Not All Supplements are Created Equal
As Medical Herbalist I understand there are times when a supplement is best. Maybe you are travelling and keeping a bottle of liquid herbs intact and with you at all times is not feasible. Maybe you need both vitamins and herbs at once. Maybe you just can’t stand the taste of certain herbs. And sometimes taking a tablet is just plain easier. Regardless of the reason, I do often prescribe supplements to my clients.
But not all supplements (herbs, vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc in capsule or tablet form) are created equal. Here are my top 8 qualities in the supplements I give to my clients – you may want to consider your own supplements to ensure you too are getting a quality effective supplement.
- Look to food sources first. Nature has created an amazing array of foods to provide us with the necessary nutrients and energy we need. The nutrients in natural foods already have the best absorption and the necessary co-factors to ensure maximum efficacy. So if it can be provided by food, always best to do food first and foremost.
- Therapeutic dose – I research the supplements I give to ensure that they have the therapeutic dose necessary to get the best results. It can be a waste of time and money to take a supplement that provides an inadequate dose. Alternatively, you may have to take 6-8 capsules a day to get the benefit needed – a common story with fish oil.
- Check the excipients – not many supplements are just the vitamin, mineral or herb. There are fillers and preservatives added. Some are needed and some are just added stuff – many times to compensate for the less than therapeutic dose provided. These can include dairy and gluten as well as many additives. I prescribe low excipient supplements so you know what you are getting. I also check to make sure any excipients don’t interfere with any intolerances or food positions (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc.)
- Know the side-effects and contra-indications. Being natural does not mean that a supplement is always safe. Certain supplements may activate your liver which could decrease the effectiveness of medications and other supplements. Others may be better taken with food, others without. Knowing these various effects means you know what to expect whilst still getting the best benefit.
- Combine with necessary co-factors to increase absorption and utilisation. I recommend supplements that have the relevant vitamins or minerals included to maximise absorption. Absorbing supplements is not always easy – for any of you that have taken a chemist iron tablet, you know what I mean. Knowing the factors that affect absorption means you get a supplement that is utilised by your body – again for the best benefit.
- Different forms have different effects – for example, not all forms of magnesium are the same. One form of magnesium is better for cardiovascular health whilst another is better for relieving constipation. Don’t want to get those two confused! So I know which form is best for the desired effect.
- Time to take – for some supplements, I will recommend a certain time to take the supplement to maximise the benefit. For example, I suggest taking probiotics when the immune system repairs itself and taking B vitamins at the appropriate time to avoid any sleep disturbances.
- More than vitamins and minerals – there are other nutrients than just vitamins, minerals and herbs. There are probiotics, amino acids, polyphenols, tissue salts, homeopathic remedies.etc. Having access to many different options means a tailored treatment protocol that works for you.
You can always pop down to a chemist or a grocery store to pick up a supplement – they are easy to get and usually inexpensive. The question though becomes are you getting the right one for the maximum health benefit and use of your money? Possibly…to be sure, I suggest you get professional advice and access quality supplements.
If you would like advice and support to ensure you are getting, and actually needing, the right supplement, please contact me for a consultation. My clinic is located at New Lambton in Newcastle, NSW.