplements may lead to adverse side effects or have negative interactions with any medications that you are currently already taking. Some supplement labels may not even list all the ingredients that they contain. Because of this, be sure to speak to your doctor before buying a new supplement, to ensure that the product you’re considering taking is right for you and safe to take with any other medications you are using.
Choosing the Right Supplements
The first step in making sure that you choose the right nutritional supplements is to identify your nutritional needs. Is there something lacking in your daily diet that you want to get from supplements? It’s a good idea to first identify any gaps in your nutrition and look to fill them. If you’re not sure, your doctor can conduct tests to provide you with more direction on which nutrients you need to be getting more of. Once you know what you need in your diet, it will be easier to read the labels of supplementary products and find the right options for your health.
Consider Making Your Own
If you’re worried about taking supplements and not being sure of exactly what’s in them, you might want to consider the option of making your own. With the right tools, it’s actually fairly easy to make them yourself and the best part is that you can control exactly what goes into each supplement. When you make your own supplements, you can be sure that you’re only taking all-natural ingredients and that they are safe for you to take. You can buy powders designed for use in making your own supplements or make them from herbs and spices depending on your health goals.
Reading the Supplement Label
If you’ve decided to purchase premade supplements, there are a few key things to look out for when reading the label. Firstly, make sure that the supplement has been certified by an organization that verifies supplement safety, such as NSF International, ConsumerLab, or the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). You should also check that the label includes the name of the supplement, contact details for the manufacturer, a complete list of ingredients and the active ingredient, and the recommended serving. You should also check how much of each nutrient is in the supplement to ensure that you avoid the tolerable upper intake level for a certain nutrient. You can also check the FDA website to see whether or not the supplement has been recalled.
Getting More Information
If you don’t understand the information listed on the supplement label or want to learn more before you decide to begin taking it, there are some other things that you can do in order to get more information. The pharmacist at the store may be able to answer any further questions that you might have about the supplement, or you can contact the supplement manufacturer. Ask whether or not there is any medical research to back up the effectiveness and safety of the product, find out where it was made and what the manufacturing safety standards are if produced outside of the US. You might also want to ask whether or not the product has been recalled, and if there have been any negative side effects reported with the product.
Speaking to Your Doctor
The best way to determine whether or not a dietary supplement is a safe option for you is to get approval from your doctor. Your doctor will be more knowledgeable about supplements and can give you advice on any potential side effects, whether they are suitable for the health goals that you are working towards, and whether or not they are safe to take with any other medication that you have been prescribed. When speaking to your doctor about potential new dietary supplements, ask the following questions:
- Are there any side effects?
- Is there any research showing that this supplement is safe and effective?
- Will this supplement interact with any other medication or supplements I am currently taking?
- Should I stop taking this supplement before surgery?
- Is this supplement safe to take while I am pregnant or nursing?
- Is this supplement safe for children?
- Can this supplement be taken safely if I have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or another medical condition?
- What is the correct dosage for me?
- What should I do if I experience side effects or do not see any benefits?
- How long can I safely take this supplement?
- How soon should I start seeing the benefits?
- Which brand of this supplement is the best option?
Take Supplements as Directed
When taking any dietary supplement, the best thing to do is always use common sense. You should follow the advice of your doctor and the instructions on the label exactly when it comes to dosage and how often to take the supplements daily. Keep a list of all the supplements and any other medications that you are taking and write down how much of each product you’re taking each day and at what time. It can be easy to forget that you have taken a tablet, which could lead to you accidentally overdosing yourself. It can also be a good idea to keep records of how the supplement affects you, in order to help you find any side effects. Share these notes with your doctor, particularly if you have any concerns. Just like with any medication, if you experience any adverse side effects from taking a particular supplement, seek advice from your doctor right away.
Taking dietary supplements can be an ideal way to improve your health and make sure that your body is getting all the nutrients that it needs. However, supplements are not as strictly regulated as medication, therefore it’s essential to be cautious when choosing products and seek professional advice to help you choose the right ones for you.