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Multivitamins and nutritional supplements: What you need to know

Multivitamins and nutritional supplements: What you need to know

Recently, there’s been an aggressive attack waged on multivitamins and nutritional supplements claiming that their use is a waste of money and our everyday diet should do the trick. However, this is blatantly false; the truth is, while we should strive to eat a nutritious and balanced diet, most Americans don’t, are far from it, and are suffering from nutritional deficiencies.

Even for those who eat exceptionally well, the right multivitamin can help their bodies retain key nutrients from the food they eat and improve wellbeing and stamina. Additionally, many don’t realize that stress, caffeine and alcohol, among other factors, block our bodies from absorbing needed nutrients and can deplete those that we have on reserve.

While supplements can significantly benefit bodies and lives, those taking low-grade, non-evidenced supplements or those misusing them may be wasting their money. So, how do you know where to start, what vitamins can help you and what vitamins should you avoid?A visit with an integrative care physician is recommended before starting a regimen, but to get your wheels turning, here is some advice.


Do

Do purchase medical grade, non-synthetic researched supplements

The most expensive vitamin is likely the one that won’t work. People buying supplements and vitamins need to do their best to educate themselves on the products they buy and what to look for when they purchase supplements on their own. Do your research; look for clinical studies, natural ingredients and certifications such as the U.S. Current Good Manufacturing Practices or international certifications such as from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Always look for clearly-labeled ingredients and daily nutritional value numbers. For consumers shopping at mass retailers such as Walgreens or CVS, the Swisse Wellness product range of premium-quality vitamins and supplements is a good one to check out.

Do consult an integrative medicine physician

Your local integrative physician can recommend appropriate dietary solutions to meet your optimal nutritional needs and advise you how and when to take nutritional supplements. Ensure your integrative physician knows of all your current prescription medications as some nutrients may interfere with those pharmaceuticals. Integrative physicians are located in every city and at many hospitals and universities.

Do have your vitamin levels checked

A simple blood test, taken at your integrative physician’s office or a local lab, can help outline your specific supplementation needs. In addition to the standard cholesterol and glucose tests, vitamin-specific tests will let you know what, if any, vitamin deficiencies you may be suffering from, such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Iron and Magnesium, among others.

Do swap your coffee for green tea

If you’re chasing your multivitamin with multiple cups of coffee or soda, you’re likely throwing away money and fooling yourself about your health. Caffeine has the effect of depleting our bodies of nutrients and blocking the absorption of some. Whenever possible, swap your coffee for green tea – while it still has caffeine, it’s full of good things like antioxidants and catechins that support nutrition.

Do store properly

Fish oils, krill oils and some probiotics are more effective when stored in the freezer or refrigerator. Pay close attention to labels and in general, store supplements in a cool, dark place. When traveling, protect delicate capsules in pill boxes.


Don't

Do not dismiss vitamins and supplements

Quality vitamins and supplements that are suited to your nutritional needs can enhance your wellness, lower your medical expenses and improve your quality of life. High quality nutritional supplements that are produced for easy and efficient nutrient absorption are well worth your investment.

Do not self-medicate

It’s easy to get your system out of balance if you’re not following recommended dosage. While there are some supplements that are okay to increase at times of high stress or when you’re not feeling well, others come with very specific directions for good reason – some nutrients like vitamin D can actually have negative effects at high levels. Treat nutritional supplements as you do pharmaceuticals, take as directed and consult with a physician before altering your dose.

Do not use supplements to cut corners

When used properly as part of an overall wellness plan, nutritional supplements can help to greatly improve your wellbeing, but there’s no magic pill. Don’t look to supplements in lieu of a healthy diet and of course, avoid supplements that claim to make you effortlessly skinny or cure what ails you overnight.

Do not overindulge alcohol

Alcohol is detrimental to our health – it’s packed with sugar, leaves us feeling sluggish and it robs us of critical nutrients. If you’re drinking alcohol on a regular basis, not only are you depleting your body of nutrient reserves, but you’re likely blocking the absorption of supplements.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

This is not the first time we have seen a study or opinion attacking nutritional supplements, and there are countless studies and evidence to counter each assertion. The fact is simple: premium supplements, taken as directed and targeted for specific benefits, do work and can help us be our best.

The generalized aggression is openly biased, inaccurate and can be harmful to those looking to improve their wellness. It’s true that not all supplements are created equal and because of that – consumer education and medical consultations are recommended to help identify quality products that are reliable and made for optimum absorption. High-grade nutritional supplements and multivitamins are a wonderful nutritional tool that can improve our daily lives when properly selected and taken as directed.


More expert advice about Nutrition

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Dr. Theri Griego Raby, MD, ABIHMFounder and Medical Director

Dr. Theri Raby is board-certified in internal medicine and is also certified in integrative medicine through the American Board of Holistic Medicine (ABHM). She is a member of the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians,...

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