What are dietary supplements?

Dietary supplements are substances produced to add nutrients to your diet or to reduce your risk of having health problems. They may contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes and many other ingredients. In addition, dietary supplements come in a variety of forms including tablets, capsules, gummies, powders, drinks and energy bars. Popular supplements include vitamins D and B12.

If you don’t eat healthy variety of foods, some dietary supplements can fill in the gap with nutrients which are lacking in your diet. However, supplements can’t take the place of the natural nutrients that are important to your body. Also, dietary supplements can enhance overall health and help manage some health conditions. For example,

  • Calcium and vitamin D help keep bones strong and reduce bone loss.

  • Folic acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils might help some people with heart disease.

Types of supplements and the nutrients they provide
  • Vitamins: Vitamins help to boost your immune system among many other functions they perform. Multivitamins or vitamins are the most used group of dietary supplements. Vitamins B, Riboflavin(B2), niacin (B3) vitamins B12, C, D, E and K are the main forms of vitamins in supplements.

  • Dietary mineral: Your body uses minerals for producing enzymes and hormones. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are the four essential minerals found in food. However, sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, iodine, can be taken as dietary supplements.

  • Proteins: Proteins effect physical, metabolic, and regulatory functions in the body. Examples of protein supplements are pea protein, casein protein, egg protein among others. They provide essential and non-essential amino acids for the body.

  • Essential fatty acids: Essential fatty acids are a type of fatty acids which cannot be produced by the body. Omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids are vital to the human system. Cod liver fish oil provide these essential fatty acids when taken as supplements.

  • Probiotics: Probiotics include the intestine microbiota, which help in the digestion and the health of gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics reduce the risk of constipation while improving immune health.

In spite of the numerous benefits got from using dietary supplements, you are almost certainly to have side effects from dietary supplements if you take them at high doses or not prescribed medicines. It can also occur if you take a different supplement that supplies a nutrient you don’t lack. For example, too much vitamins 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.

Who should take dietary supplements?

Eating a variety of healthy foods is the best way to get the nutrients you need. However, some people may not get enough essential nutrients from their daily diet. When that is the case, their doctors may recommend a dietary supplement to provide absent nutrients.

Furthermore, somewhat due to our modern lifestyle, not everyone manages to eat a healthy diet. Supplements are not substitute for a balanced healthy meal. However, they contain nutrients good for the body.

These categories of people should take supplements, however, as prescribed by a healthcare provider

  • Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

  • Breastfeeding women.

  • Women who have heavy menstrual periods.

  • Women who have gone through menopause.

  • People who don’t eat animal products.

  • People who have digestive health conditions.

Dietary supplements are perfectly meant for people who have any kind of deficiency which their food habits cannot help unless they get an alternative.

Moreover, it is better to get nutrients from food, as it is linked to lower risk of health problems, while excess intake of certain supplements may have the opposite effects. Make sure you get your healthcare provider’s approval before taking dietary supplements in place of, or in combination with prescribed medicines. Before taking any dietary supplement, ask the following questions; what are its potential benefits for me? What are its side effects, what is the proper dose to take, how, when and for how long should I take it?

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