Supplements – Some important considerations
Nutraceuticals or supplements as they are more commonly known are ‘food, or parts of a food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease’.
As a Naturopathic Doctor I often utilize supplements when creating a treatment plan for patients, or I have patients ask me questions about supplements they have been using prior to seeing me.
Some of the key considerations that should be made before utilizing supplements are:
1. Why you taking the supplement – The end goal.
There are many reasons why people start taking supplements; recommendation by internet research, family member, health practioner, TV personality or even when browsing in health or drug store.
Less commonly people start taking supplements after doing complete review of literature, and comparing quality of various supplements for their quality, health benefits, and dosage.
It is important to know what the end goal of taking a natural health product will be, so that you are able to determine if you are experiencing benefits, or if perhaps another avenue needs to be explored.
2. Quality of the supplement
Quality of nutraceuticals is something most consumers do not take into consideration, since the products are available in stores. Many of the health benefits associated with various nutraceuticals originates from research that has determined the ‘active constituent’ that is responsible for the health claim.
Good manufacturing standards would ensure that there is as close to 100% of the active constituent present in the supplement, but this is not always the case. Additional fillers, flavours, colours, and preservatives can sometimes take away from the amount of active constituent in the product, plus individuals may be sensitive these additives
An example of this is essential fatty acids from fish sources, a supplement that should be strictly monitored for quality, as heavy metal accumulation such as mercury can cause health problems.
3. Proper form and dosage
Certain forms of vitamins, minerals and botanicals are better absorbed by the body, choosing these forms for supplements can allow for health to improve. There is often a difference between active and inactive forms of vitamins, as the body is responsible for the conversion of inactive to active, in cases of ill health this may not be accomplished properly.
Therapeutic dosage is the dose that is determined by research to be associated with the health claim of the product, often in multi ingredient formulas these dosages are not reached, or large numbers of supplements are required to reach these levels.
Naturopathic Doctors have extensive training with the use of supplements and can help to determine what ones are necessary for your health. I encourage all my patients to bring their supplements to the first visit, this way we can determine their benefit to you and rule out any interactions with any pharmaceuticals.