Dietary supplements may very well have benefits, but there are also risks that need to be taken into consideration when making the decision to incorporate them into one’s lifestyle, as well being cautious when deciding which ones to take. A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that some “23,000 people” visit hospital emergency departments each year and “more than 2,100” are hospitalized because of “dietary supplements.” This statistic needs to be addressed and patients need access to unbiased, detailed information in regards to anything that they are contemplating putting into their bodies.
Many believe in “natural” approaches to health and healing, the main reason often being the attempt to avoid the wide array of side effects associated with standardized medications. “Natural” often means that the molecular structures are modified in the laboratory to match those found in the human body. “Natural products” may not necessarily be more effective or less toxic than their more traditional counterparts.
Furthermore, the production of so called natural substances may not be any more natural or less profit driven than that of conventional medications. Some companies falsely label their product “natural” simply because using the word helps sell products! Multinational, corporations with aggressive and highly effective marketing tactics are producing and selling traditional pharmaceuticals as well as alternative, or “natural” supplements.
There are many brands of supplements on the market. While multi-vitamin and mineral supplements might be useful for those who do not regularly eat a variety of fresh, nutritious food, or whose health is compromised, please remember that the industry is not regulated, and it is still more desirable to acquire as much as we can from a diverse diet that includes a variety of organic fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats.
Here are 10 tips to help you when considering the integration of supplements into your life:
- When you shop, look for “standardized” ingredients. This indicates that there has been an attempt to ensure that each dose contains the same amount of active ingredients.
- Buy products that detail ingredients, dose, and manufacturer.
- Compare the Latin names to be sure which herb you’re buying. Also, purchase herbs that indicate the percentage of active ingredients, and look for other chemicals that may have been used in the preparation.
- Do not start to take too many supplements at one time. It will be too difficult to learn which supplement may be causing a side effect and which may be helping! It is best to integrate them one at a time and document any positive or negative effects.
- Check with www.consumerlab.com to ensure a supplement contains what it claims on the label.
- Search the FDA Drug Adverse Event where adverse events are reported by consumers.
- Do not exceed recommended doses.
- Report adverse effects to your health-care provider and notify the FDA Drug Adverse Event.
- Rely on medical research, not package claims.
- Ask yourself: Do I really need to take that supplement or would it be possible to acquire the health benefits through dietary changes?