Published on 24 Mar 2024

Choosing The Right Health Supplements For Yourself: HealthifyMe

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Maintaining overall health and well-being relies significantly on good nutrition. Ideally, people should obtain all necessary nutrients from their diets. However, for various reasons, including medical restrictions and personal preferences, many people may find it beneficial to use health supplements to fulfil their daily nutritional requirements.

Given the hectic nature and challenges of modern living, it’s not surprising that many find it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. To tackle these dietary deficiencies, health experts frequently advocate for a supplement approach. In some instances, prioritising the use of health supplements becomes necessary for particular age groups or specific conditions. For example, pregnant women or women of childbearing age commonly depend on folic acid supplements. Hence, choosing health supplements emerges as a convenient solution to achieve the proper balance of nutrition.

While numerous supplements undoubtedly contribute to health, understanding which ones offer benefits and which may pose risks is crucial. This article will explore the variety of health supplements available in the market, who they are for, and explain why they can be beneficial for your health.

What are Health Supplements?

Any products you take to complement your diet are classified as dietary or health supplements. The purpose of supplements is to serve as a nutrient source, addressing either a recognised deficiency or, more commonly, ensuring a consistent intake of specific nutrients. There are specialised supplements targeting various categories like heart health, brain health, digestive health, immunity, sleep, and more. Therefore, consumers incorporate dietary supplements into their routine for particular health or functional advantages.

Supplements can be vitamins, minerals, protein, fish oils, herbal supplements, and more. Health supplements also come in various forms, such as capsules, powders, gummies, chews, or functional beverages, catering to diverse interests and preferences. 

Health supplements, available in diverse doses and combinations, require moderation as excessive amounts can be harmful. For consumer safety, supplements must legally include a recommended daily dose and a warning against exceeding it. This regulation aims to protect consumers and stress the importance of moderation in supplement usage. Moreover, as nutrition is personalised, consumers must choose a supplement based on their current health status, age, allergies, or personal well-being needs.

Summary

Health supplements play a crucial role in addressing nutritional deficiencies and supporting specific health goals. From vitamins to herbal supplements, these products cater to individual needs. However, moderation is key, as excessive doses can be harmful. A personalised approach ensures that supplements contribute positively to overall health based on individual requirements.

Who Should Take Health Supplements?

Everyone can benefit from incorporating a daily multivitamin. However, it is particularly beneficial for individuals on a restricted or reduced-calorie diet, as well as those pursuing specific health and wellness goals. For daily needs, many opt for a fibre supplement as they may not consistently consume sufficient fibre through vegetables, fruits, and grains every day. If you don’t consume seafood regularly, taking an omega-3 supplement with EPA and DHA can be good for your overall health. 

Athletes commonly use sports nutrition supplements to enhance performance throughout their workouts. These supplements provide a range of benefits, including hydration, improved exercise performance, and post-workout recovery. Protein is a vital component for athletes at all levels, promoting muscle repair and growth, which explains the popularity of protein shakes and supplements.

Examples of population groups requiring specific health supplements:

  • People over age 50: Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, folate, or low-dose multivitamin supplement
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Folic acid and vitamin D, possibly iron. Maintaining adequate folate status is also crucial for women planning to become pregnant.
  • Children under age 5: Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D (Children with good appetites and a diverse food intake may not necessarily require these supplements.)
  • Vegans: Generally, vegans may need to consider supplements to compensate for specific nutrients that are predominantly found in animal products. For example, vitamin B12, algae-based supplements for omega-3s, calcium, iron, and vitamin D. 

The nutritionists at HealthifyMe specialise in offering personalised advice, helping you seamlessly integrate health supplements into your overall nutrition plan. By consulting with a qualified nutritionist, you can create a tailored supplement strategy that not only fulfils your supplement needs but also aligns with your broader health and wellness objectives. Taking this approach ensures that your supplement plan is well-suited to your unique requirements and contributes to your overall well-being.

Summary

A daily multivitamin benefits everyone, especially those on restricted diets or pursuing specific health goals. Athletes commonly use sports nutrition supplements for enhanced performance. Certain population groups, such as people over 50, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children under 5, and vegans, may require specific supplements. 

Five Essential Health Supplements You May Need

Different dietary or health supplements are widely available, making it challenging to identify the right one for you. But remember, whether in pill, powder, or liquid form, the primary objective of all dietary supplements remains consistent: to complement your diet. Here are some common options to consider:

1. Calcium Supplements

Doctors often suggest calcium supplements for women, especially after menopause, as they have a higher risk of osteoporosis. Although older women are more likely to take these supplements, consider calcium supplements if you:

  • Follow a vegan diet.
  • Maintain a high-protein or high-sodium diet, leading to increased calcium excretion.
  • Have a health condition limiting calcium absorption.
  • Had gastric bypass surgery.
  • Take corticosteroids for a long time.
  • Have osteoporosis.

Benefits of Calcium Supplements

  • After menopause, a decline in oestrogen leads to a loss of bone mass. Taking calcium supplements, typically around 1,000 mg per day, may reduce bone loss by 1–2%.
  • Calcium supplements combined with vitamin D may improve various metabolic markers, including blood pressure and indicators of inflammation.
  • Studies link low calcium intake to a high body mass index and body fat percentage. In a 2013 study, overweight college students with low calcium intake who took a daily 600-mg calcium supplement and 125 IUs of vitamin D lost more body fat on a calorie-restricted diet than those without the supplement.

Potential Side Effects of Calcium Supplements

  • Overdose of calcium supplements might raise the risk of certain heart diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes. Some experts propose that pairing calcium with vitamin D could potentially counteract these risks, but further studies are required to explore this possibility.
  • Consuming over 2,000 mg of calcium daily, either from your diet or supplements, can cause kidney stones. In individuals with a family history, the risk increases when calcium intake exceeds 1,200–1,500 mg per day.
  • Excessive blood calcium levels can lead to hypercalcemia, causing stomach pain, nausea, and irritability.

Summary

Consider calcium supplements if you are vegan, maintain a high-protein or high-sodium diet, have a condition limiting calcium absorption, underwent gastric bypass surgery, take long-term corticosteroids, or have osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women at higher risk of osteoporosis benefit from calcium supplements (1,000 mg/day), reducing bone loss and improving metabolic markers. However, excessive intake (over 2,000 mg/day) can lead to kidney stones and heart issues, emphasising the need for balanced supplementation.

2. Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3s, crucial fatty acids known to reduce inflammation, play a role in preventing chronic diseases. While plant sources like seeds, nuts, olive oil, and leafy greens provide omega-3s, they may not be as effective. Hence, vegans and vegetarians often need omega-3 supplements. If you consume two weekly servings of fatty fish, you may not require a supplement. However, individuals with heart disease, pregnant women, or those following a vegan diet may benefit from omega-3 supplementation.

Benefits of Omega-3 Supplements

  • The American Heart Association advises people with coronary heart disease or heart failure to take daily omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA. Overall, the benefits of omega-3 supplements are more strong in people with a history of heart disease.
  • A balanced diet high in fish and omega-3 fatty acids shows a correlation with a reduced risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
  • Taking higher doses of omega-3, ranging from 200–2,200 mg per day, helps with reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Potential Side Effects of Omega-3 Supplements

  • Omega-3 supplements with EPA and DHA are safe as long as the daily dose doesn’t go over 5,000 mg. Excess omega-3s cause blood thinning or cause excessive bleeding in some people. 
  • Some omega-3 supplements, like cod liver oil, have a lot of vitamin A, which can be toxic in high amounts.

Summary

While plant sources offer omega-3s, supplementation may be necessary for vegans, vegetarians, individuals with heart disease, or pregnant women. Higher omega-3 doses, between 200–2,200 mg per day, help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, exceeding 5,000 mg daily may lead to side effects like blood thinning and excessive bleeding, and caution is needed with supplements high in vitamin A, such as cod liver oil.

3. Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) Supplements

There are two forms of vitamin D: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), with slight differences in chemical structure. Vitamin D3 comes from animal sources, while vitamin D2 is primarily sourced from fungi. Both are well-absorbed, but vitamin D3 might be a preferable supplement choice as it could be more effective in increasing blood vitamin D levels compared to vitamin D2.

Benefits of Vitamin D3

  • Vitamin D3 helps absorb and utilise calcium and phosphorus. These elements are essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones.
  • Vitamin D3 also participates in producing and regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which promote mood regulation.
  • Doctors typically prescribe it to treat vitamin D deficiency, rickets or osteomalacia.

Potential Side Effects of Vitamin D3

  • Vitamin D supplements may interact with corticosteroids and medications for seizures or high cholesterol.
  • High-dose supplements might not be suitable for people suffering from hyperparathyroidism, sarcoidosis, or kidney disease.
  • Vitamin D toxicity can cause vomiting, constipation, frequent urination, fatigue, and, in severe cases, kidney stones or organ damage.

Summary

Essential for strong bones, vitamin D3 aids calcium and phosphorus absorption and participates in neurotransmitter production for mood regulation. Although prescribed for deficiencies, rickets, or osteomalacia, vitamin D supplements may interact with medications. High doses might not suit those with specific health conditions, potentially leading to toxicity symptoms like vomiting, constipation, frequent urination, fatigue, and severe issues such as kidney stones or organ damage.

4. Prebiotic Supplements

A healthy microbiome relies on essential prebiotics. These prebiotics are dietary compounds that act as nutrients, stimulating the growth and activity of specific gut microorganisms. In simple terms, gut bacteria break down these nutrients. To be classified as a prebiotic, a food or supplement must:

  • Resist stomach acid and digestive enzymes
  • Remain unabsorbed in the GI tract
  • Be fermentable by intestinal microbes
  • Stimulate intestinal bacterial growth or activity

Benefits of Prebiotic Supplements

  • Prebiotics undergo fermentation, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. These SCFAs play vital roles in gut and metabolic health. 
  • By stimulating beneficial bacterial growth, prebiotics can manage gut-related conditions like constipation.
  • Incorporating a diet rich in prebiotics and taking prebiotic supplements can potentially impact metabolic health, influencing factors like blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. 
  • Supplementation with prebiotics, such as galacto-oligosaccharides and oligofructose-enriched inulin, may reduce appetite and cravings for sugary items.

Potential Side Effects of Prebiotic Supplements

  • While some individuals may encounter no side effects, others might experience notable bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort after prebiotic intake.
  • Since the large intestine ferments prebiotics, consuming large doses may result in symptoms such as gas, cramps, diarrhoea, and bloating. 
  • Mild symptoms like a gas can occur with low doses of 2.5–10 grams per day, while higher doses of 40–50 grams per day may lead to diarrhoea. 

Summary

Prebiotics, essential for a healthy microbiome, are nutrients broken down by gut bacteria. They manage conditions like constipation and potentially impact metabolic factors. While some may have no side effects, others may experience bloating and discomfort. Large doses can lead to symptoms like gas, cramps, diarrhoea, and bloating.

5. Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic supplements are commonly available as pills, powders, or liquids. They contain live beneficial bacteria or yeast. These supplements vary in the types of bacteria and their concentrations. Some are formulated to ensure the bacteria reach the large intestine for optimal effects, while others may not survive stomach acid. 

The benefits of probiotics depend on factors such as the specific strain, product formula, product quality, and storage conditions. The most commonly studied and generally safe probiotic species include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. 

Benefits of Probiotic Supplements

  • Probiotics can be beneficial for chronic gastric issues such as gas, constipation, and acid reflux.
  • Specific strains have efficacy in addressing non-GI problems such as upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Probiotic therapy can manage and prevent vaginal and urinary infections in women.

Potential Side Effects of Probiotic Supplements

  • Regularly taking probiotics, especially Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, is generally safe. However, their most common side effect is gas.
  • Initial use of probiotics may cause gas, bloating, or diarrhoea. However, these side effects typically resolve within a few days or weeks of starting probiotics.
  • Immunocompromised patients or those with a severe underlying illness should refrain from taking probiotic supplements as they can trigger infections.

Summary

Probiotic supplements, available in various forms, contain live beneficial bacteria or yeast. Factors like specific strain, product formula, quality, and storage influence their benefits. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are generally safe species. Probiotics aid in addressing gastric issues and non-GI problems, such as respiratory infections, vaginal and urinary infections in women. While they are safe for regular use, initial use may cause temporary side effects like gas, bloating, or diarrhoea. Immunocompromised individuals should avoid probiotic supplements to prevent infections.

What is the Best Time to Take Health Supplements?

Generally, it is advisable to take supplements in the morning as digestion tends to slow down during sleep. However, always review the product label and follow the recommended directions. In most cases, it is better to take supplements with food. Stomach acid aids absorption, and fat facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and specific phytonutrients. Fluids also promote the dissolution and absorption of water-soluble vitamins.

Some nutrients and foods work best when taken together:

  • Vitamins A, D, E, and K require a fat source for absorption.
  • Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption.
  • Vitamin C boosts non-heme iron absorption. Thus, vegans or vegetarians should include vitamin C-rich sources like citrus fruits or strawberries in meals to support iron absorption.
  • Mineral supplements are generally absorbed most efficiently when paired with citrus or acidic foods.

Summary

The optimal time to take health supplements is generally in the morning. Taking supplements with food enhances absorption, especially for fat-soluble vitamins. Certain nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, work better with a fat source. Individual factors such as age, diet, and health conditions influence the appropriate supplement amount, highlighting the necessity for professional advice to maintain balance and prevent potential adverse effects.

What to Look for in a Health Supplement?

When buying health supplements, prioritising safety and quality is crucial. Additionally, consider other factors such as:

Third-party Testing

Though not a legal requirement, third-party testing is proof of a high-quality product. At the HealthifyMe Store, each product is tested based on purity, potency, and safety, ensuring you receive the best quality. 

The third-party certified supplements ensure:

  • Accuracy in stating the supplement’s content and amounts.
  • Consistency in product standardisation across batches.
  • Absence of harmful levels of contaminants or potential drug contaminants.
  • No inclusion of undeclared ingredients.

Possible Interactions

Supplements can trigger unintended adverse reactions when combined with certain medications, other supplements, foods, or alcohol. Of particular concern are supplements containing herbs and botanicals, as many have shown interactions with various medications.

Check for Allergens

Dietary supplements must clearly indicate the presence of any of the eight major allergens. People with celiac disease and gluten intolerance should opt for products certified as gluten-free.

Check for Vegan Certified Label

If you follow a vegan diet, check for supplements with certified vegan labels, as some coatings and added ingredients may come from animal products. Choosing supplements labelled as organic and non-GMO ensures you are purchasing a product with ingredients as natural as possible.

Choose Minimally Sweetened Supplements

Consider avoiding supplements that contain artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohol. These substitutes, while lower in calories, may not be optimal for long-term health. People with diabetes may need to be mindful of candy-like supplements.

Summary

When purchasing health supplements, prioritise safety and quality. Consider factors such as third-party testing for proof of high-quality products, ensuring accuracy, consistency, and the absence of contaminants. Be cautious of possible interactions with medications, especially in supplements containing herbs and botanicals. Check for clear allergen labelling, particularly for those with celiac disease opting for gluten-free products. If following a vegan diet, seek certified vegan supplements to avoid animal-derived ingredients. Opt for organic and non-GMO-labelled products for a more natural composition. Additionally, choose supplements with minimal sweetening, avoiding artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which is particularly crucial for people with diabetes.

How to Include Health Supplements in Your Diet in the HealthifyMe Way

It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements in the same way as medicines. The appropriate amount of supplements varies based on individual needs, diet, age, health conditions, and lifestyle. Therefore, seek professional guidance to maintain balance and prevent potential adverse effects. 

If you are uncertain about making changes to your diet or incorporating supplements, consider consulting with a qualified nutritionist at HealthifyMe. They can provide valuable tips to optimise your nutrient intake through supplements. It’s crucial to recognise that supplements, while beneficial in specific situations, should not replace a balanced and varied diet. Therefore, HealthifyMe diet plans prioritise obtaining nutrients from whole foods, viewing supplements as a complement to a healthy diet.

With guidance from nutrition experts, you can discover suitable supplements at The HealthifyMe Store that complement your diet, address nutrient deficiencies, and support overall health goals. This personalised approach ensures the safe use of supplements tailored to each of your unique health profiles and needs.

HealthifyMe Suggestion

Most supplements should be taken with a well-balanced meal to increase absorption and reduce intestinal discomfort. Nutrients including iron, magnesium, and fish oil can cause diarrhoea or acid reflux if consumed in an empty stomach. Drink a glass of water after taking your vitamins. Hydration is essential for breaking supplement tablets or capsules and absorbing water-soluble elements (such as vitamins C and B). If you have difficulties remembering your supplements, try pairing them with an existing habit, keeping them visible, and setting a reminder.

The Final Word

Health supplements play a crucial role in addressing nutritional deficiencies and supporting specific health goals. They come in various forms and cater to individual needs, from vitamins to herbal supplements. However, moderation is key, as excessive doses can be harmful. A personalised approach ensures that supplements contribute positively to overall health based on individual requirements. 

Whether it’s a daily multivitamin, calcium, or omega-3 supplements, choosing the right product and dosage is essential. Always consider professional advice for a balanced and safe supplement regimen. Additionally, when purchasing health supplements, prioritise safety and quality and be mindful of possible interactions, allergens, and certifications.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.

Research Sources

1. Calcium-Vitamin D Co-supplementation Affects Metabolic Profiles, but not Pregnancy Outcomes, in Healthy Pregnant Women

2. Calcium in the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis: EMAS clinical guide

3. Calcium plus vitamin D3 supplementation facilitated fat loss in overweight and obese college students with very-low calcium consumption: a randomised controlled trial

4. Comparison of the Effect of Daily Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentration (Total 25(OH)D, 25(OH)D2, and 25(OH)D3) and Importance of Body Mass Index: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

5. Nutrient Intake and Gut Microbial Genera Changes after a 4-Week Placebo-Controlled Galacto-Oligosaccharides Intervention in Young Females
6. Four weeks of probiotic supplementation reduces GI symptoms during a marathon race

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Are supplements good for health?

A: Yes, supplements can be beneficial for health. For example, probiotics are good for gut health, and fish oil supplements support heart health. However, it also depends on factors like individual nutritional needs and existing health conditions. It’s important to remember that supplements should complement, not replace, a balanced diet.

Q: What are the must-have supplements for health?

A: Omega-3 fatty acid capsules for heart and brain health, vitamin D tablets for bone health, and calcium for bones and muscles are some essential supplements to start with. Iron and folic acid supplements are vital for pregnant women. However, individual needs vary, and it’s necessary to consult with a doctor before incorporating supplements into your diet.

Q: What are health supplements?

A: Health supplements provide additional nutrients that may be lacking in your regular diet or address specific health concerns. These supplements commonly include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or herbs. They are available as pills, capsules, powders, or liquids.

Q: Can I take health supplements occasionally?

A: Yes, you can take health supplements occasionally, but it’s essential to do so under guidance. You should also ensure that the supplements won’t interact negatively with medications or existing health conditions.

Q: Do food supplements help recover health?

A: Yes, particularly if you have nutrient deficiencies or challenges in obtaining essential nutrients from a regular diet. The concentrated doses of vitamins or minerals in supplements can replenish vital nutrients necessary for overall well-being. However, treating the underlying causes of health issues will require a well-balanced diet.

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