Often, patients come to the office with a bag of supplements and ask, “Can this be taken?” “
In many cases, they’ve been recommended by a celebrity who posted their benefits on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook. While these choices may have some merit, it is important to understand what you are buying and why – not only to support the deficiency you think you have, but also to avoid adding contaminants and negative ingredients that you may introduce. without knowing it in your body.
Any of my patients will tell you that we talk about food first as a way to get your nutrients. There are times when short-term supplementation is needed, such as when the individual is in a deficient state or for non-nutrient support such as herbs or enzymes. The intention of supplementation is to provide what is missing in the diet and to provide additional support with supplements specifically tailored to what we know to be deficient. This can be determined by lab tests and can be especially helpful if chronic fatigue or persistent weight loss is a problem.
Although the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not directly regulate supplements and nutraceuticals, it has been monitoring them since the First Food and Drug Act of 1906. Standards such as current Good Manufacturing Practices are basic guidelines that make manufacturers responsible for establishing ingredient specifications, encouraging that the ingredients listed on the label are actually found in the supplement. Adverse events associated with taking supplements are not commonly reported among government agencies.
Tips for choosing a supplement:
â¢ Look for one that has been tested by a third party. These tests guarantee quality, purity and efficacy. Heavy metals are often found in inexpensive supplements.
â¢ Be careful when ordering from large online retailers. They could be counterfeit, expired or damaged.
â¢ In addition to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) standards, look for American Pharmacopoeia (USP) standards.
â¢ Research the company to make sure it is trustworthy, offer a customer service contact number, and use independent third-party testing.
â¢ Request a certificate of analysis to ensure the potency of your product.
Many of the commonly seen deficiencies are magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. It may be helpful to order serum tests for these nutrients.
â¢ Required for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including energy production and muscle contraction.
â¢ As a major mineral, the requirements are higher compared to trace elements such as zinc and iron.
â¢ It is found in leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans.
â¢ Important forms to consider for supplementation are glycinate, citrate or threonate depending on your specific needs.
Omega-3 fatty acids
â¢ Essential fatty acids are long chain fatty acids that we are unable to make in the body and that we must acquire through food.
â¢ Research has shown that EPA and DHA protect against cardiovascular disease and can lower triglycerides.
â¢ Oily fish like SMASH – sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herring are good sources.
â¢ Plant sources can also be used although with a lower conversion rate – flaxseed oil, walnut oil as well as flax, hemp and chia seeds as well as walnuts.
â¢ For supplementation, it is important to choose a brand that tests for mercury.
â¢ Consider a 1.5: 1 ratio of EPA: DHA.
â¢ This important nutrient is actually a hormone that converts sunlight through receptors in the skin.
â¢ It is necessary for metabolism, immune health and prevention of neurodegeneration.
â¢ It is found in the diet in eggs, fatty fish and mushrooms.
â¢ For cardiovascular health, consider taking vitamin D with K2. It can be a conversation with your doctor to make sure your dose is correct.
It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting a supplementation program. Interactions between nutrients occur and should be monitored.
Some resources to learn more about food supplements:
â¢ Consumer Lab (individual product evaluation, recalls, free newsletter but access to most of the site requires membership): https://www.consumerlab.com/
â¢ Linus Pauling Institute (research and micronutrient summaries with free newsletter): https://lpi.oregonstate.edu
â¢ Where to submit adverse event reports? CAERS security reporting portal: https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov/SRP2/en/Home.aspx?sid=5221c5ae-63c6-47dc-b402-c8f22e9266d7
â¢ Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet – National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/