Consider Dietary Supplements
Our bodies require a lot of different nutrients to function properly. In fact, researchers have identified 45 known nutrients that are considered essential for good health and must come from sources outside the body. There are at least 13 kinds of vitamins and 20 kinds of minerals your body requires to function well.
For years, the general wisdom has been that all you need to do to be healthy is to eat a balanced diet and it will provide all the vitamins you need. The catch? No one is exactly sure what the perfect balanced diet looks like. Plus, your unique needs affect what supplements you should take.
Someone prone to IBS, for example, may need to take very different supplements than someone with severe heartburn. Your genetics, environment, diet, stress, and health history all play a role in your overall health and what you need to stay healthy.
A common mistake people make when adding nutritional supplements to their diet is to go it alone. They self-diagnose health conditions, then create their own supplement plan without once talking to their health care provider. For optimal health, choose a provider whose overall approach you are comfortable with, and talk openly about concerns before taking a supplement, especially when you are combining or substituting them for foods or medicine.
Types of Supplements
Supplements can include vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other dietary substances. Except for a multivitamin, many health care providers suggest taking individual nutrients as separate pills, as opposed to “energy formulas.” That way, you can more easily alter the dose of one nutrient without having to change other dosages.
Why would you supplement with vitamins? Dr. Edelberg of WholeHealth Chicago explains, “the fruits and veggies we eat today are less abundant in nutrients than those eaten 50 years ago. In fact, according to research done by Donald Davis, a University of Texas biochemist, they contain from 5 to 35 percent less of some essential minerals and vitamins, like vitamin C, riboflavin, and iron.”
Some vitamins, including vitamin A and niacin, have the potential to cause liver disease when taken in high doses. Others, such as vitamin C and iron, can cause ulcers if they become lodged in the esophagus when swallowed.
Usually, unless instructions say otherwise, it is much easier on the digestive system to take supplements with food. Supplements are concentrated, and sometimes they can cause digestive upset or abdominal discomfort when taken in large doses on an empty stomach.
Supplement manufacturers don’t have to prove that their supplement is effective the way drug manufacturers do. Instead, they can say that the product addresses a nutrient deficiency, supports health, or reduces the risk of developing a health problem, if that is true. If they make a claim, it must be followed by the statement, “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”