What is a health supplement?
Health supplements are also known as nutritional supplements. They provide nutrients that may be lacking in the body in adequate quantities. Supplements can be in the form of pills, capsules, liquids, or tablets. There are many supplements available on the market. Each supplement can be taken in different amounts and combinations. Supplements can be purchased in a variety of doses and combinations. It is important to take health supplements as per the need of the body, and not randomly.
Did you know that certain supplements should be taken with meals, while others should not be consumed on an empty stomach? Some vitamins and minerals can interact and should not be taken together. Well, here we cover everything you need to know about supplements.
What to keep in mind?
Always consult your doctor before taking any health supplement. This is especially important if you are pregnant, nursing, have any questions, or are currently taking medication.
Which supplements are ideal for me?
Supplements should only be used to correct low or deficient levels of micronutrients or to meet a specific need. To determine if a vitamin or mineral is right to you, it's important to check your blood levels regularly.
Vitamin D deficiency, for example, is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin D is best obtained from sunlight as it is very rare in foods. Vitamin D is, therefore, more difficult to obtain if you are not exposed to sunlight. A vitamin D supplement can be a safe and easy way to maintain your optimal levels.
Iron deficiency is also common, especially in athletes and premenopausal women. Iron supplementation can prevent you from falling into a low or inadequate blood iron range.
Sometimes, our genes can be a guide to which supplements we should take. Certain genes may make it more difficult to maintain optimal biomarker levels such as cholesterol and inflammation. This is why DNA testing can be used to learn more about your genetic predispositions and determine if supplements could help in boosting specific biomarkers.
Should I take a multivitamin?
Multivitamins can contain more than the recommended micronutrients. Many of these nutrients your body may not require. This could lead to an increase in certain blood biomarkers that may be undesirable. Just like low vitamin levels are harmful, excessive vitamin levels can also be toxic to the body. Multivitamins can also contain nutrients that compete with each other for absorption. For instance, multivitamins can contain iron and calcium, which compete for absorption and could cause your body not to absorb the nutrients it needs. So, take multivitamins only after consulting a doctor.
When should fat-soluble vitamins be taken?
Fat-soluble vitamins are best taken with fat-laden foods or snacks. Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that dissolve in fat. Because dietary fat (like avocados) travels across cell walls of the small intestine after digestion, the vitamins will be absorbed into the bloodstream with the food. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins.
You should not take fat-soluble vitamins if you are not suffering from their lack in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fat tissue (or adipose). Unnecessarily high doses of these vitamins can cause toxicity in the body.
When should water-soluble vitamins be taken?
Vitamin C and 8 B vitamins are water-soluble in nature. Some of the water-soluble vitamin B are thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. The reason why these vitamins are called water-soluble is that they dissolve in water. The body doesn't need to take them with food. A large glass of water will suffice. Except for B12, water-soluble vitamins don't stay in the body for a very long time. Most only last for a few days. Supplements and food containing excessive amounts of vitamins are usually excreted through the urine.
When should minerals be taken?
Many minerals need to be taken individually as they compete for absorption. Calcium and iron, for example, should not be taken together. Magnesium and calcium should also not be taken together despite many supplement brands, including magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients in one pill. It's important for you to know that almost all essential minerals are found in supplemental forms.
Can supplements be taken during fasts?
Fat-soluble supplements should always be consumed with food. So, it might not be possible for you to take such supplements when you are fasting. Also, it's not advisable to take fat-soluble supplements on an empty stomach. Besides, supplements containing any additional ingredients that add calories or digestible carbohydrates such as protein powders and gummy vitamins will break your fast.
Research is limited on water-soluble vitamins and other supplements. So, it ultimately boils down to your purpose for fasting. Supplementing won't hinder your goal if you are fasting for weight loss or metabolic health reasons. If you are doing it for long-term health reasons or gut rest, supplementation is not necessary. Even water-soluble vitamins can stay in your system for several days. Always consult your doctor before you go on a prolonged fast.
Should I stop taking supplements prior to a blood test?
It's not required that you stop taking your supplements during the time between tests. It is best to stop taking supplements on the morning of your blood draw. You can resume taking them after the draw is completed.
One thing that you need to keep in mind is that supplements are meant for supplementing your diet. Even the best health products cannot replace a healthy balanced diet. Your diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating a healthy diet gets you most of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. However, there are some individuals who may require advice about supplements even if they are eating a balanced diet. Women of childbearing years, people on certain medications, and people living in certain parts of the world might be deficient in certain nutrients.
Also, even normal people with no such condition could be suffering from nutritional deficiencies due to the modern lifestyle. Plus, not everyone can afford to eat healthy. No matter what the reason, if you are deficient in some vitamin or mineral, you can opt for supplementation. There is no dearth of the best health products on the market.