Supplements: To Take or Not to Take?
As a health-conscious individual, you’ve probably thought about taking vitamins, herbs, or supplements. After all, even if you try your best to eat healthily, no one is perfect, and you may have worried whether you’re consuming all the nutrients you need.
This is a valid concern. The human body needs a large variety of nutrients, and seeing shelves of these nutrients at the supermarket can make you anxious about missing out on some. But what does the science say?
People Who Need Supplements
Anyone who thinks they need supplements should consult their doctor first. However, it may be appropriate for some populations to take supplements. Here are a few examples:
Pregnant Women: Folic Acid
Pregnant women may need to supplement their diet with folic acid. This nutrient can help prevent birth defects affecting the neural tube, such as spina bifida. Pregnant women are also encouraged to eat a diet rich in folate, which is present in leafy green vegetables.
Young Children: Multivitamins
Kids tend to be picky eaters. To be on the safe side, your pediatrician may recommend giving your child a multivitamin that contains vitamins A, C, and D. A nutrient supplement such as Balance of Nature may help your children stay nourished as well. However, it’s still a good idea to get children into the habit of eating a healthy, varied diet from an early age.
Patients with Nutrient Deficiency (i.e. Iron-Deficiency Anemia)
Malnutrition can be a problem even in nations rich in food supply. For example, anemia affects approximately three million Americans. Iron-deficiency anemia is especially risky for women who menstruate, breastfeeding or pregnant women, and people who have diets low in iron, such as vegans and vegetarians. Patients with iron deficiency may need to take iron supplements.
Always talk to your doctor first!
Even if you have one of the above-mentioned conditions, you should always talk to your doctor first before taking a supplement. This is because while many people worry about not getting enough of a nutrient, you can also get too much of a nutrient. For example, over-consuming vitamin A can put you at risk of bone fractures.
Moreover, supplements may interact dangerously with medications you’re already taking or conditions you already have. For example, St. John’s wort can interact dangerously with antidepressants, yet it is often used to treat depression and anxiety.
How about the rest of us?
The truth is, most people do not need supplements, but sometimes, a patient’s symptoms can improve thanks to a supplement. Consult with your doctor to see if you have a medical condition that warrants taking a supplement.
Don’t substitute medicine with supplements.
It may be tempting to substitute supplements for medicine. Supplements often feel safer for patients because they are natural. Supplements may also be more accessible and affordable since they do not require prescriptions.
However, it's never a smart idea to substitute conventional medicine with supplements because you can be missing out on life-saving treatment. If you take a look at the science around herbs, you can see that many supplements also tend to have inconsistent effects among different people. And just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it is inherently safer.
If you want to use supplements because they are more affordable than conventional drugs, there are other accessible ways to access prescription drugs. For example, you can buy prescription medicine online through an international or Canadian pharmacy referral websites. Such as Canada Med Pharmacy help you save on prescription costs as long as you have a valid prescription. These types of services connect patients with licensed pharmacies abroad that offer cheaper drug prices, often due to stricter price regulations.
What You Need to Know about FDA Regulations of Supplements
Regardless of your decision to take supplements or not, you should know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements the same way it regulates conventional medicine. Dietary supplements are not required to pass premarket review or approval. Supplements may also carry labeling that suggests lofty health claims, and they are not required to submit evidence of these claims to the FDA.
In conclusion, because everyone’s health is unique, it’s difficult to generalize and say whether supplements will work for your condition. Talk to your doctor first before starting one to make sure that supplement is safe for you to use. Then, try it and see if it helps your symptoms.