Supplements: What are They and Do You Need Them?

People take supplements just to ensure that their body is getting the right amount of minerals and vitamins needed for proper body functions.


Whether you need them or not, dietary supplements have become a staple piece in the cubby behind your bathroom mirror. These usually come in powder, liquid, or pill form. Plus, it doesn’t necessarily need a doctor’s prescription. However, why do people consume them and is it really beneficial for one’s health?


What Are Supplements?

Individuals take supplements just to ensure that their body is getting the right amount of minerals and vitamins needed for proper body functions. The commonly taken versions include botanicals, minerals, and vitamins.

Do You Need Them?

Before you take that pill, it’s best to ask yourself: “Do I really need this?” If you’re not eating healthy or aren’t on a healthy diet, then you do need to take supplements. These will provide you with the right amount of nutrients needed by your body. Take note, however, that these are not replacements for a healthy diet.

A supplement is also beneficial for a group of people who need to manage their health conditions. The following groups require a specific nutrient provided by a supplement.

  • Pregnant women or women of childbearing age: require iron, vitamin D, and folic acid
  • Breastfeeding women: require vitamin D
  • Children under 5 years of age: require vitamin D, C, and A, especially if picky eaters
  • Individuals above 50 years of age: require folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D
  • Individuals who are dark-skinned or rarely go outside: require vitamin D
  • Vegans: require vitamin D2 and Vitamin B12

Other individuals who need to take dietary supplements include:

  • Individuals who consume alcohol that is above the recommended amount
  • Individuals on a low-calorie diet
  • Individuals who regularly crash-diet
  • Individuals with allergies to certain food
  • Individuals with malabsorption disorders like pancreatitis, coeliac disease, or diarrhea
  • Individuals who experience severe bleeding during menstruation
  • Users of illegal drugs
  • Tobacco smokers


Benefits of a Dietary Supplement

As mentioned, a supplement ensures that the body gets the right amount of nutrients needed for proper functioning. It can even prevent the risk of getting diseases. However, it is important to remember that these should not be taken as replacements of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Unlike prescription drugs that are used to treat and cure illnesses, a supplement does not do such a thing.


Risks of a Dietary Supplement

Anything taken in excess can cause problems. The same can be said for supplements. For example, vitamins K, D, E, and A are all fat soluble. This means the body can easily store them. So, high amounts of it in the body can be dangerous. Minerals taken in excess also cause a wealth of health disorders. Some of the health problems an overdose of a supplement cause includes the following.

  • Excess fluoride weakens and stains the teeth
  • Excess fish oil leads to a decline in blood clotting
  • Excess iron can cause nausea and gastrointestinal problems. Extremely high amounts can lead to death.
  • Excess vitamin B6 is linked to nerve damage
  • Excess vitamin C causes diarrhea
  • Excess vitamin A can cause bone, skin, and liver disorders. It has also been connected to birth defects.
  • Excess vitamin K reduces effectivity of Coumadin, a blood thinner that prevents blood clotting
  • Excess vitamins C and E can reduce the effectivity of some variations in cancer chemotherapy


Side Effects

A supplement can cause an adverse reaction or a side effect, especially if it is ingested with another medicine or before a surgical procedure. It can also lead to additional problems if you already have a prevailing health condition.

If you wish to take a supplement, then it is best to consult with your doctor. This is most important, specifically for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children. Even if the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the production and marketing of a supplement, take note that these do not cure or prevent diseases. It is mainly food or dietary supplement.


Tips for Buying a Supplement

Since there’s so many to choose from, how sure are you that the one you have at hand is the best one? Here are a few pointers to reflect on when looking for and purchasing a supplement.

  • Manage Expectations

That supplement isn’t meant to cure a disease or illness. It’s mainly used as a source of the vital nutrients that the body needs, especially if you haven’t been eating healthy.

  • Scour for a Trusted Brand

Go for a supplement that is manufactured by a well-known company. This way you are sure of the quality of the product.

  • Check for Third-Party Certification or a Quality Seal

Much like checking the brand, looking for a review or certification done by a third-party ensures the quality of the product.

  • Check Your Source

Aside from the brand and the quality seal, check the source of where you are buying a supplement. Don’t go for online stores that are “fly-by-night” or sites that claim the supplement is only in “limited supply.”

  • Check the Label

The label of a supplement should indicate all the ingredients. If it doesn’t say what’s in it, then you best not buy it.

  • Check for the Supplement’s Membership in a Known Trade Association

If the company that manufactures the supplement is a member of a trade association, then it is a good sign. It clearly demonstrates the commitment of the company to produce and manufacture products within industry standards.


Talk to Your Doctor

As it has been mentioned, it is always best to speak with your physician about a supplement you wish to take. Apart from checking the supplement and if it can cause interactions with your prescribed medications, your doctor can determine what supplement is best for you.

Once you’ve decided on a supplement, keep a record of the product’s name, the dosage you’re taking, how often you’re taking it, and the exact reason for taking it. This way, you can easily track for symptoms of an overdose or a side effect if it manifests.

For healthy adults, a supplement to be used should be consumed at the recommended dietary intake (RDI) level. Take note that some supplements may contain ingredients that create a strong effect on the body.

Supplements needs by age group

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