Dietary and Health Supplements–How To Use Them Wisely

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Nutrition and Supplements

What are Dietary Supplements?
Dietary supplements are intended to give nutrients that are deficient or missing in a person’s diet. Some of the very important yet common nutritional supplements include amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals.

Different countries classify these health supplements either as foods or drugs. However, based on the United Nations’ food standards authority, supplements that contain vitamins and minerals are classified as food. Meanwhile, the United States considers dietary supplements to include a broader variety of supplements than that of the UN definition.

Some of the effective uses of dietary supplements focus on the prevention or treatment of diseases. For instance, it has been found that folic acid is a vitamin that helps prevent birth defects, zinc slows down the progress of age-related diseases of the eye, calcium and vitamin D helps prevent and treat bone loss and osteoporosis. Some researches suggest that diet supplements like omega3 fatty acids are helpful in preventing and/or treating coronary disease. However, additional researches must still be made before any final conclusions can be given.

Another type of diet supplement is called as herbal supplement. From its name, it is obvious that the ingredients used to make it come from plants or plant parts such as leaves, seeds, or flowers. It is often used for different purposes, but is known for its therapeutic wonders. It may contain just one or a combination of several herbs.

Wise Use of Dietary Supplements
In the effort of people to be in the best of their health always, dietary supplements have been enjoying a wide patronage and sky-rocketing sales statistics. However, considering the varieties of health supplements in the market today with their varied claims of health benefits, deciding which ones are safe and effective has become a tough task. Thus, the following points or reminders would certainly be of great help in making the right choice.

• Extra care must be made before using diet supplements since federal regulations as regards these products are quite lax when compared to over-the-counter and prescription drugs. In fact, dietary supplements are marketed even without having the manufacturer prove its safety and effectiveness.

• Before using a health supplement, always read the label for instructions. It is good practice to seek reliable sources that have information about the product before buying it. Results of a scientific testing are usually a good source of reliable information.

You can ask your doctor or your health care provider about the right dosage to take. If they are not familiar with a particular diet supplement, at least they could give you medical guidance on the uses and risks of the health supplement. This way, you could avoid the likelihood of bad side-effects when you use them together with your existing medications. What’s worse, there might even be a tendency that they contain some ingredients that are not listed on the label.

These precautions are very relevant especially when having a surgery, planning a pregnancy, or nursing your child. Always contact your doctor or health care provider when experiencing any side effects and immediately suspend using the dietary supplement.

Understanding Health Supplements

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Nutrition and Supplements

The Nature of Health Supplements

The body needs a steady amount of vitamins and minerals to keep it functioning well. Taking health supplements is not a food substitute for your daily dose of fruits and vegetables. Rather, health supplements are mere complements to your diet. It is especially needed when your body has some trouble maintaining enough micronutrients for its use. Thus, nutritional supplements cannot substitute for the nutrients found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

Best Source of Nutrition

Even as the market is teeming with a wide variety of nutritional supplements, whole foods still remain to be the best source of nutrition. Whole foods have advantages over nutritional supplements because they are great sources of complex micronutrients. They also provide the much needed dietary fibers essential in the prevention of diseases and management of constipation. Whole foods also have an abundance of phytochemicals and antioxidants which are substances known to protect you from cancer, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cell damage.

Do You Need Health Supplements?

If you eat a balanced diet composed of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, fish, and legumes, you are not likely to need nutritional supplements. But if a healthy diet is not really on top of your list, you may need to take nutritional supplements on a daily basis to make up for the nutrients you lack. If you are confused on whether or not you need these nutritional supplements, read on to find out who needs them. The people who must take these supplements are:

• Those who have difficulty digesting and absorbing nutrients due to a prior surgery on the digestive tract
• A vegetarian who does not eat diet substitute or complement
• One who is pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or is breast-feeding her child
• Women who experience heavy bleeding during menstruation
• Postmenopausal women
• Those with chronic diarrhea, food intolerance, liver disease, food allergies, gallbladder problems, etc.
• Those who don’t eat regularly or does not consume at least 1,600 calories per day

If you find yourself falling under any of the categories above, then you indeed need to take natural supplements for an improved well-being.

Safe Use of Health Supplements

While most nutritional supplements and prescription drugs may claim to come from natural and herbal sources, it does not necessarily mean that they are safe. There are herbs that can actually be harmful to the body. An example of which is comfrey and kava which cause serious damage the liver. You cannot even solely rely on the manufacturer’s guarantee that the quality or consistency of the product has been certified because manufacturers will always market their products the best way they can.

Herbal diet supplements can have several compounds without the consumers knowing its active ingredients and its overall effects on the body. Worse, considering the government regulations of health supplements, it is likely to happen that what is placed on the label is not actually what is in the bottle. Discrepancies on the label can even include incorrect plant species of the herbal diet supplements and the wrong amount of active ingredient.

In order to ensure the safe use of these supplements, you can pay your medical practitioner a visit. He is the best person to consult regarding the type of supplements you should take as a complement for your diet.