4 Questions To Ask About Your Supplements

Choosing supplements and taking control of your health can be rewarding, even life-changing. A little effort and a few questions make getting there and reaping the rewards a lot easier.

Even though Canada regulates supplements more than the FDA does in America, you still have to stay diligent if you want to maximize effects and minimize side effects.

So instead of just shrugging and downing your daily pills, take a closer look at what supplements you’re putting into your body and whether it’s working for you.

It might save you time, money, and headaches.


1. What am I trying to fix?

If you watch too many pharmaceutical commercials and read enough scary stories in magazines, it can seem like you have countless ailments in dire need of treatment.

Here’s the problem: marketing materials want you to buy, and magazines want you to read. It makes much more sense to listen to your own body first. You might have trouble concentrating sometimes, but if it doesn’t impact your life – if you get your work done and can spend hours engrossed in a suspenseful novel – then you’re probably just fine.

On the other hand, sometimes we can’t tell ourselves if we’re not getting enough of a critical vitamin or mineral. People who are getting plenty of vitamin C load up on inert supplements, while those lacking in the vital and overlooked vitamin D never think to supplement.

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about having your vitamin levels checked, and be honest about your dietary habits. It’s their job to advise without judgement. It’s also possible that your medications might be interfering with nutrient absorption, which might mean a higher dose or different method of supplementation.


2. What’s going into my body?

Now that you’ve decided what you want from your supplements, you have to choose where to get it. Here is where the research kicks in; it might take time, but it will help exercise your brain if nothing else.

What you’re looking for are double-blind studies, since they carry more weight than testimonials and are easier to test and replicate.

Properly conducted studies will:

  • Not make unrealistic claims based on their findings.
  • Have a reasonably large sample size.
  • Use a control group to ensure their research is accurate.
  • Ideally be funded by an outside organization. (This can be expensive to conduct, so don’t throw out a study if it fails this test – just look a little more closely.)

Research is essential even for seemingly straightforward supplementation. There are shelves full of vitamin C pills, for example, but from a wide range of sources and in a wide range of forms. Ignoring the health claims and diving deeper will help you choose which one works best for you.

If you don’t have the time to delve into the research yourself, don’t hesitate to get an expert opinion! Your doctor is a good first step, but a qualified dietician will be able to help you fine-tune both your diet and your supplementary routine.


3. Can I take this safely?

Some people believe that anything natural is safe by definition.

Poison ivy is natural, as are deadly mushrooms. Nature is not always safe, and it’s wise to speak to an expert before proceeding, especially if you’re taking medication.

Ubiquitous supplements like echinacea and St. John’s Wort can have dangerous effects when taken with many medications, either by either boosting or reducing the medication’s effectiveness.

The problem can also work both ways, as some medications can also have negative effects on the supplements you’re taking.

There are contraindication checkers online, but talking to your doctor or a pharmacist is always the best place to start.


4. How do I feel?

You can do all the research in the world and choose the best supplements available, but if they’re not working for you, then there’s no reason to continue.

Sometimes there may not be immediate or obvious effects, particularly with vitamin or mineral supplements. Sometimes the results take the form of a general sense of well-being and health, rather than sudden superpowers.

Noticing subtle changes takes a good understanding of your body, which is worth cultivating for its own sake. If you’re still in the early stages of listening to your body’s needs, consider keeping a daily wellness journal, as this can help in identifying any changes.

Side-effects are often far more noticeable and can negate any wellness you gain from supplementation. Lowering the dosage or trying another method of supplementation can help with mild side-effects, but anything out of the ordinary should put you on high alert.

Remember: your body is a unique piece of machinery, and even safe supplements might not be the right choice for you. This is the crucial question, and it governs all the others. 

Take care of your body, and it will take care of you.

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