Dietary Supplements: The Smart and Safe Use of Vitamins

You might always be doubtful about the effect of taking dietary supplement when you reach out for that bottle of fish oil pills or Vitamin C pills. It is always better to ask yourself the question before taking, if you really need those supplements. Many people reach out for those supplements daily or on some occasions. Dietary supplements are available without a prescription, over-the-counter and usually come in a powder, pill or liquid form. Most supplements include minerals, vitamins and botanicals or herbal products. Dietary supplements are taken by people, runners or pregnant women to make sure they get all the essential nutrients in the right amounts and to improve or maintain their health. Does this mean if everyone requires these supplements?

While supplements definitely fill the gaps in your diet, everyone need not take them. It is possible to get the recommended daily intake of all nutrients by eating a variety of healthy whole foods. There are side effects of taking some supplements, especially before a surgery or with other medications. It is a known fact that many pregnant women take whole foods prenatal vitamins as part of their diet. It is always better to get consent from your health care provider before reaching out for those supplements. In addition, it is advisable to discuss with your doctor when you visit him/her for any other medical condition so that the same be managed and integrated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classify dietary supplements as foods and not drugs. Unlike medications, supplements are not intended for any cure, treatment or disease prevention, though the label may claim of certain health benefits. They can however be taken if there is a deficiency of a particular vitamin or mineral to improve the deficiency condition.

There is no evidence or research to prove that a supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease condition. One should not take dietary supplements with this expectation. Dietary supplements can, however, enhance health benefits. Some of the most popular nutrient supplements are calcium, multivitamins, vitamins C, D and B. Vitamin C and E are antioxidants and help combat the free radical damage. Vitamin D helps in calcium absorption and strong bones. Calcium supports bone health.

However, there are some smart and safe ways of taking a supplement, they are as follows:

1.  Use a vitamin supplement only if your blood levels show a deficiency of a vitamin/mineral.

2.  Take a Vitamin C post an endurance exercise as vitamin C gets depleted post exercise especially after an endurance event. Also, you can take it if you are a smoker (both active or passive) and are dealing with a lot of stress.

3.  You can take a Vitamin K supplement if you have excessive menstrual bleeding.

4.  Take a Vitamin E supplement when you have eaten a lot of fried food. Fat gets broken down in our body by a process known as oxidation forming free radicals and vitamin E can help combat the same.

5.  Vitamin A supplement can be taken when you are travelling or are in a lot of stress.

Women, especially require supplements like Iron and Calcium during prenatal care. They need vitamin D when breastfeeding infants. During the childbearing age, women require folic acid daily in the supplement form or fortified foods. Vitamin B12 keeps blood cells and nerves healthy. The best sources of this vitamin are fish, meat and dairy food, so vegans need to supplement this vitamin if they are off of dairy intake. Among all of the above, fish oil supplementation probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use to promote heart health.

All of the above only indicate that just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” does not necessarily mean it is safe to take. Before reaching for the supplements, take advice from your medical care provider, secondly, it is important to know the chemical make-up and how it works in the body, the dosage and possible interactions with medications that you are presently taking. Intake of dietary supplements should be done only after proper consideration in a smart and safe way.

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