Supplemental Benefits


Just as there is no one diet that fits everyone, no single supplement or supplement protocol fits everyone. Sure, life would be simpler with a cure-all pill (or regiment of pills). But life — like the human body — is complex. Different dietary supplements work for different people at different times and for different reasons. That’s a lot of “differents” to sort through, so let’s break this down: Before you decide to add a supplement to your daily regimen, there are three questions you need to consider.

What is your health goal, and how will a supplement best support it?

It is easy to jump on a “health” bandwagon — remember the fat-free craze and products like Lay’s Wow Chips? For a brief time, people literally ate these chips up, but it turned out the chemical ingredient Olestra, used to make the snacks fat- and calorie-free, caused a variety of unpleasant side effects like abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fecal incontinence. Moral of the story: It’s important to determine what is a trend and what you really need. Are you having trouble sleeping? Maybe melatonin is right for you. Are you concerned about blood sugar? Maybe berberine is your answer. Do you work out often? Maybe you need an electrolyte supplement. Be problem-supplement specific and do your research. Make sure there is data to support your supplement and its manufacturer — efficacy is the key ingredient here.

Have you consulted your physician?

Supplements3Part of your supplement research includes consulting your health care providers. Just because a supplement is “over the counter” or “natural” does not mean it is safe. According to The New York Times, “…a large new study by the federal government found that injuries caused by dietary supplements lead to more than 20,000 emergency room visits a year, many involving young adults with cardiovascular problems after taking supplements marketed for weight loss and energy enhancement.” Some supplements are contraindicative of other supplements or medications — meaning you could experience unpleasant or even life-threatening side effects if you mix them — and your doctor can help alert you to any potential problems. Some physicians also are more keen to try vitamins or supplements over prescription medication — but should only do so when appropriate. Be sure to find health care providers who are accessible, believe in preventive medicine and are knowledgeable about supplements. The right provider will not only steer you toward appropriate supplements, but can also order tests like blood work ups that better pinpoint what you truly need.

How do you feel now that you’re taking the supplement?

Once you’ve started taken the supplement, think about how you feel. You are your best litmus test to the success of the supplement. This is where the use of the word “different” really comes into play. Because your body is more or less constantly changing, certain supplements work better at certain times.

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (