If you’ve been thinking about taking supplements but are not sure which form is right for you, where do you start? Especially if you’re confused as to whether or not supplements are even safe to take in the first place—not to mention effective…
Supplements can definitely be confusing. But a lot of the confusion stems from the fact that not all supplements are created equal. While some adhere to the highest possible standards, some don’t even contain what they say they do on the bottle!
Fortunately, there are professional-grade supplements out there—supplements that can help you can get on track with your health and wellness in the best possible way for you. You just need to know what to look for.
The ABCs of Supplements
So, what are dietary supplements? The first thing you should know is that dietary supplements run a whole entire gamut of products. They include vitamins and minerals, amino acids, herbal supplements, and enzymes. Plus, they come in many types such as water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as many different forms like powders, soft gels, gel caps, and liquids. In general, people use liquid or pill forms—and they both achieve different goals. Examples of common supplements that people take include folic acid, amino acids, resveratrol, green tea, collagen supplements, calcium, and St. John’s Wort.
Dietary supplements are very common; in fact, most American adults take one or more supplements each day (while others take them on occasion).
There are plenty of amazing benefits to using supplements in addition to a healthy, well-rounded diet. The fact is, no supplement should replace foods or food groups; rather, a supplement should be used to help boost your wellness, on top of eating well, exercising, and managing stress.
If you have nutritional restrictions or deficiencies caused by illness (such as anemia, for example) or lifestyle (like eating vegan or going on a specific diet, like keto or Paleo, which cuts out whole food groups), taking supplements is a great way to get the nutrients you’ve been missing out on. Your body needs certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to function at its very best, so you’ll do wise to get them in whatever way you can.
Remember that you get the most out of your supplements when you take them regularly and as directed by your healthcare provider, especially a provider with advanced training in nutrition such as a physician within the BodyLogicMD network.
Here’s what you should know when you hear all about the different forms of supplements, like liquid or tablets—because there is a difference!
The Difference Between Liquid and Other Supplement Forms
According to Ashley Koff, RD, there’s a good reason people use different forms of supplements—and it really is individual to everyone, so what works for someone else might not work in your case.
As Koff notes, “To utilize the nutrients the body takes in, they must be in a form that it can use; so digestion, absorption and assimilation of a supplement are important to how well it works.”
Koff explains, “Capsules and tablets must dissolve (hopefully) before the ingredients they contain become available. For many reasons, including age, medication use, pH, and functional changes (surgery), the body’s digestive system may not be able to completely (or in some cases, not at all) break down vitamin tablets or capsules into usable material. Conversely, liquids, powders and sprays don’t require this step and therefore may result in quicker assimilation into the body.”
Basically, here’s the long and short of it: when medicines are taken in liquid form, they enter your bloodstream more rapidly than pills, gummies, and capsules.
This happens because liquid supplements totally skip the digestion process altogether. This is a great option for anyone who is concerned about absorption or the timing of absorption—like someone who had recent stomach surgery—or has a harder time swallowing pills (like kids).
If malabsorption is an issue for you, it might be caused by infection, antibiotics, chronic health conditions, lactose intolerance, a parasite, certain drugs (like tetracycline, colchicine, or cholestyramine), or other issues.
Some symptoms of malabsorption include soft stools, dry hair or hair loss, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, or low blood pressure. Your doctor can test you for malabsorption by checking for fat in your stool, or testing you for vitamin deficiencies. Your doctor may suggest medication to control diarrhea, if that’s your case, or you can use enzyme supplements (which help the body to break down and absorb the nutrients it’s taking in).
Other benefits of liquid supplements? Liquids get to work faster; in fact, other forms, like capsules or tablets, require the body to spend more time in the break-down process.
According to ConsumerLab, “In 2017, multivitamins from two different companies failed to break apart fully after 30 minutes (the required time as per the U.S. Pharmacopeia) and still had not fully disintegrated after another 30 minutes.”
Some vitamins in pill form can lose efficacy if they experience degradation from humidity. Liquid supplements do not run this risk. Some vitamins in pill form, for example, attract water when they shouldn’t. In fact, a study published in 2011 found that certain vitamins lose efficacy if they experience degradation from humidity.
Lastly, liquid supplements can be customized as needed; you have more control over modifying the dosage, which is great if you need to take a specific amount of a supplement per your doctor’s recommendations, for example.
You can shop BodyLogicMD’s whole range of liquid supplements here.
So, are there reasons a person might not want to use a liquid supplement? Yep. For one, some supplements in liquid form can become less stable, which results in a loss of efficacy.
More than that, some people want to delay absorption of a certain supplement (like melatonin, which is used to regulate sleep patterns) or “deliver the ingredient intact to the intestine without being digested in the stomach, such as with some enteric-coated probiotics and fish oils,” according to ConsumerLab.
On the flip-side, people take pill or powder supplements for different reasons. You might take a pill to avoid acidity (for example, if you’re taking an apple cider vinegar supplement) or if you do want to delay absorption time.
Powder supplements are also popular when it comes to protein; these supplements can help improve weight loss, energy levels, muscle growth, and post-workout recovery.
Supplement Safety: Buy Only the Good Stuff
There’s a lot to learn about supplement safety, and it’s important to know what to look for. First things first: while some supplements can and do help promote and support your wellness and health, they are not marketed for the purposes of treating, diagnosing, preventing, or curing diseases. This means that you shouldn’t buy supplements to cure diseases, nor should you expect to use supplements with great result without also trying to manage your health in other ways—like sleeping enough, exercising, and managing stress.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t review products on the supplement market, and it’s up to the manufacturers and distributors to make sure that their products are safe for consumers. For this reason, product safety should be your main concern (it’s our main concern at BodyLogicMD).
To ensure that what you’re purchasing is both safe and effective, you’ll want to do your research and only purchase professional-grade supplements with quality ingredients—from the active ingredients to everything else included in the supplement.
We suggest that you buy from manufacturers who comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations that are enforced by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). BodyLogicMD only sells products that adhere to these regulations, in addition to offering supplements that have been tested and peer-reviewed.
Additionally, you’ll want to remain vigilant around claims when shopping for supplements; you may see terms like “natural,” “safe,” “no side effects”—but in many cases, these are not proven claims.
In 2015, The New York Times published some disturbing news—that many best-selling vitamin and supplement brands “did not contain any of the herbs on their labels.” They were, in fact, filled with ineffective (meaning the fillers restricted absorption) and dangerous fillers.
In 2011, the FDA put out a Consumer Update that said, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found nearly 300 fraudulent products—promoted mainly for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding—that contain hidden or deceptively labeled ingredients, such as the 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.”
This is why it’s so important to research where you’re buying supplements from, and to avoid any too-good-to-be-true budget supplements, especially from websites like eBay or Amazon. If the supplement seems extremely cheap, it should be a red flag.
The Mayo Clinic advises you to ask your doctor or pharmacist, look for scientific research findings (via the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Office of Dietary Supplements), and contact the manufacturer. At BodyLogicMD, we’re always happy to talk with you about our products.
To ensure complete safety, make sure that you are never combining supplements, using supplements with certain medicines, or using supplements after or before surgery without clearance from your healthcare provider. And always read supplement safety warnings from the FDA.
In short, vitamins and supplements can be dangerous for you if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Take heart medications, aspirin, water pills, or other medicines
- Are having or recently had surgery
- Have a disease, like cancer
A Healthcare Professional Can Help You Supplement Safely
To decrease the chances of an adverse reaction, you should talk to your BodyLogicMD-affiliated physician about your health goals and supplement questions. In many cases, supplements are key to functioning as best as you possibly can, and that means taking supplements responsibly and in the best possible form for you.
Supplements are taken daily by millions of people, to many people’s great benefits. They are largely considered safe, and even though you have to use discretion when buying them (remember: professional supplements are the best!), they can help you look and feel your best.