Shelves are lined with supplements promising miracle cures and relief from health ailments, but many don’t work. While some do provide health benefits, some supplements can cause more harm than good and actually make you sick. So how do you know which ones to take? Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who reveal which supplements are healthy and improve overall health, but as always consult your doctor for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Nutritional Deficiencies are Common
Dr. Nikhil Kapoor, MD, FACC, FSCAI, a cardiologist with Dignity Health St. Mary explains, “Nutritional deficiencies are in fact very common and the Centers for Disease Control estimates nearly 10% of the US population has a nutritional deficiency. These deficiencies vary widely based on race/ethnicity, age, and gender. For example: non-Hispanic black (31%) and Mexican-American (12%) people were more likely to be vitamin D deficient compared to nonHispanic white people (3%).”
Dr. Suzanna Wong. a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic and health expert with Twin Waves Wellness adds, “Depending on where you live, your skin colour, and your diet will depend on whether you need supplements. There are so many factors that influence whether we have all of the vitamins and nutrients that we need – so don’t just take everything. Vitamin D is the only supplement that should perhaps be taken all the time – this is because it has such a big impact across how our body works – but around 50% of the population are deficient, and large parts of the world aren’t able to get enough from natural sources like the sun.”
What to Know About Supplements Before Taking Them
Dr. Kapoor explains, “As to questions regarding taking vitamins and supplements, I believe it should be individualized– which makes it more scientific and objective. This could be done depending on a person’s vitamin levels and by addressing any deficiencies. For example, a person deficient in Vitamin D or Vitamin B12 should get targeted therapy to treat the actual deficiency. For most people, without any deficiency, a multivitamin tablet a day should suffice since it consists of appropriate vitamins and supplements. We all should also remember “too much of anything is bad.” Too much fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, E and K) can lead to toxicities. But even too much water soluble vitamins (all the other vitamins other than the fat soluble vitamins I just alluded to) which are considered by many to be “safer” can lead to unintended harmful effects and toxicities.”
Dr. Wong states, “More supplements aren’t always better! It is completely possible to have too high a level of a vitamin in your body through supplenting, which can cause you harm. Calcium and high dose Vitamin D in particular can build up to toxic levels, and can make you seriously ill.”
Dr. Rene Armenta, board-certified bariatric and general surgeon with Renew Bariatrics says, “While supplements can be a great way to add additional nutrients to your diet, they should not be taken as a replacement for meals. When you rely on supplements as your only source of nutrition, you may miss out on important vitamins and minerals that are essential to your health. Before taking any supplements, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that the supplement is safe and will not interact with any other medications or supplements that a person may be taking. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects of any supplements. Some supplements can cause adverse effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.
According to Dr. Wong, “Omega 3 plays a role in brain health, joint health, eye function and your central nervous system. If you are lacking in this vitamin you are lacking in this you are likely to have dry skin – but you also stand a risk of suffering from depression, joint pain and eye problems. Taking between 1000mg and 3000mg a day is the recommended dose.”
Dr. Armenta explains, “Probiotics are live microorganisms that are believed to provide health benefits when consumed. The most common probiotics are bacteria, and they can be found in fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi, but are also offered in the forms of dietary supplements and medication. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests probiotics can improve gut health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut and help to keep the gut healthy. They can help to fight against bad bacteria, promote nutrient absorption, and support the immune system.
Rachel Fine, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with To The Pointe Nutrition adds, “Probiotics, the up and coming research behind the gut microbiome is getting a good hype- and rightfully so! A flourishing microbiome arms our immune system and may even play a role with our metabolism! While I am a food first promotor, probiotic supplements can be beneficial. Some research suggests that it may be more effective to take a probiotic supplement that contains a mixture of bacterial strains rather than a single bacterial strain. Conversely it is possible that some combinations of strains may not work well together, affecting the ability of the organisms to remain viable. It’s important to note that some companies list a number of strains “at time of manufacture,” which should be taken with caution because it’s natural for at least 50% of the cultures to die before ingested. It is best to choose products that have been labeled with the amount of viable organisms expected to be present through an expiration date or “Best By” date… also, one should try to purchase products that are well within their expiration date to ensure a higher number of viable cells. The recommended intake for probiotic supplements varies by strain and specificity of use, but tends to be about 1 billion to 10 billion cells (or CFUs) per day. They should be taken on an ongoing basis for general benefits. It is quite difficult to choose a solid top pick for probiotics because different strains have been shown to help different clinical issues. However, my favorite is Garden of Life Dr. Formulate Probiotics Once Daily Women’s with 50 billion strains. To get probiotic benefits from yogurt and other dairy foods, choose a product that lists “contains live cultures” or “active cultures” rather than “made with live/active cultures,” which may signal that cultures have been subsequently destroyed with heat-treatment upon processing.”
Fine emphasizes, “In general, multivitamins are not technically needed if one is eating a diet abundant in a variety of minimally processed plant based foods. However, given our busy schedules and tendency to unintentionally restrict food intake (yes, this is common despite today’s overabundant food supply) it may be beneficial for some to consider multivitamins as a means of filling in the nutrient gaps. The most common deficiencies in women are calcium, vitamin D, and iron. Since there’s no standard formula for multis, composition can vary greatly. It’s important to make sure your tablet is not overdoing it with some nutrients. For example, I suggest choosing a tablet with no more than 1000 IU of vitamin D and no more than 500 mg calcium. If you’re getting in 2-3 servings of calcium-containing foods (like dairy) in your diet, then you may choose a tablet with a more modest amount of calcium (100-400mg). One advantage of taking a multi with a lower amount of calcium (such as 200mg) is that there is less of a chance of the calcium interfering with iron absorption. If you tend to be deficient in iron (which is quite common for menstruation women) it’s best to take your multi separate (at least 2 hours) from your iron supplement.”
Dr. Armenta says, “Turmeric is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help build the immune system to fight against viral diseases. It also improves memory, reduces joint pain, and lowers the risk of heart disease. Additionally, according to new research, curcumin’s antioxidant properties may help improve liver health by functioning as a detox agent in the body.
Dr. Armenta explains, “Lastly, there’s ginger root. Ginger is a health powerhouse, with many amazing health benefits that can help free the body from nasty toxins. For example, ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce pain and inflammation in the body. Additionally, ginger helps treat nausea and vomiting, as well as helps to improve digestion. Ginger is also a great source of antioxidants, which can help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.”