Dietary supplements are big business, pulling in 27 billion dollars in 2010, these numbers speak for themselves. So with this kind of sales then there must be something to it right? Well, there is and then again there isn’t. Dietary supplements are good sometimes, but there can be a downside to them too.
Dietary supplements fill the “gaps” left from our eating habits that often do not provide us with everything our bodies need. The best method of obtaining vital nutrients, of course, is through proper diet, eating the right foods in the right amounts. But sometimes this isn’t possible due to financial, health, or availability restrictions.
Years ago fruits and vegetables were only available when they were “in season”, bit now with modern farming and preserving technology, these items are available year around in your local grocery store. Sometimes it is difficult to get you children to eat the right foods and then this is where a supplement could be beneficial.
“Daily vitamins” are often used by parents to make sure their children are getting all the nutrients they need; these are often used by adults as well. Vitamin formulae are often designed to meet the nutritional needs pertaining to persons’ age and sex. “Over 50” formulae and male/female designed vitamins are often used by adults to obtain nutrients that are vital at that age or for their sex.
Another example would be if a person was lactose intolerant they could take calcium supplements to give their body the levels of calcium needed for proper bone and muscle function and maintenance, or persons with iron deficiencies can take an iron supplement. Many dietary regimens some people choose or must follow due to health reasons, cannot provide them with essential nutrients as they do not or cannot consume the foods that would provide them so they will take a dietary supplement to fill that void.
One of the downsides to dietary supplements is when people try to use them in place of food. This may often cause more harm as any good they can do because they just simply cannot replace food as a source of nutrients. Whole foods provide a vital substance called phytochemicals. Also people will think that to lose weight they can eat less food and take supplements when in fact this may deprive them of the vital nutrients. Supplements should be taken to enhance rather than instead.
Another problem is toxicity, if you take too much of a supplement like the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and E, they can build up to toxic levels in your body. Also, if you take several dietary supplements daily you may exceed the recommended daily allowance and certain herbal and botanical supplements may be toxic if you have an unknown kidney or liver condition.
Other potential problems from dietary supplements could be interactions with some prescription medications. Most opiate based pain medications can be adversely affected and become less effective if you eat grapefruit so any supplements made with grapefruit could lessen the effects of these medications. Excessive amounts of vitamin C can cause excessive intestinal gas, bloating and “that other thing” that happens when you have too much intestinal gas, it can also cause diarrhea.
Some interactions with other types of prescription medications could be fatal so consult your physician before beginning any supplemental program.