If your diet always includes plenty of fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables, quality protein sources, and heart-healthy fats, you may not benefit from supplements. Unfortunately evidence suggests that most people’s health regime does not follow this path, even when with all good intentions, circumstances make it impossible. It is for this reason that many of us would benefit from supplementing our diet with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and herbs, particularly for those dark periods in our lives.
What is a ‘Supplement”?
The word “supplement” means something added. In this case, you are “adding” to a basic healthy diet and lifestyle, or to a prescription medication or therapy to treat a medical condition. It is important to remember, that a vitamin or herbal supplement on its own will not necessarily cure or treat your condition or health problem. Nor does it mean that taking a vitamin can replace an unhealthy diet as nothing can substitute the nutrients you receive from fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, a general multivitamin and mineral supplement can be a good safeguard against periodic vitamin deficiencies in your diet.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) define a dietary supplement as a product that:
- supplements the food you eat;
- contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins; minerals; herbs or other botanicals; amino acids, and other substances);
- comes in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form; and
- is labelled as a dietary supplement
Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
These supplements contain micronutrients meant to help a healthy body function smoothly. For example, vitamin A helps your vision and bone growth, while vitamin E strengthens the immune system and helps repair DNA. Deficiency in vitamin and minerals can affect the body’s ability to heal. This in turn will affect your immune system.
These are different from vitamin and mineral supplements in that they are considered to have medicinal value and generally support a specific area of the body’s health, such as the liver, heart, mind or bones. Herbs, also known as botanicals, are one of the oldest healing therapies and the basis of many modern medicines.
Can Supplements Be Taken With Medications?
Like any type of natural remedy it is best to check with your doctor if you are taking other medications. Herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs can combine to cause adverse side effects. Because a herbal supplement is extracted from a “natural” source it does not mean it is less harmful than any chemical. At the same time, remember that not all these vitamins are beneficial, especially when taken in toxic doses or combined with other medications.
When are Supplements Beneficial?
In short, they are a great way to make sure you are getting all the necessary vitamins and micro-nutrients you need to be healthy.
There is more and more evidence that people are turning to supplements to complement their diets. Apart from ensuring that the body receives all the necessary vitamins, there are a number of reasons why they are becoming more popular.
- Modern farming techniques – the increase in the use of industrial agriculture has decreased the nutritional value of many foods in our diet. Replacing organic fertilizers with synthetics, (often containing only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), achieves large, fast-growing plants that appeal visually to the consumer, but often lack the main micronutrients required in a healthy diet.
- Aging. As we grow older, many of us suffer from poor digestion due to insufficient stomach acid or low populations of beneficial microorganisms in our digestive tracts. Consequently we are not able to achieve the best nutrients from our food sources.
- Frequent dieting – to achieve weight loss, we reduce our calorie intake which also means restricting good nutrition.
- Medications – many prescription medications lower vitamin and/or mineral concentrations in the blood.
- Busy lifestyles – it is not so easy to eat a healthy meal at every meal. Vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies can help to fill these gaps
Best Supplements for Panic Attacks?
Information about dietary supplements is often confusing. It’s hard to know which one is safe and achieves what it claims, eg ‘the hormone melatonin helps establish normal sleep patterns’. This is made even more difficult because of government regulations. Unlike drugs, which must be approved by the FDA before they can be marketed, dietary supplements do not require premarket review or approval by the FDA.
While the supplement company is responsible for having evidence that their products are safe and the label claims are truthful and not misleading, we the consumer have to make the best informed choice. However, before selecting a supplement to fight your panic attacks, the very first consideration is to eat a healthy diet. Even the best supplement is no substitute for good nutrition.