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What Are Dietary Supplements? Their Benefits & Side Effects

If you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods, some Dietary Supplements might help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. However, supplements can’t take the place of a variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet.

In fact, good sources of information on eating well include the Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate. Scientific evidence shows that some dietary supplements are beneficial for overall health and for managing some health conditions.

For example, calcium and vitamin D are important for keeping bones strong. Of course, reducing bone loss; folic acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils might help some people with heart disease.

In fact, food supplements are an affordable and effective way to ensure you and your loved ones are getting the daily recommended intake of essential vitamins. As well as, minerals and other important nutrients necessary for optimal health.

What are Dietary Supplements?

In general, food or dietary supplements are manufactured products intended to supplement the diet. Especially, when taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid. Equally important, dietary supplements can provide nutrients either from, extracted food sources or synthetic, individually or even in combination. By all means, in order to increase the quantity of their consumption.

It’s also important to realize, that all products labeled as dietary supplements carry a supplement facts panel.

Dietary Supplements

Today’s dietary supplements include;

In reality, many dietary supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects on the body. But, always be alert to the possibility of unexpected side effects, especially when taking a new product. Here is more truth about them;

1. Supplements aren’t Medicine Alternatives

Dietary Supplements are most likely to cause side effects or harm when people take them instead of prescribed medicines or when people take many supplements in combination.

Some supplements can increase the risk of bleeding or, if a person takes them before or after surgery, they can affect the person’s response to anesthesia. Dietary supplements can also interact with certain prescription drugs in ways that might cause problems.

Below are just but a few examples:
  • Vitamin K can reduce the ability of the blood thinner Coumadin® to prevent blood from clotting.
  • St. John’s wort can speed the breakdown of many drugs (including antidepressants and birth control pills) and thereby reduce these drugs’ effectiveness.
  • Antioxidant Supplements, like vitamins C and E, might reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy.

2. Consider your Key Dietary Ingredients

Keep in mind that some ingredients found in dietary supplements are added to a growing number of foods, including breakfast cereals and beverages.

As a result, you may be getting more of these ingredients than you think, and more might not be better. Taking more than you need is always more expensive and can also raise your risk of experiencing side effects.

For example, getting too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects. Excess iron causes nausea and vomiting and may damage the liver and other organs.

3. Taking Supplements During Pregnancy 

Be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing. Also, be careful about giving them (beyond a basic multivitamin/mineral product) to a child.

Most dietary supplements have not been well tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children. And if you suspect that you have had a serious reaction from a dietary supplement, let your health care provider know.

He or she may report your experience to the Medical Regulatory Bodies such as the FDA in the USA or even KEMRI in Kenya. Also, report your reaction to the dietary supplement company by using the contact information on the product label.

4. Consider the Effects of Multivitamins

To enumerate, Multivitamins are supplements that contain many different vitamins and minerals, sometimes alongside other ingredients. As there’s no standard for what constitutes a multivitamin, their nutrient composition varies by brand and product.

Multivitamins are also called multi-minerals, multis, multiples, or simply vitamins. And they’re available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, chewable gummies, powders, and liquids.

Most multivitamins should be taken once or twice a day. Also, make sure to read the label and follow the recommended dosage instructions. You can see more detailed information about Multivitamins.

5. Food & Dietary Supplements Quality Check

As a matter of fact, Food & Dietary Supplements are complex products.

And be that as it may, the FDA has established good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for dietary supplements to help ensure their identity, purity, strength, and composition.

Whereby, these GMPs are designed to prevent the;
  • inclusion of the wrong ingredient,
  • addition of too much or too little of an ingredient,
  • possibility of contamination,
  • and the improper packaging and labeling of a product.

Secondly, the FDA periodically inspects facilities that manufacture dietary supplements. In addition, several independent organizations offer quality testing and allow products that pass these tests to display their seals of approval.

These seals of approval provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants. However, these seals of approval do not guarantee that a product is safe or effective.

Before taking a dietary supplement, ask yourself these questions:
    • What are the potential health benefits of this dietary supplement product?
    • What are its potential benefits for me?
    • Does this product have any safety risks?
    • What is the proper dose to take?
    • How, when, and for how long should I take it?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, use the information sources listed in this brochure and talk to your health care providers.

And for your information, the FDA provides a useful form, ”My Medicine Record, to record the medicines and dietary supplements. Particularly, that you take which you can share with your health care providers.

6. Dietary Supplements labeling by Manufacturers

As can be seen, dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. And, therefore, they are not drugs intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure diseases.

While the supplement company is responsible for having evidence that their products are safe and the label claims are truthful and not misleading, they do not have to provide that evidence. In particular, to the Regulatory Body before the product is marketed.

Therefore, dietary supplement labels may carry certain types of health-related claims. However, manufacturers must follow certain good manufacturing practices. Ensuring the identity, purity, strength, and composition of their products.

Summing Up,

Of course, as I earlier mentioned, don’t decide to take food or dietary supplements to treat a health condition that you have diagnosed yourself, without consulting a health care provider. For one thing, certain herbs (for example, comfrey and kava) can harm the liver.

Also, don’t take supplements in place of, or in combination with, prescribed medications without your health care provider’s approval. Let your health care providers (including doctors, pharmacists, and dietitians) know which dietary supplements you’re taking. So that you can discuss what’s best for your overall health.

Your health care provider can help you determine which supplements, if any, might be valuable for you.

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