Do you have a supplement regimen already or are you overwhelmed by all the vitamins you’re being told by media you should be taking? From St. John’s Wart to Fish Oil and everything in between. You may be taking more supplements than you need or not enough. We are living ina health conscious society which is a great thing, most of the time. However, the vitamin and supplement industry has taken notice and it seems like there is a supplement for anything you may experience. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be overwhelming.
So how do you sort through all the supplements you’re being told you should be taking? You may need to cut back down to just a few and work from there. The experts say there are three supplements most generally healthy people should be taking. If you have these three you are off to a good start and you can go from there.
What Are Supplements?
Supplements are just that supplements. They are not meant to replace a healthy diet or lifestyle but to supplement it and add to the healthy life you’re already living or wanting to start. Believe it or not supplements have an Act, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. Supplements have to be ingested through the mouth and are made of organic compounds that are generally needed by the body to function optimally.
However, supplements do not only include vitamins. They also include mineral, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, organic tissues and glandulars, and metabolites and extracts.
It has been said that the immune system is located primarily in the gut. If this is the case then we should take extra care to give the gut what it needs. The gut millions of strains of bacteria in it that keeps the digestion working smoothly. However, some of the good bacteria can be depleted by either not being fed properly or by being outnumbered by bad bacteria. When this happens we experience a plethora of negative health outcomes.
This is where probiotics come into play. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in your gut in pill or liquid form. It is important to choose the probiotic that is right for you. There are many strains available on the market. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine what strain you need to positively influence the symptoms you are having.
If you’ve had your ear to the health field ground lately then you have most likely heard of fish oil. This supplement is known for delivering essential fatty acids, known as Omega-3’s. This supplement is great for health in many ways. Not only that but it truly supplement most American’s diets as fish and other Omega-3 sources are not normally eaten in a traditional American diet.
Fish oil is helpful for inflammation, heart health, brain health, joint protection and recovery, and many more. Omega-3 contains EPA and DHA, you may have heard of these. When you choose a fish oil supplement you will want to make sure it contains at least 2 grams of these amino acids.
This one is probably not much of a surprise. Multivitamins have been around for a long time. You probably started taking Flintstones vitamins as a kid. Did you stop there or did you continue a multivitamin regimen after adolescence? Either way, a good multivitamin is a great basis for overall good health. Even though you may eat an incredibly healthy and balanced diet there may still be some short comings in the nutrients you are taking in. Multivitamins are the quintessential supplement in that they are a true supplement to your diet.
When it comes to selecting a multivitamin there are a few things to consider.
- Do you need iron? Iron needs vary by individual. This is why most multivitamins are offered both with and without iron. However, if your multivitamin has calcium you will want but you need iron you may want to consider taking a separate iron supplement at a different time than your multivitamins. This is because calcium will block iron absorption.
- Do you want minerals? Minerals are micronutrients just like vitamins except that rather than being organic they are inorganic meaning they are not made of carbon and hold their chemical structure. However, they are still needed in small amounts in the body. Some people have conditions which make it difficult to absorb some minerals and require advanced supplementation. For the generally healthy population a small amount of minerals in a multivitamin can be a good thing.
- Are your vitamins activated? Absorption is key to a multi working properly. Vitamins have to be activated in the body by different enzymes and chemical processes. These extra steps may lead to a minimal amount of the vitamin being absorbed. To eliminate this you can choose a supplement that delivers already activated forms of the vitamin you are choosing.
Never stop or begin a vitamin and supplement regimen without your healthcare provider’s advice.
Trista K. Best, MPH, LDN