How to Pick a Quality Supplement
Supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry annually in the U.S. There’s an abundance of information out there on supplements and what they can do to improve your health and life. With so many options, variations and price points out there, it’s hard to know if you’re picking the right supplement for you, let alone if it’s a quality product.
Currently supplement quality regulation is lax, leaving the bulk of the responsibility on the consumer to choose quality supplements. While regulations and the enforcement thereof aren’t going to change anytime soon, there are good supplements out there. In fact, there are great supplements out there. With a little time, effort and research you can find the right supplement for you and completely avoid wasting money or getting sick.
Start with Your ‘Why’
Why do you want to take the supplement? If you’re seeking a quick fix to weight loss or instant healthy skin, there is unfortunately no supplement that can offer that. There are supplements that can help you meet your nutritional needs to support either effort, but know that any supplement claiming to be a quick fix for anything is a hoax.
If you’re dealing with some chronic signs and symptoms and have found credible information from two or more sources that align current signs and symptoms with a nutrient deficiency or condition an herbal supplement, you’re probably on the right track. Contact your healthcare provider to confirm. When it comes to herbal supplements reach out to a healthcare provider trained in herbology to get the correct information. They have the right knowledge set to make an appropriate recommendation and they may surprise you by offering a herbal supplement better suited for your needs.
Speaking of healthcare providers, if yours diagnoses you with a deficiency or condition and recommends a supplement, that too is another good ‘why’ to follow up on. If they recommend a supplement, follow their recommendation, but also get clarification on amount, duration and long-term plan for supplementations.
The Long and Short of It
That’s all because supplement beings in addition to, NOT in place of. No supplement can undo or make up for poor diet and lifestyle. Iron is a great example of this. In recent years, easier to digest iron supplements have been made available, which is good because roughly 2 billion people on earth suffer from iron deficiency anemia. With the exception of a few, rare medical conditions, most iron deficiency is related to poor iron intake.
Your healthcare provider will recommend temporary iron supplementation to get your levels up in the healthy zone with the expectation that you will start regularly consuming iron rich foods to keep your iron levels up. Chronic iron supplementation is not a sustainable life plan.
Then there are some supplements that will be for the long-term, if not indefinitely. Calcium is a prime example of this. If both you and your healthcare provider have concerns about you calcium levels and the majority of calcium rich foods are either foods you don’t like or have sensitivities/allergies to, a supplement is going to be a must. It’s vital to consistently get enough calcium throughout your life and generally your doctor is going to bring it up in relation to bone health and/or blood pressure.
Long-term supplementation in and of itself brings up some points of concern. Long-term calcium supplementation has its own set of concerns to keep in mind. Not all calcium supplements are created equal. Poor quality supplements, too much calcium at once or too much all together can also cause issues. Short term that can mean upset stomach and/or constipation caused by calcium supplementation if you’re taking a form that’s not body friendly and lacking in vitamin D and K2. Long-term that can mean calcium depositing in body tissues it doesn’t belong and/or kidney stones without the help of vitamin K2. That’s why it’s very important to carefully select the right calcium supplement. Some thoughts to keep in mind when selecting a supplement meant for long-term usage.
The Right Stuff
It’s easy to see why calcium is a great example of how and why to pick the right supplement for you, but know that the same process applies to any supplement you choose. Once you ingest something, it’s in your system for a very long time. It will take a trip from your stomach to your bloodstream and then throughout your body. That’s not a journey you want a harmful substance to make.
Calcium supplements come in a variety of forms and dosages. Using the 1,000 mg RDA for men and women ages 19–50 years as an example (click HERE for different RDAs), a supplement providing 1,200 mg of calcium would be too much and leave you with the above mentioned woes. Calcium is also a mineral, aka a rock, which is not easy for the body to digest. Like the rest of us, the human body needs time and a little bit of patience for nutrient absorption. Look for a calcium supplement that offers smaller dosages taken throughout the day and does NOT exceed your daily needs. Remember, supplements are in addition to a healthy diet and even if you don’t consume dairy, you are consuming some calcium. There are over 53 non-dairy, quality sources of calcium.
Get by with a Little Help from Friends
Nutrients, especially minerals like calcium, require other nutrients for their absorption and utilization. That means a nutrient to help get them out of the stomach and to the right place in the body and another nutrient to put them to work. Using the calcium example, those friends are vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and magnesium. They’re they Beatles of bone health — everyone has their favorite Beatle, but it took all 4 to make musical magic. Yes, even Ringo.
Presentation Is Important
Regardless of the nutrient or herbs involved, a quality supplement manufacturer knows that supplements are to be taken in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle. How they present their product says a lot about the way they operate and the quality of their product. If a supplement company claims that their product will be all you need and you’ll need it for a lifetime — RED FLAG — don’t buy it.
The really great supplement companies will offer health, nutrition and wellness information to support the all-around healthy lifestyle that their product is in addition to, not in place of. They will feature health content and one very important sign of a quality supplement company — recipes. Nothing says you know your product’s place and purpose like sharing recipes rich in the very nutrient you sell. That says a lot.
Buy Based on Facts Not Endorsement
Nothing screams poor quality product quite like celebrity and/or doctor endorsement without clinic research to back up the endorsement. Remember, doctors used to recommend smoking… to pregnant women! While that was decades ago and a pretty wild example, it’s something to keep in mind when you feel like taking a supplement because a certain celebrity or doctor says to do so. A doctor is a human too and big paychecks for minimal work can seduce anyone regardless of their occupation or education. Conversely, if a doctor recommends the product based on clinic research the supplement company freely and openly shares, that is a great sign of a quality product.
Supplements Only Work If You Take Them
Now that you know how to pick out the right supplement for you and how to take it, the key is figuring out how to take it consistently. It takes a while to develop habits, so don’t feel silly for setting reminders in your phone, on your calendar or on post it notes. There are actually apps out there designed to help you keep up with healthy habits until they become ingrained parts of your life. Find what works for you.
The goal is consistency and remembering that taking your supplement and adopting other healthy behaviors are things that you are doing for yourself. The gift of health is the best thing you can give yourself and your family. Feeling better and having fewer sick days are both gifts for you, your boss and your paycheck. Be patient. It takes time for the benefits of supplements to be seen. Remember to keep up with your healthcare provider as well.
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Originally published at medium.com