Supplements – so many choices, so many decisions


With so many things to think about, it can be easy to get confused and overwhelmed by the choices. Always consult with your healthcare professional before starting or stopping any supplements or medications.


Safety is the first and foremost consideration when deciding to take supplements. Is it safe for you to take with your existing medical conditions, the medications and supplements you currently use and what is know about the safety of the product itself? These answers vary based on the person and the supplements.


How effective the chosen supplement is for the condition it’s trying to help or treat is the next consideration. Many supplements have a fair amount of research done on them. Some have very little. Knowing what has been researched, how much research has been done and what results can be achieved, or working with a practitioner that does is important. For a patient who has slightly elevated cholesterol, a supplement like plant sterols may be an appropriate option. Whereas a patient who has extremely high cholesterol levels, choosing medications or other therapies may be a wiser option.  Choosing a supplement that your BFFs cousin’s neighbor recommended just because you heard that someone had “excellent results” with it doesn’t mean necessarily a good fit for you.


The price of the supplement also matters. If it’s safe for you to use and effective for what you’re trying to achieve, what if it’s $100 or more for a month and you’re on several supplements? What if it costs just pocket change? Supplements shouldn’t be more than your food bill every month.


Just because supplements are “natural,” doesn’t mean they’re automatically safe. A common example is that arsenic and lead are natural and we know they can cause harm. Think of supplements more like “natural medications” that can cause side effects, and interactions while giving the benefits we desire.


Supplements can interact with medications and health conditions just like medications from the pharmacy. Discuss all supplements and medications with each and every one of your health care practitioners, even if you think it doesn’t matter. They need to know.


Lastly, make sure you know what to expect from the supplements. Can it take up to 6 months to work, like glucosamine? Using the fiber or protein bar isn’t going to make you look like the model on the wrapper no matter how many you eat. Knowing what is possible from your supplements and utilizing them when appropriate can help you achieve your health goals. Using them inappropriately can cause more harm than they’re worth. Choose wisely and discuss their usage with your health care practitioners.

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