Many people, from children to seniors, are interested in taking dietary supplements to help them stay healthy. These products do have a place in an overall health plan, but consumers need to understand what these products are and their limitations before deciding to use them.
Dietary supplements are more than just vitamins. When considering these kinds of products, read the label to understand exactly what the package contains. Along with vitamins and minerals, a product may also contain herbs or botanicals.
We get vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat. There are some foods that are healthier choices than others and contain more of the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Eating a balanced diet that includes items from all the food groups is the best way for a person to get the vitamins and minerals they need.
Too often, there are times when a person doesn’t eat as well as they should. They may be in a hurry and decide to grab something on the run, or choose to buy prepared foods (that are usually high in fat and calories, but lower on the nutritional content scale). Taking vitamins is a way to make up for the fact that we may not always be getting the right level of nutrients from the foods we eat.
Dietary supplements are not meant to be taken as a way to treat or cure illnesses. A patient should tell his or her doctor about all the medications they are taking, including any vitamins or herbal supplements. They can affect the way certain medications work, and may even have a bearing on how effective a particular drug is for treating a medical issue.
Before starting a program that includes dietary supplements, it’s a good idea to discuss the matter with a physician. This step is especially important if the patient is taking any prescription medications or is living with a chronic health condition. Once the doctor gives his or her approval for the dietary supplements, they should be taken according to the directions on the packaging.
Taking a multivitamin is relatively inexpensive way to make sure that an individual is getting all of the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. Other supplements can be helpful as well, including calcium, Vitamin D and folic acid.
Calcium is important to ward off osteoporosis. Most people don’t get enough of this nutrient from the foods they eat, and taking it in a pill form makes sense. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin” may be added to calcium supplements, since it helps with absorption.
Folic acid is recommended for all women of childbearing age, since it helps to prevent spinal birth defects. The recommended dose is 400 mg/day.