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Taking Supplements Every Day? Read This First, Says Physician

What to know about supplements before taking them, according to experts. 
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Millions of people take supplements daily to help improve overall health, but do they actually help? While there's a dangerous side to many supplements and they can pose a health risk due to harmful side effects, some do provide healthy benefits. But how do you know which ones to take? Experts explained to Eat This, Not That! Health what to know before taking supplements and how to properly research them accordingly.  As always, consult with your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Why Should People Take Supplements

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Dr. Rene Armenta, board-certified bariatric and general surgeon with Renew Bariatrics says, "People should take supplements because they can help to fill in the gaps in their diets. Many people don't eat a balanced diet, which can lead to deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals. Supplements can help provide these nutrients, which can boost overall health. Additionally, some supplements have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to protect against chronic diseases." Dr. Armenta emphasized, "supplements should not be taken as a replacement for meals. When you rely on supplements as your only source of nutrition, you may miss out on important vitamins and minerals that are essential to your health."

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Things to Know Before Taking Supplements

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Dr. Jacob Hascalovici, the chief medical officer and pain specialist with Clearing explains, "When taking supplements and vitamins, it's crucial to know what interactions, both positive and negative, might be happening. The body is complex, and supplements do not always act in isolation as intended. It's also important to ensure that vitamins and supplements are coming from reputable, high-quality sources."

Dr. Mahmud Kara, MD Internal Medicine adds, "Before taking a health supplement, people should know a few key items. The first is that you should always consult your doctor before adding anything new to your health regimen. Secondly, strongly consider your own health goals and needs so that you can find a product that will fit best into your routine. It is also important to note, before taking a health supplement, that not all supplements are created equal. It is always best to select a supplement that uses natural, non-GMO ingredients so that you can reap the health benefits those ingredients have to offer and avoid any preservatives and/or additives that may be harmful to your health. Beyond ingredients, consumers should always consider transparency, or lack thereof, when buying health supplements.

To help with the matter of transparency, ask yourself a few questions when doing your research on supplements:

  • Does the product clearly display a supplement facts panel with ingredients, dosage, and ingredient quantities? Or is that information missing? 
  • Are the claims about the product detailed or supported by research? Or are they vague? 
  • Does the company include customer feedback, both positive and negative? Or do they only show you the 5-star reviews? 
  • What does the return, or guarantee, policy look like?

A good rule of thumb, if and when faced with two viable alternatives, go with the product that is more transparent in ingredients and ingredient quantities."

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How to Determine which Supplements are Right for You

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Dr. Kara states, "To determine which supplements are right for you, I go back to the key items people should know before considering a new health supplement.

Understanding your own health goals and needs, and discussing options with your doctor, is a great place to start. After evaluating your goals, it is important to look at your health needs or restrictions when choosing the product that is right for you. For example, if your body is sensitive to caffeine or stimulants like coffee then when looking at different options for focus and energy it would be best to choose something that contains more natural herbs. Once you've narrowed it down to what kind of supplement you are looking for, choosing the right product is heavily based on your own research. Start looking at options online; check out different companies that offer the same remedy and really dig into the difference between ingredients that are included, dosage, pricing, etc.

If you want to get into the finer details, do some research on specific ingredients. For example, if a supplement contains Gymnema and that is something you are unfamiliar with you can research it before you buy and determine how that fits into your routine and overall health goals. As mentioned earlier, when ultimately selecting the supplement that will be right for you, a good rule of thumb is to select the product that fits best into your health routine, is made with natural, non-GMO ingredients and is the most transparent."

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How to Determine if Supplements are Actually Effective

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According to Dr. Kara, "In the supplement world, efficacy and health benefits can sometimes be subjective and anecdotal. To determine if a supplement is actually effective and beneficial (before you buy), do your research. Although it can be difficult to find research or clinical trials on one product specifically, there is tons of research available to support the use of specific ingredients. For example, Turmeric is a well-known, and well-studied, herb that can help reduce inflammation; therefore, one can assume that a supplement containing Turmeric will produce a certain level of health benefits. Beyond doing research on specific ingredients, you may be able to determine if a supplement is actually effective or beneficial based on consumer feedback. Read the reviews on a product before you buy, or read what people are saying about the use of specific ingredients online (i.e. have other people experienced better sleep by taking Melatonin?). Once you actually purchase and start taking the supplement, take a look at how you feel. Do you have more energy? Less pain? Better mental clarity? More regular bathroom visits? If it helps, track these specific health areas so that you can determine if the supplement is effective and beneficial for your health."

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Supplements with Surprising Effects and Benefits

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MCT Oil Supplements

Dr. Kara says, "Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil is a popular herbal remedy that has a very important, and surprising health benefit: it can help the body stay in ketosis for longer periods of time.  When we take MCT oil, not only is this the only energy source that can be directly absorbed by the brain, but more ketones are produced which can help enhance and sustain the ketosis process."

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Fruits, Greens & Veggie Supplements

"Fruits, greens, and veggie supplements have become a popular health trend, and for good reason," Dr. Kara states. "One surprising benefit of taking this kind of supplement daily is that it may reduce your risk for serious disease, and even premature death.This is especially true of products that contain sufficient quantities of all three (greens, veggies, and fruit). A good example would be my Pure Nature product. I put a lot of research into it, making sure I created something that offered a mix of responsibly sourced greens, veggies, and fruit in sufficient amounts. A recent global study has linked poor diet and lack of fresh fruits, veggies, and greens, to causing more deaths than tobacco and high blood pressure in recent years."

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Inflammation Supplements

Dr. Kara emphasizes, "Chronic inflammation is the root of all evil. My patients and followers know this because I say it all the time. I say this because many of the health issues that we face in the 21st century can invariably be traced back to an inflammatory nodus in the body. Inflammation has been associated with many health issues beyond just daily aches & pains as it can also lead to poor immunity as well as more serious problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzeihmer's. Taking a daily supplement that contains powerful anti-inflammatories like Turmeric, Boswellia, or Ginger, can have the surprising effect of improving your overall health—not just alleviating aches and pains."

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Gut Health Supplements

"Gut health is the cornerstone of total wellness.," Dr. Kara reminds us. "The gut microbiome is one of the largest and most important microbiomes in the body. It contains millions of neurons that interact with other parts of the body beyond just the digestive tract. Think about it, when we are developing in the womb everything is connected by one long tube. As we develop, that tube may expand into a more complex system but the underlying connection still remains—one of the most important connections in the gut-brain axis (GBA). This connection means that taking a daily gut health supplement may have the surprising effect of improved cognitive health and better mental clarity." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more