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Dietary Supplements: Are They Right for You?

LAST UPDATED: August 19, 2021

It is the way of the modern world: supplements can improve vital organ function, provide healthy growth, and help you live your best life.

So naturally, you want a curation of vitamins and minerals that will be effective but also made with premium ingredients.

Finding health and nutritional information on supplements can be a serious challenge. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t evaluate the effectiveness of any supplements before they are on store shelves, so this means you need to take matters into your own hands and do the research yourself.

Given the abundance of conflicting information online about supplements, and complications with blind self-prescribing, it can be hard to know what to look for. 

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What are Supplements Made of?

First things first! Understanding the components. 

Supplements are products typically ingested orally that contain a dietary ingredient to assist with specific deficiencies. They are composed of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics (among others) to provide some type of dietary modification. 

You can take supplements in powder, capsule, tincture, gummy, and liquid form. There are three main ingredients in supplements, including:

  1. Vitamins: There are 13 necessary nutrients that help your body with metabolic functions, human growth, digestion, and nerve function (and other weird things your body does!) Fat-soluble vitamins (these are A, D, E, and K) can be stored in your body, but water-soluble vitamins (C, B) can’t and you need to eat them!
  2. Minerals: These guys are inorganic elements that are also essential for healthy growth, bone health, fluid balance, and so much more. Essential minerals must also be consumed. Nom nom. 
  3. Proprietary blend: Supplements can also contain proprietary blends, a unique combination of ingredients made by a manufacturer. 

Supplements help balance out your diet and give you that extra push you need to absorb the good stuff, especially since it can be extremely hard to get all the micronutrients we need from our diet alone.

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When Should You Take Supplements?

There are times when supplements can assist with an insufficient dietwhich is in most cases. Busy lifestyles, inadequate food sources, poor crop quality, and genetic modification all hamper our ability to get enough micronutrients. 

There are other times when a supplement is recommended by a health professional. This includes:

  1. Those who are pregnant or chest/breastfeeding 
  2. Individuals with nutrient malabsorption conditions
  3. Infants who are exclusively breastfed
  4. Individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery
  5. Anyone with limited or restricted access to food
  6. Vegans, vegetarians and keto
  7. Individuals who are anemic

You should consider taking supplements if you have a vitamin deficiency, which, surprise surprise, 92% of Americans reportedly have! 

Even for individuals with no known nutritional deficiencies, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get enough micronutrients from our diet alone. 

Plate on table with oranges, lemon and two pill packs on it

Personal Considerations When Shopping for Supplements

When shopping for supplements, there are several factors to consider. This includes how you interact with your health and what you do for it. 

The body is not invincible, and even when you think you may not need it, you should always connect with a healthcare provider to make sure that you’re not in a population that could be at higher risk. 

If you are taking any medications, know that some supplements can interact with certain drugs. Additionally, individuals who are pregnant, nursing an infant, or have a chronic health condition like diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease could be at higher risk for adverse interactions. 

Some supplements can have adverse effects during surgery too. So be sure to speak with your doctor about the supplements you’re taking, especially before surgery. 

Getting DNA tested and your lifestyle assessed is the most accurate way to find ways to enhance your nutritional health so you can tap into genetic reasons for nutritional deficiencies. Like a magic map (of your body), genetic testing for nutritional health can alert you to genetic sensitivities or deficiencies and set you off on the journey to better health. 

Patient on Zoom talking to doctor with jar of pills in hand

What to Look for When Buying Supplements

There are endless ways to get your hands on supplements. While this may sound like a “good thing,” it also means that the sea of options in the market can be bad for your health since they are not all properly tested and may contain poor-quality ingredients. 

It is a jungle out there, and the supplement market is no exception! As a highly unregulated entity, all that supplement brands really have in terms of regulation is the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) in the U.S. 

One of the only real ways of checking to make sure that your supplements’ ingredients are accurate and don’t contain harmful contaminants is to evaluate whether it has passed third-party testing. 

While not required by law, brands who voluntarily submit their products for third-party testing demonstrate that they are committed to the well-being and health of their customers, meaning they can be a more trustworthy source of supplements options. 

If it passes third-party testing, then it has been tested (and approved) for at least one of the following conditions: 

  1. That the label is accurate
  2. That the products are standardized for each batch production
  3. That the supplements tested are free from fillers or harmful contaminants

In your research, look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA), an objective indicator of product quality awarded by companies like the NSF International, United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), ConsumerLab, and Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG).

Key Tips When Researching Supplements

Whether you are searching for dietary supplements online or at your grocery store, here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  1. Read the Ingredient List: Read the ingredients list carefully so that you know that the information is accurate, that the ingredient list is reliable, and that the brand supports informed choices. The purest, more bioavailable supplements, don’t need or have many, if any, “other” ingredients.
  2. Not Everything That is Natural is Safe! As they say, read the fine print… know that supplement providers might throw around the term “natural,” which gives off the impression that the supplement is safe. This is not always the case, especially since manufacturers can add fillers and additives. 

Recognize that coming into this search, you may have biases too. Don’t assume that the product can’t affect you. 

Do your due diligence and research to find products or vitamin and supplement subscription services that offer premium-level ingredients. Trust us, the homework will pay off. 

Male and female in supermarket reading the back of a product

Finding High-Quality Supplements Perfect for You

We get it; it can be tiresome doing all this work to find a health supplement. However, since you’re putting this in your body, doing some work and learning about the product is worth the effort. 

If you’re shopping around online, do some research into the site. Try to find out the purpose of the site and who is operating it. With this information, you can identify if the source is actually reliable. 

Talk to your doctor before blindingly self-prescribing, that way you can catch medicine interactions or health complications.

Consider getting DNA testing for nutritional deficiencies, which can identify genetic deficiencies or sensitivities. This analysis is one of the best ways to know exactly what your body needs to reduce the risks of self-prescribing, and also know what works for you and what doesn’t. 

Consider DNA testing through Autumn DNA, which only uses the DNA that relates to nutritional health, plus your lifestyle information, to assess your vitamin and supplement needs. They then send you a monthly subscription with the vitamins or supplements that your results advise in convenient, individual AM and PM packets, so you can rest easy knowing they are doing the right thing for you.

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