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What to watch out for in Top 5 commonly purchased supplements


The most commonly used supplements are multivitamins, magnesium, iron, calcium and fish oil. All of these supplements have their therapeutic benefit. How do you know if you are getting a quality supplement? Here are a few helpful tips that might have you looking a bit closer at the labels.

Multivitamins: vary greatly from the cheap ones you buy in the supermarket to the pricier ones that are considered “practitioner quality”. When selecting a multi make sure that it has a reasonable dose of B vitamins. If you are only getting 50mcg of B12 it’s really not going to do much. The more superior multi’s contain the active forms of B vitamins which increase absorbency.

Also consider that a good multivitamin is taken for general wellbeing and to assist in energy metabolism. If you need to treat a condition or correct a deficiency such as vitamin D deficiency. You are better off taking a vitamin D supplement separately not assuming that the multi has some in it and that will do the job. It is just not enough.

The fallacy that multivitamins are a waste of effort is proven incorrect by the 30 year Harvard University Nurses Study which showed substantial reduction in cancer and cardiovascular diseases in subjects that took a multivitamin.

Magnesium: supports so many cellular functions in the human body and when a deficiency is present we really notice the symptoms. The best example is cramping and increased anxiety. Not all magnesium’s are the same and are absorbed well by the body. Most cheap magnesium’s are in the oxide form. Magnesium oxide is harsh on the digestive system and side effects include nausea and diarrhoea. Choosing a magnesium in forms of digylcinate, chelate and citrate are much better absorbed.

Iron: is probably one of the most common supplements prescribed and the one that causes the most grief. Traditional iron supplements often referred to as “Ferro-Grad” cause constipation and digestive discomfort. Iron in the diglycinate form is far easier to absorb and less likely to cause unpleasant side effects.

Calcium: Cheap calcium supplement are usually made from calcium carbonate. The carbonate form is not well absorbed by the bone and causes some side effects in long term supplementation. Calcium supplements in the hydroxyappetite and citrate forms are better absorbed by the body and rarely cause side effects. Consider calcium supplements that have the necessary co-factors to assist in driving the calcium to the bone. They should have added: D3, magnesium, K3, zinc, boron and manganese to aid absorption.

Fish Oil: the quality of fish oil supplements can be measured by its strength in EPA/DHA. The higher the strength the less capsules you need to take. Consideration should also be given to where the oil is sourced and its purity. Avoid fish oils that are sourced from large fish such as salmon as they contain more toxins and are lower in EPA/DHA. The best quality fish oils have vitamin E or astaxtanthin to protect the oil from oxidation and improve absorbency.

Frequently in practice I meet clients who are not sure if they are getting results from their supplementation. Your best measure of treatment is to have a blood test if you are trying to correct a deficiency or correct an imbalance. If the serum results are not changing you may need to re-evaluate your efforts.

It appears that almost every week someone asks me for the latest miracle supplement or herb. Anything that claims to be a cure for all ills will almost certainly result in wasted time and money on a product that is not going to give you any therapeutic benefit.

Seeking nutritional consultation can assess if your supplements are right for you. We do this by:

  • Analysing pathology

  • Planning your diet to correct your deficiencies

  • Considering therapeutic dosage. Are you getting enough?

  • Can the condition be treated with diet alone?

  • Understanding if prescribed medications are contraindicated or reduced by supplementation.