Ever read the ingredient list on your vitamin supplement? Not many of us do. Do you know the recommended daily intake of nutrients for your body type and lifestyle?
Vitamins are essential for keeping our bodies healthy. And while vitamin supplements are not a replacement for a balanced diet, they can help the body combat a range of health conditions.
Supplements are an attractive healthcare choice that can be found easily and cheaply just about everywhere, even at the supermarket. Self-prescribing supplements has become commonplace.
For the unwary, however, there are risks in going it alone without medical advice.
How do you know what exactly your body needs, and how much? What are the active and non-active ingredients? Are there any contra-indications?
The surprising truth is, that supplement you’re paying for may be offering no benefit – or worse.
The Problem with Cheap Vitamins
Every one of us is unique. We have different body types, genetics, lifestyle and routines, all of which impacts on our bodies’ functions and needs. Even the climate we live in can have an impact.
Generic, mass-produced vitamin supplements, however, are not designed for you, specifically. On the contrary – they are designed to cater to a very broad market. As a result, supplements can have vastly different and occasionally disappointing results.
Supplements do not replace a healthy diet. When you take a vitamin supplement, you’re missing out on the other complementary nutrients that come from the food source. For example, vegetables have fibre which slows our digestion, enabling our bodies to better absorb the vitamins they contain.
Your supplement might also interact with prescription medications, reducing their efficacy or generating unwanted side effects. Or you may simply be taking the wrong vitamins or the wrong dosage, either of which could cause adverse outcomes.
You get what you pay for
The old adage you get what your pay for can definitely ring true for vitamin supplements, starting with the quality of the ingredients.
While paying more doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality, you can be assured the cheaper the supplement, the more likely it contains synthetics and poorer quality ingredients in general.
There can also be many unexpected non-medicinal ingredients in cheap supplements, some of which can trigger adverse reactions in some people. Ingredients may include binders and fillers, preservatives, gluten and colours, even sugars, salt and talc!
Cheaper supplements may also comprise inferior, less active or less potent forms of nutrients. For example, Vitamin B12 comes in three forms; the most absorbable form is methylcobalamin. Cheaper supplements use cyanocobalamin, a synthetic form of B12 that has been known to cause nausea, upset stomach and headache.
More can sometimes be less
Both the nutrient composition and potency of supplements varies from brand to brand, making it a minefield for consumers to pick the right one for them, let alone the knowledge required to distinguish the optimum forms of nutrients and their absorbency.
When it comes to specific nutrient deficiencies, more is not necessarily better. Your body only needs regulated amounts of vitamins; having too much of one vitamin can cause serious issues. For example, excess Vitamin A can be toxic and lead to liver damage.
High-dose supplements and Megavitamin Therapy should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
Get the right advice
Your doctor or pharmacist has knowledge you won’t find on the back of a vitamin bottle. They are best placed to help you determine safe and effective doses of supplements based on your individual situation.
This will also ensure you don’t waste money on supplements you don’t need, that aren’t backed by evidence or that may cause more harm than good.
In particular, compounding pharmacies can, in consultation with your doctor, create custom vitamin treatments with the correct balance of nutrients you require without unnecessary additives; none of the fillers, dyes, synthetics or preservatives you may be sensitive to.
Compounding pharmacies can make up vitamin supplements as prescribed by your doctor, in high doses or in specific combinations, in liquid or powder form.
Compounded supplements maximise the effectiveness of vitamin treatments, minimise the likelihood of side effects, can reduce dosage frequencies and combine multiple solutions into one daily dose.