How To Choose The Right Vitamins And Supplements
To maintain optimum health, we need to strive for the right balance of nutrients by eating a variety of foods. However, having a diversified diet is not easy to achieve, so many people resort to vitamins and supplements to compensate for the deficiency in their diet.
You are probably one of the millions of consumers who find it difficult to decide which vitamins or supplements to buy.
Here are some of the things you need to ask yourself and your physician in order to choose the right vitamins and food supplements that will suit your unique needs.
9 Things to Ask Before Buying Vitamins and Supplements
Despite the contrasting findings on the role of vitamins in countering diseases, many people continue to include vitamins in their daily diet, believing that vitamins are always a part of a healthy lifestyle. Some groups of consumers like premenopausal women take only certain vitamins or nutritional supplements just to fill whatever nutrients their diet lacks.
Here are the nine basic questions you need to ask your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist to ensure that you make the right choice.
- Do I really need to take a food supplement?
- How does this supplement improve my health?
- When should I take this supplement and for how long?
- How much should I take?
- Which is best for me – syrup, pill, or powder supplements?
- What are the side effects of this supplement?
- Will there be adverse reactions if I use the supplement along with any drugs or foods?
- Which vitamin form (i.e. vitamin D2 or D3) will work best for me?
- What are the leading brands for this supplement?
- Should I stop taking the supplement in preparation for a surgery?
Choose the Right Vitamin Form
After determining what food supplement or vitamin to take, your next task is to know which form is best for you. Food supplements are sold in various forms – pills, syrup, and powder. Does it matter if you take whichever form you like? Yes, because each medium is absorbed by the body at a different rate. Liquid is absorbed faster than tablets.
Some supplements are sold in pills because they tend to become diluted or dangerous when they get exposed to gastric acids. However, liquid supplements are highly recommended for those who cannot absorb pills effectively.
Beware that vitamins may be available in different formulations, each having a different property. For instance, there are two commercial formulations of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D-2 (ergocalciferol) and D-3 (cholecalciferol). Preliminary evidence suggests that vitamin D-3 is more active. Consult your physician if you are not sure which vitamin formulations to take.
How Safe Is Your Supplement?
Although supplements are regulated by the U.S. FDA, they are categorized as foods rather than drugs. Thus, supplement manufacturers are under less pressure to prove the health benefits and safety of their products which may have medicinal properties. The FDA can only impose a ban on certain supplement only after it has been proven or reported to be unsafe. Keep in mind that the current industry regulation allows unsafe supplements to be sold legally until adverse side effects surface among consumers. However, supplement makers are now being urged to observe industry standards (GMP) that resemble those of the pharmaceutical industry.
As it is difficult for us consumers to confirm whether commercial supplements can cause positive, negative or no reactions, we should always do a research on the supplements we plan to take. Here are some of the basic safety guidelines:
- If you have a wholesome diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, take multivitamins with less than 100% of the daily recommended value for most vitamins and minerals.
- When taken in high dosage, vitamins can lead to biochemical disruptions. Pay close attention to dosage especially when taking fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins can be toxic when they accumulate in the body. Unlike water soluble vitamins, excess fat-soluble vitamins are not excreted along with urine.
When to Avoid Supplements and Vitamins
Like drugs, food supplements have contraindications. Some supplements should not be taken by people suffering from particular disorders. Adverse interactions with some medications can also be a problem with some food supplements. If you have dietary restrictions, consult your physician before taking food supplements.
The following people are generally advised not to take food supplements.
- People who will undergo surgical operations should avoid supplements that may worsen bleeding and lead to other complications during and after the surgery.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take supplements because their child may experience the side effects. However, there is a prenatal vitamin supplement that is safe for pregnant and lactating women.
- Cancer patients or cancer survivors should take extra caution when choosing their supplements for some may promote cancer growth.
- People who are taking prescription drugs like diuretics, heart medications, aspirin, blood thinners, steroids and immune-suppressing drugs may experience adverse drug reactions if certain herbs or supplements are taken.
Buy Your Vitamins and Supplements Smartly
Differentiate winning brands from snake oil and lemons with these smart buying tips:
- Does the product claim to be a panacea and all-natural. Does the seller offer unconditional money-back guarantee? Then think twice, for such claims usually come from manufacturers with dubious reputation. Check the fine print and details of such claims before you make the purchase.
- Check if the supplement has been cited in scientific studies. You can find the results of various clinical trials at the website of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Another way to gather scientific evidence is to ask the manufacturers themselves if they can provide published studies to back up their claims. You can also directly ask their consumer care department what sort of quality control systems they have to ensure that the ingredients are indeed present in every bottle as indicated in the label.
- Beware of the products made outside the U.S. Check if the country of origin has effective manufacturing regulations and safety standards.
- Look for the seals of US Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or Consumerlab. These seals certify that the supplement has all the ingredients indicated on the label. The seals also guarantee that the product is free from contaminants or potentially dangerous substances.
Proper Ways of Storing Vitamins and Supplements
Food supplements, like packaged foods, have expiration date, so it is important to know how to store them properly.
- Store vitamins and supplements in a dark, cool place, but make sure that it is dry. Avoid storing supplements in bathrooms.
- Supplements and vitamins get less potent as they near their expiration date. Check the expiration date of your supplements regularly and discard the expired ones.
- Use a locked cabinet or high shelf to make supplements inaccessible to children.
Do not hesitate to ask your doctor if it is okay to take certain supplements, especially if you are suffering from a chronic condition or taking prescription drugs regularly. Each person has different nutritional requirements and restrictions. What works fine to some may be detrimental to others depending on their current medications and health status.