If you’re deeply into maintaining your health and wellness, you probably either take nutritional supplements already or want to start taking them—and that’s great! However, you might have some questions before you begin.
For one thing, you may have read or heard about some not-so-thrilling news regarding certain supplements found to be either fake or totally unsafe. As a result, you may be asking yourself: Are supplements even good for me? Could they potentially harm me? We’ll get to that below, but, in short—yes. Supplements are safe, but it depends on where you get them and how much you take.
Other frequently asked questions include: How many supplements should I take? Can I overdose on them? Do they actually work?
So, here’s everything you need to know about taking supplements—in addition to information about some common supplements.
What Are Dietary Supplements—and How Can They Benefit You?
Dietary supplements include vitamins and minerals, herbals, amino acids, and enzymes. They come in different types such as fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. They also come in many forms, including capsules, powders, soft gels, gel caps, and liquids. Some popular ones you may have heard about are St. John’s Wort, fish oil, and calcium. American adults commonly take one or more dietary supplements, either every day or occasionally.
The benefits are plenty. Vitamins and essential minerals play key roles in keeping you alive and well, and some research suggests they can even help ward off illnesses such as heart disease, age-related macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, “Vitamins and essential minerals are components of enzymes and cofactors the body needs to accomplish the everyday miracles of constantly keeping the heart beating, the blood flowing, the muscles flexing, the bones strong, the digestive system churning efficiently, the cells dividing, the eyes sparkling, the skin protecting our outer and inner surfaces, countless membranes controlling what goes into and out of every cell and tissue, the kidneys filtering the blood and adjusting blood pressure, the lungs drawing in life-giving oxygen and expelling other gases, the nerves snapping, and the brain cogitating.”
The Council also states, “There is an abundance of evidence indicating that people who eat good diets and obtain adequate or even generous intakes of essential nutrients have better health that people who do not.”
Moreover, it was found that supplementation can even have a positive effect on your mood and depression levels.
According to Harvard Health, lots of people use—and greatly benefit from—vitamins because they have a poor diet, don’t get enough sunlight, have dietary restrictions, or have gut illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or chronic diarrhea, or they are recovering from gastric bypass surgery. These conditions interfere with vitamin absorption.
It’s very important to note that some dietary supplements are extremely well-understood (and well-researched) while others require further study. Just make sure you speak with your doctor or a BodyLogicMD-affiliated physician if you have questions.
In short, vitamins are pretty vital. Consequently, if you’re not getting enough, you could be putting yourself at risk for short- and long-term illness.
How Can You Take Supplements Safely?
Let’s consider the risks. One of the things you should know, if not the most important thing you should know, is that supplements are not legally allowed to be marketed for the purposes of treating, diagnosing, preventing, or curing diseases. In fact, manufacturers cannot even make those claims! However, supplements can help support and promote your health in various and important ways.
Unlike prescription medicines, which undergo extensive clinical trials before they are marketed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not able to review the efficacy or safety of dietary supplements prior to being sent to market. The upshot? It’s up to the manufacturers and distributors of any supplements to ensure the safety of their products. The FDA can take action against a contaminated or deceptively labeled dietary supplement only after the product is on the market.
That may be a bit alarming, which is why we suggest that you purchase professional-grade supplements from a seller who is trustworthy and promises quality. (In fact, it’s best you do not purchase budget supplements from sources such as Amazon or eBay, where products are not quality-assured and counterfeit products abound.)
To ensure the best quality possible, BodyLogicMD partners with manufacturers that must comply with strict Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations enforced by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As well, they all pride themselves on their products being evidence-based by means of human clinical trials published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. For these reasons, it comes as little to no surprise that healthcare experts prefer professional-grade supplements when making recommendations for patients.
What should you know about supplement labels? Here’s where things get tricky: When you’re shopping for supplements, it’s important to note that “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe,” and that any claim of “no side effects” or “works better than X drug” is just that—a claim, not a fact. You should always your research and homework on which supplements you’re buying so you know they can be trusted.
In fact, a recent news article in The New York Times reported that dozens of top-selling vitamin and supplement brands at several national retailers “did not contain any of the herbs on their labels.” The vitamins were scarily packed with fillers that could potentially harm a person if they had an allergy. These fillers contained ingredients like powdered rice, asparagus, even houseplants. Some of them were even contaminated, causing illness.
An FDA Consumer Update reveals that “the FDA has found nearly 300 fraudulent products—promoted mainly for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding—that contain hidden or deceptively labeled ingredients. These included active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs or their analogs (closely-related drugs), or other compounds, such as novel synthetic steroids that do not qualify as dietary ingredients.”
Our BodyLogicMD manufacturers never use fillers, as they’re both dangerous and can restrict absorption.
All of that aside, most supplements are considered safe to take daily—but we absolutely recommend chatting with your doctor or a BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner about any questions you may have, especially if you’re starting a specific supplementation regimen.
Manufacturers include consumer information in their labeling for any vitamin or other supplement. If you take a peek at this information, you’ll find the manufacturer’s suggestion for serving size. You should strictly adhere to this recommendation unless your doctor adjusts the serving size based on your specific needs. Because some supplements can affect you adversely, it’s important to never exceed the dosage recommended by the manufacturer or your doctor.
In fact, it is possible to “overdose” by taking too many supplements or too much of one supplement. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “Yes, it is possible to overdose on some vitamin or mineral supplements, and taking too much of certain ones on a daily basis can lead to health problems.”
Other risks? Combining supplements, using supplements with medicines, choosing supplements over medications, and using the wrong supplements before, during or after a surgery can cause complications.
In short, let your doctor guide you through your supplementation regimen.
Which Vitamins Are Dangerous in Large Doses?
Every vitamin has an Upper Limit — or ”UL.” This is the amount that you should not exceed. Although vitamins are good for you, this is where “too much of a good thing” can come into play. Here are some vitamins which require a specific daily dose, and what might happen if you exceed those dosage recommendations.
Vitamin A has a big job — it supports our vision, cell development and immune system.
Aim for: Between 700 and 900 micrograms per day. In addition to supplementing, you can get vitamin A from liver, dairy products (like milk or cheese), salmon and kiwis. This vitamin can be stored in the body over time, so if you’re getting too much of it you may experience dizziness, nausea, headaches, rashes — and in serious cases, death.
Vitamin C is actually a free-radical fighting antioxidant, which is responsible for immune function and tissue health. Aim for 75 to 90 milligrams per day. You can get it in citrusy fruits, like oranges, as well as broccoli and bell pepper. Don’t take more than 2,000 mcg of vitamin C a day, even if you’re worried about catching a cold. You can’t die from taking a lot of it, but it can cause stomach issues and kidney stones.
Vitamin D is mega-important, and lots of people are deficient in this vitamin — especially if you’re in a low-sunlight environment. This vitamin is helpful because it facilitates the absorption of calcium (which our bones need!). Not getting enough calcium has been linked to bone breakage and osteoporosis. Aim for 10–15 mg of vitamin D a day.
The fact is, you can get too much vitamin D, and this can raise calcium levels in your blood, which can affect the heart and kidneys.
Niacin does a big job: It actually converts the food that you eat into the energy that your body needs. People generally aren’t deficient in niacin, luckily, as it’s loads of foods (like tuna, mushrooms, green peas). You’ll want to aim for 35 mg daily. Any more than that, and you might develop liver damage. People with diabetes need to be mindful here, as too much niacin can affect blood sugar levels. A”niacin flush” is also possible, and it’s characterized by itching and burning after taking too much niacin.
Vitamin B6 supprts the nervous system, create hemoglobin and converts protein and sugar into energy, so it’s also got a big job. Aim for 1.3 mg a day. You can also get it from pork, pultry, eggs, and soya beans. Taking more than you need can lead to nerve and skin damage and light sensitivity.
Folic Acid or Folate
Folate (also referred to as Folic acid, which is a synthetic form of folate) helps our bodies make DNA, divide cells and grow healthy and strong. You can eat it in fruits, legumes, and leafy greens. Aim for about 400 mcg a day. Any more and you might develop cognitive disturbances, stomach trouble, and an increased risk of some forms of cancer.
The Last Word
In the end, the very best thing you can do is eat a varied diet full of healthy, clean foods. Doing so will ensure that you’re getting the essential vitamins and nutrients that you need. The next best thing would be to supplement for any dietary deficiencies.
BodyLogicMD-affiliated physicians are highly experienced in nutritional supplements and can work with you to develop a customized, targeted supplementation program that includes testing to detect deficiencies. Supplements are safe and effective as long as they’re used wisely—and they can make all the difference in your health! Shop BodyLogicMD supplements for all your health needs right here.