Key things to know about dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are micronutrients and are wonderful for health, provided they are used correctly and appropriately. Wrong supplements, brands, and dosage can be dangerous and can impact your kidneys and liver.
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Dietary supplements are now a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. In India alone, there have recently been several brands pushing supplements on people through generic recommendations on social media.

I didn’t think much of this until recently a well-known supplement brand came into my lens. I had a call with a prospective client who revealed that her daughter’s mood issues became frighteningly worse after starting supplements, which she had got to know of through social media.

The problem with this is that supplement brands are pushing their products with every possible connection to your health, as they are looking for scale of business. It is simply impossible to do justice to individuals by breaking down on what is required into generic recommendations. Secondly, they do not look at the interactions between your medication and other supplements. This can cause dangerous impact, from where many individuals are caught in a downward spiral of health.

Is this worth it? The other aspect which concerns me terribly is that health professional pushing specific brands on clients based on their affiliate income versus actual clinical results.

What should we know about supplements in general?

Supplements are generally micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients. They can be very therapeutic, supporting the body with what it requires to do its own healing.

Most supplements come from similar source. What I mean by this is that popular supplement brand making claims that it is developed personally by them for you, is not quite true. They have similar producers. They then try to replicate well known and renowned global brands in terms of image, composition, and dosage. They then create a supplement to fix a particular problem in you. So, you might get a supplement claiming to cure hormone problems.

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The big problem with this is that there are hundred nuances between individuals. You can have low estrogen and low progesterone, but they might tell you to take a supplement to keep hormones in check. Now, this supplement might be helping to evacuate estrogen for women with excess estrogen. Instead, you now start to struggle with further issues when you are already low in estrogen.

Two things to remember from this example. The first is that supplements with several ingredients claiming to fix a problem are very tricky as you will never be able to correlate which ingredient caused your problem. The second problem is that it gives a bad name to actual nutrients ,which might work wonderfully for someone if their body was understood by a professional.

My suggestion is to always vet these nutrients with a qualified healthcare provider, who has no affiliation to any brand, and get guidance on whether it will work for you.

Important things to know about supplements

Micronutrients are wonderful provided they are used correctly and appropriately for the individual.

Avoid falling for verification based on social media. You would never know the true picture. Following some guidelines can be safe and helpful, avoiding problems such as impact on your kidneys or liver. Wrong supplements, brands, and dosage can be dangerous. Just because someone says natural or herbal, it does not make it safe!

1. Look up the ingredient list if you are considering supplements with a host of ingredients. You can write to the company and question. If they are a clean brand with ethics and practices, they will respond to you with all the details that you ask for. Recently, when I wrote to a very popular brand to ask them for individual strengths of the ingredients listed, they did not reply, and told me it was proprietary! This is unethical and would not be allowed elsewhere. In India, because there is no strict governing body, brands can get away without listing details. If you do ask, and they do not share information, be cautious of the brand. Also note that these companies will try and provide research material for individual nutrients and try and pass it off as guarantee for the whole. Research may show benefits of each ingredient but may not prove them as a whole or understand the nuances of combinations.

2. Avoid using supplements with too many ingredients as you cannot monitor reactions. Choose individual nutrients from globally renowned brands, where you can be sure of quality. Some nutrients should not be used forever. They might be needed for a specific purpose, for a specified time, and then you may need to stop. If you do buy on places like Amazon, read through reviews and questions. You can also go to the website of the company itself and read their claims. If they are transparent regarding dose of every nutrient, research, and patient results, both positive and negative, you might be able to trust them better. If their social media is more like a cult, with only praise everywhere, take it with a pinch of salt, and be a little cautious. We live in a society where there is ignorance of the masses, and validation is reassured by the herd mentality.

3. Read through ingredients and look up for yourself. There are cheaper and expensive versions of many nutrients. If the bulk of the ingredients are coming from cheap ingredients, be cautious. These can include magnesium oxide, folic acid, titanium dioxide, silicone dioxide, gluten, dairy, corn, and soy. Cheap ingredients may work initially when someone is in a severe state of deficiency but will cause a host of problems later. 

The best way to use supplements safely

1. Avoid brands which have too many ingredients and claiming to be delivering profound results. Combinations are very tricky, both in terms of how ingredients combine with each other, and in terms of addressing individual bodies safely. Stay with individual nutrients where you can introduce, gauge reaction, remove and reintroduce to be sure of whether it works for you.

2. Avoid brands where they have those without nutritional qualifications pushing supplements on you because of their efforts to generate income for themselves. This also goes for health partitioners with affiliation to specific brands. It is always easier to control nutrients from food than supplements brands if you do not work with a professional.

3. Generally, those who will benefit from good quality nutrients are all of us. Always begin with your own research beyond what a company tells you on their website or social media. When in doubt, stay with individual nutrients. Ask yourself before you begin, whether you need it and whether you can get a better brand or quality.

4. You need good quality individual nutrients if you are already eating a great diet and want to support that alongside. If your diet is highly processed and inflammatory, and high in sugar, begin by cleaning up the diet. Then the tallest claims of a supplement will not help you. Be very cautious of brands that tell you that their supplements will help without telling you to eat healthy.

Avoid brands which are too cheap as the ingredients will be the cheapest versions of every nutrient. Avoid tablets. In the supplement category, the order of supplements from the easiest to digest to the hardest are liposomal, liquid, powder, capsule, and tablet. The harder it is to digest, the more strain it will put on your liver and kidneys.

Supplements are a complex world. It takes a lot to understand, and new research comes out every year. The safest way to use them is to stay with individual nutrients, do your own research, and try to work with a professional.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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