Your body functions at its best when it has the right amount of essential nutrients. While our diet and environment can provide us with most of what we need, sometimes we may use a little help from dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are made up of vitamins, minerals, herbals, and other ingredients that can boost the levels of a nutrient already found in your body and impact the way your body functions. Some may provide additional support for body functions or a particular health condition.
However, there are a lot of different supplements out there. Choosing the right one can be a bit confusing, but this article will guide you through some of the most important considerations.
The first thing you should consider before starting a new supplement is your goals. What are your overall health goals and how does this supplement help you achieve them? Your answers to these questions should be your North Star, guiding you through this whole process. Whenever you learn something new about a vitamin, mineral, or herbal product, go back to your goals and make sure it aligns and there’s a reason to take it.
Next, what do you know about how a supplement is used? Do you know how it works and if it does what it says it does? Do your own research and make sure it’s from a reliable source. Look for independent sources that share objective information with as little bias as possible—usually, that means somebody who is not also selling you the supplement. There’s a lot of information out there, and some of the research can be conflicting. Keep track of lingering questions to ask your health care professional.
As you research, consider all the possible effects of the supplement—good and bad. Vitamins, minerals, and herbals can have different effects on different people based on existing health conditions, diet, or other medications. Supplements also come in a variety of forms such as tablets, powders, liquids, or topical ointments. Choosing the formulation of the supplement is as important as choosing the supplement itself because they can be absorbed differently and cause different effects. Read up on all the possible effects, positive and negative, to make sure you’re making the right choice for your circumstances.
How much should you be taking of a particular supplement, and how often, is another detail that varies from person to person. The typical recommended amount of any supplement is listed on the label as the “serving size,” but your needs may be different. Age, pregnancy, health conditions, diet, and other factors can change what your body needs over time. Finding the right dose is important because too much of some supplements can create an imbalance or even toxic effects.
When working to find the right dose for you, be sure to check the ingredient list of all other supplements and products you take. Some common products you probably have in your medicine closet can contain small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and herbals. For example, antacids often also contain calcium, which should be factored into your total daily intake.1
If you’re thinking about starting a new supplement, the most important thing to do is consult your doctor or pharmacist to discuss what you’re considering in the context of your health. Make a note of all the medications you take with a description of how you take each one and share this information as part of the conversation. They can help you find the right dose and form of supplement, as well as evaluate the safety and effects of the product. Communication is key to achieving the healthiest version of yourself.
Just like medications, supplements can be a powerful addition to your body’s own ability to stay healthy. The more you know about them, the better decisions you can make about your own well-being.
A licensed MOBE Pharmacist can help you minimize risks and make the most of your medications—including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbals, and supplements. Get started today.
1. Salisbury BH, Terrel JM. Antacids. In: StatPearls [Internet] (Treasure Island FL: StatPearls Publishing). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526049/