Supplements and Health
Ideally one should be obtaining all of ones nutrients from food. However there are times when this may be difficult.
There are three main reasons why one may opt to take a supplement.
§ Over time there has developed a deficiency in one or more nutrients, or the diet is too restrictive.
§ There may be occasions when supplements are used therapeutically to support the body through a particular health issue.
§ Supplements may also be used as a preventative measure, for example the use of folic acid during pregnancy to promote the development of a healthy foetus.
On all supplements that you buy there will be a Recommended Daily Amount stated, this is a reflection of what is needed for the average adult, acknowledging that an excess could result in toxicity. However that may not reflect dosage from a therapeutic perspective. Seeking advice from a healthcare practitioner can be helpful in choosing the right supplements to take and the safe dosage. Not everyone is the same, and what is a therapeutic dose for one individual may be ineffective with another, or too high.
A good practitioner will take a number of factors into account when prescribing any supplement. In particular, how well that supplement is absorbed into the body and used. Also how and when is the best time of day and way to take that supplement. For example Vitamins B and C should be taken with food. The B Vitamins earlier in the day, as they can disrupt sleeping patterns. The fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K are also better taken with food and require some fats in the diet to aid absorption. It is also worth bearing in mind that fat soluble vitamins are stored within the body and this needs to be noted to avoid excessive intake. With Iron, an excessive amount taken could become toxic.
Amino acids are best taken with carbohydrates or on an empty stomach.
Minerals are generally better taken with food, however Zinc should be taken on an empty stomach, and before bed. Calcium is better absorbed at night time.
Another important aspect of any supplement are their interactions. If someone is on any medication, care must be taken that the supplement does not adversely effect that medication. Another example is that of caffeine, which increases urinary excretions, so avoid taking supplements at the same time. Excess fibre may also slow down absorption of a potentially beneficial substance. Some supplements may compete for absorption, for example iron and zinc.