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What You Need to Know About Supplements

Supplements are a manmade product that contains a dietary ingredient of some nature. It is intended for ingestion to add nutritional value to your diet.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these dietary ingredients can be one or any combination of the following:



Herbs or other botanical substances obtained from a plant

An amino acid

A concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract

They can be found in a variety of different forms such as tablets, capsules, soft gels, gelcaps, liquids, as well as powders.

The FDA classifies supplements as foods rather than drugs. This means that the labels on supplements are allowed to claim certain health benefits, but they are not allowed to claim any ability to cure, treat, or prevent illnesses or diseases. However, research does suggest that some supplements can certainly enhance health in a variety of ways.

Everyone is jumping on the supplement bandwagon. This is both good and bad at the same time.

Let me explain.

Supplements are powerful and should be respected as highly as any prescribed medication your doctor prescribes to you, and unfortunately, in many cases they aren’t.

Supplements are a great way to give your body any nutrients you may not be getting. While we get nutrients from our food and our food gets nutrients from the soil, and much of our soil is depleted of those nutrients due to modern farming practices. More nutrients can be lost during shipping, storage, food processing, preservatives, and toxins in the environment.

Due to all of these reasons our food is lacking in important nutrients our bodies need.

As we age our body loses the ability to absorb nutrients, this is another reason to take supplements. Other reasons are being sick, having food allergies, depression, anxiety and menopause.

This is where supplementation is a good thing.

The problem with supplementation lies in a few areas.

First, people are taking supplements without knowing if they actually need them. We’re all tired and stressed and jumping on the bandwagon of the latest and greatest supplement that our friend is taking hoping it will help without knowing if our bodies actually need it or the dosage we need. And, yes, it may help, but then again it may not and beyond that it may be detrimental to your health.

The next problem is with the supplements themselves. While the FDA classifies them as food, supplements are not regulated the FDA does not hold supplement manufacturers to quality or regulatory standards Their only requirement is that manufacturers must follow “good manufacturing practices,” but compliance isn’t enforced. In practice, supplement companies can get away with just about anything—and they do. Many supplements been found to not have the quantity of a given ingredient this means we’re wasting our money.

In one study, cognitive-performance supplements were tested for quality. Sixty-seven percent had at least one ingredient on the Supplement Facts label that was not detected through analysis, and a whopping 83 percent contained compounds that were not reported on the label. This adulteration or misbranding of supplements, combined with purported scientific claims on the product label, poses serious concerns that could put the public at risk.

Then there’s the problem of fillers and additives some of which are sugars, gluten, dyes, trans fats, preservatives, parabens, waxes, GMO’s, and titanium dioxide. During the manufacturing process, most supplement companies use these additives to change the texture, appearance, consistency, and overall quality of the product.

Next problem with supplements is there are over 10,000 chemical additives found in processed foods that are not required to be listed on ingredient labels. In other words, manufacturers can get away with concealing certain ingredients that they consider as "additives" from the consumer.

Quality and efficacy are of utmost importance when it comes to supplements. Otherwise, we are not only throwing hundreds or thousands of dollars out the window, but we are also potentially risking our health.

Deciphering any type of label is difficult whether it be a personal care product as I’ve spoken about, or a supplement label so here are a few things to look for:

1. A clear description of the of the ingredients should be listed

2. The amount of each ingredient

3. Herbal supplements should identify which part of the herb was used (flower, extract, root, etc.).

4. Any certifications or seals for quality.

5. Serving size

6. Expiration date

7. Lot number

8. Bath number

9. Identification number

Companies can have third-party testing done on their products at their own discretion. These agencies put products through vigorous testing that verifies the quality, safety, and integrity of ingredients to make sure whatever they contain is exactly what’s stated on the bottle. These certification agencies hold supplement manufacturers to strict regulatory standards and perform regular audits of production facilities to ensure compliance with quality, purity, and sanitation standards. If a company does not comply with regulatory requirements at every turn, their certification is revoked, and their seal is no longer permitted on the bottle.

Look for the following seals on your supplement label to know that strict measures were taken to ensure the quality and integrity of ingredients:

The USP label, which is the United States Pharmacopeia

The NSF label, which ensures no unacceptable levels of contaminants

The USDA certified organic label, which certifies an organic product

There are two different types of supplements – food-based and synthetic.

Food-based supplements are supplements made from whole foods. They are not isolated vitamins, they are highly complex structures that naturally come packaged together in a mix of enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, and phytonutrients, all of these components are naturally found in food. These combinations work together to allow the vitamins to work harder for your body.

Synthetic supplements are not natural, because vitamins and minerals are never found in nature by themselves. Synthetic supplements are man-made for the purpose of acting the way a natural vitamin would in our body. However, they are produced in a test tube rather than extracted from a plant. Several studies have shown that the body does not react properly to synthetic supplements, instead, treating them like foreign substances.

Supplements can have side effects keep in mind; they are just as powerful as medication. Side effects usually occur when they are taken at the same time as certain medication. Ie: Vitamin K is known to interfere with blood thinners and can lead to blood clots.

Here are some side effects that can occur from supplementation:

  • Too much niacin, AKA B3, can lead to a skin rash that is often characterized by hives, mainly on the face and neck.

  • B1 and B10 are linked to skin issues.

  • Vitamin A is linked to skin issues, mostly due to the fact that this nutrient is responsible for cellular repair in the skin and bodily tissues. Any dry skin or peeling, as well as a rash, could be linked to too much vitamin A.

  • Vitamin C, helpful in fighting infection, too much topical vitamin C applied directly to the skin can trigger dermatitis. It can also upset the stomach lining when consumed in high doses.

  • Magnesium can lead to digestive problems leading to vomiting and diarrhea when taken in large amounts.

  • Iron plays a role in the oxygenation of tissues and cells, and releases it into the bloodstream, too much can cause nausea and vomiting.

  • Some B vitamins can cause anxiety and jitters.

When it comes to supplementation, the cheapest isn’t the way to go, you really do get what you pay for. I highly suggest investing in your supplements as best you can otherwise, for the most part, they’re a waste of money.

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