Your workout buddy’s taking turmeric for joint pain. Your co-worker says start taking folic acid ASAP if you’re thinking about having a baby. Your friend swears those collagen powders are working wonders for her complexion. It all sounds so proactively healthy!
But before you start stocking up on supplements, how much do you really know about them? 98point6 physician Jennifer Rossi, MD separates the medical facts from the myths—and explains why it’s so beneficial to include a physician in the conversation.
A dietary supplement is anything you take by mouth in order to help you add a particular type of substance into your body beyond your regular diet. Supplements take the form of tablets, capsules, powders and liquids; the dietary ingredients they contain may include:
- Vitamins and minerals (Ex: Vitamin C, zinc)
- Herbs and botanicals (Ex: Ginkgo biloba, feverfew)
- Amino acids (Ex: L-llysine, L-threonine)
- Enzymes (Ex: Lactase and lipase)
Most people can get what their body needs from a well-balanced diet. The primary focus should be getting the optimum mix of nutrient-dense foods on your plate. Not only does this help you get the variety your body needs, “whole” foods contain added benefits like fiber (essential for bowel health) and antioxidants (which help protect cells from damage). Maintaining a balanced diet does take some mindful planning and preparation, but you’ve got to admit it’s tastier than relying on energy bars, smoothies and pills!
In some instances, a well-balanced diet is not enough. It’s not uncommon for women who experience heavy periods or vegans to be iron-deficient. With skin cancer on the rise, people who avoid the sun are more likely to be found lacking in Vitamin D. When these deficiencies are noted on routine blood work, your physician can guide you as to which over-the-counter or prescription-strength supplements you may want to consider.
If you haven’t had labs done in a while and suspect your body is lacking certain vitamins or minerals, a 98point6 physician can order a simple blood test at your local lab and go over the results with you to determine the best course of action.
Safety can be a serious concern.
They may be sold in the grocery aisle or by a friendly health and beauty consultant, but taking supplements warrants a conversation with your physician, especially since taking too much or mixing with other drugs could have harmful side effects and consequences.
“Many supplements can interact with prescription medications,” says Dr. Rossi, “This is especially true if you are having surgery, as some medication interactions can increase your bleeding risk.” She also notes that most supplements have not been tested for safety in children or adults who are pregnant or nursing. “And if you suffer from a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or hypertension, it’s always wise to check in with a physician before making modifications to your diet or medication regimen.”
Federal regulations are less strict on dietary supplements than prescription or over-the-counter meds. In addition to consulting a physician or pharmacist, be an informed consumer. This means knowing the difference between verified health information and claims like “natural” or “trusted,” which are often just clever marketing.
The quality of the products should also be of concern. “If you are going to take a supplement, make sure it’s from a reliable source,” says Dr. Rossi. “For example, there is a lot of variety in the quality of fish oil that is sold, with some brands having greater purity than others.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
A physician will always be your best resource. From nutritional fads to trendy workout routines, you should always consult a real doctor about any lifestyle changes you’re considering. And with affordable, text-based care, you can connect with a 98point6 physician whenever you’re curious about your health, minus worries about wasting time or money. Remember, 98point6 physicians are here to help for common everyday health questions as well as pressing health concerns.