In the Part 1 of this series I discussed some of the considerations for understanding that polarized argument on supplements. Asking if they are simply good or bad is over simplistic. The short answer is it depends and here’s why.
The following are the considerations that need to be addressed to ensure your supplements are working positively for you and are cost effective.
What are your symptoms, past medical history and current health situation?
- The root cause of symptoms must be understood. Every person is unique in appearance and preferences, but that diversity doesn’t stop on the outside. Human health is incredibly complex, especially with the challenges of living outside of our evolved environment. We even have different expressions of genes in our DNA that can affect everything from caffeine tolerance to mood. Without knowing the actual cause of a group of symptoms, supplements have the potential to end up masking a health situation that should be addressed or even making it worse.
Case Example 1: One may contemplate taking fibre for constipation but also have fatigue and difficulty losing weight which could indicate hypothyroidism or other conditions. The fibre and water intake may help with the constipation but then obscure some key indicators of illness to your health care professional.
Case Example 2: It’s common knowledge that B-complex vitamin supplements help people have more energy, but if you have fatigue and digestive issues you could end up with nausea, hot flashes and a racing heart from taking the same dose as was recommended on the bottle or by the health store clerk.
In both of these cases, two of the most innocuous supplements can be misused or cause problems in certain situations.
Properly prescribed supplements have the potential to be the difference between a life time of suffering and regaining health that was thought to be lost.
How do you handle the supplement?
- It’s important to be able to interpret how your body responds to a supplement. By only making one major change at a time, any adverse or positive effects of the supplement can be seen. It’s hoped that a positive reaction will be seen. However, an adverse reaction to a supplement has a silver lining, as it provides important information about your case.
Food sensitivities and allergies:
- As food sensitivities and allergies continue to be a major issue for many of my patients, it’s very important to make sure that your case is considered when looking for a supplement. It’s not always obvious from the supplement label what agents could be in the supplement, like fish or histamine for example.
Objective test results and retesting:
- Testing and/or tracking symptoms often is key to understanding if your supplement is working for you. It can take as little as a few hours or as long as a few months depending on the supplement and the patient to determine if a properly prescribed supplement is having the desired effects. Measuring progress through surveys, tracking symptoms and retesting is key.
Check out Part 3 for how your lifestyle and budget affects your supplement choices. I’ll also cover why food is better, except for when it’s not.