In the past decade, an increasing number of Americans have made the switch from western medicine to more alternative methods of healing. In fact, according to a nationwide government survey, 36% of adults over the age of 18 have used some form of alternative medicine. Whether it be yoga, meditation, essential oils, crystals or acupuncture, people are using some of these holistic practices more than ever. One thing that has been especially popular in the media lately is dietary supplements, but do they really work?
Although dietary supplementation can be a great way to boost your immune system and prevent certain health issues, there are also alternative ways of achieving this goal. The answer is simple: Eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Since many of us look for shortcuts or quick fixes, supplements can be a fast and easy way to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, and they all work toward accomplishing the same goal: to improve your overall health. Everyone’s diet is different, but in the United States, fast food is part of many people’s daily diets. From Tex-Mex to burger joints to barbecue, ATX has it all. While it’s great to indulge in these foods occasionally, having it all the time can be detrimental to your health. If you’re not eating a balanced diet, you could be lacking in nutrients; this is where supplements can help.
Because of the growth in popularity of supplements, more and more brands are coming out with their own versions of common supplements. These are intelligently marketed and sold at a higher price. Some of the claims that these companies are making may not be entirely true, so it’s important to do your research. For example, some popular water-soluble vitamin C supplements claim to contain more than 10 times the amount of one’s recommended daily vitamin C intake. While this sounds like a miracle drug, there are some factors worth considering.
Naae Kim is a licensed acupuncturist based in Austin, Texas, and she specializes in Chinese herbology. Kim says she often warns clients about the false advertisement that goes into many store-bought supplements.
“Do your research and always read the ingredients,” Kim says.
Magnesium stearate is a popular filler used in supplements, but there are more hidden fillers to look out for, she explains.
“Supplements that claim to give you five times your daily intake of vitamins are lying, your body doesn’t need that much of anything,” she says.
Additionally, Kim emphasizes that those who begin their search for supplements should watch out for vitamins B and C as they are more likely to be filled with corn syrup.
In her practice, Kim makes sure to provide her patients with supplements that only contain organic vitamins, and have passed multiple rounds of testing and processing. Kim explains that many of these mainstream, over-the-counter supplements contain more fillers than actual nutrients.
A study by the Mayo Clinic found that certain vitamins are absorbed differently in the body, so some methods of supplementation may be more effective than others. For example, Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so your body absorbs it better when you eat meat and other fatty foods containing the vitamin. If a vegetarian were to get their daily dose of vitamin A solely from their diet, they would need to eat about 5 times the amount of fruits and vegetables to absorb the same amount of vitamin A as a meat-eater would. This same concept applies to dietary supplements. If the vitamin you are trying to supplement is not water-soluble, it’s best to rely mostly on real foods, as some supplements might not fully absorb into your body.
Like many diet choices, there is a lot of thought and research that goes into choosing a dietary supplement. This is why, even though supplementation is quick and easy, it’s not always the most effective option. Finding supplements that are tested, do not contain fillers and can be easily absorbed into the body, is a time-consuming task. If you’re looking for the fastest and most efficient way to support your immune system and maintain your nutritional needs, opt for more real foods in your diet and speak with a specialized, health professional to help get you on track to optimal health.