Should You Supplement? Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of the supplement debate. This post will investigate the myths and fears of supplementation, as well as how to choose the right supplements and what to stay away from when shopping for supplements.

There are a few fears surrounding supplementation, some are serious and need to be listened to, while others are just silly. The biggest fear and medically proven problem with supplements is that they can interfere with other medicines that someone is taking. Like I said before, I’m not a doctor, and this is a very serious concern, so before starting any supplementation regimen consult your healthcare provider. Some well known interactions include:  B12 interacting with many things including aspirin, oral contraception, alzheimer’s drugs etc…People taking antibiotics should not be taking an Iron supplement or many other things. There is a great website that helps check drug and supplement interactions. You can visit it here. Another concern with supplements is that they haven’t gone through enough pharmaceutical testing to be considered safe. The FDA doesn’t have as strict of a set of rules and testing requirements that it does for pharmaceuticals. The FDA treats dietary supplements as more of a food product rather than a drug, since the supplements aren’t claiming to “cure cancer, or depression”. Should there be more regulation for supplements? I tend to think that the FDA is evil and doesn’t do a very good job of protecting people, but that’s a discussion for another time. Another myth is that supplements cure disease, obesity, or other ailments. Unfortunately, there is not enough empirical evidence to support these claims, so supplement manufactures have had to revise their efficacy claims on their products, thus they can continue to be regulated as a food product and not a pharmaceutical. According to an article posted in 2013, there are virtually no barriers to anyone wanting to produce supplements and sell them to the United States. There have been famous issues with supplements, mainly weight loss supplements (remember my warning from part 1), like ephedra from the early 2000’s and another weight loss supplement taken in Hawaii that caused severe liver damage to 30 people. People assume that since supplements aren’t “drugs” that they are safe and can be endlessly taken. This is a bad idea and even worse practice.

Moving on to how to choose the right supplements. First keep that dialogue open with your healthcare provider. They probably have some good advice for what to do and not do. Plus, they will know your medical history and prescription drug history. They can also suggest what brands are great, and which are junk. Remember to read your labels and opt for supplements without a lot of extra filler, it’s just going to be stuff that you’ll have to worry about interacting with your other medications. Also more expensive is not better! Read trusted product reviews to prevent potential side effects that make you want to throw your $40 miracle powder down the drain. Also, give it enough time to be effective! You may not see results right away, but it may need to build up in your system just like some allergy or acid reflux medicines.

Keep away from “cure alls”, added sugars or artificial additives or fillers. Cheap or generic supplements should probably be used under a high level of scrutiny, so it’s best to do your research before buying. Also be careful when going into a place like The Vitamin Shoppe, Complete Nutrition and GNC. While they probably have more training than the staff at WalMart, they are a retail store trying to sell you something. Bottom line don’t be a sucker for a grand claim to change your life!

So supplements should be carefully considered just like everything else we put in our bodies. Do your research, make sure you are doing things in line with your overall health goals, and don’t take shortcuts. What do you have to add about the topic of supplements? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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