While diet and nutritional supplements are generally considered safe and definitely part of an overall self-care regimen, it’s smart to have a nutritional guide to help you receive the fullest benefits from a dietary and nutritional program. You can consult a physician, a nutritionist or even the internet. But you can’t always find a qualified individual, much less afford their fees. So I put together a brief guide to help you get started. It’s founded on science as well as common sense.
For best results, eat healthily. No amount of nutritional supplementation can take the place of a diet of nutrient-dense foods or (ideally) organic whole foods. Make your food fresh and whole. Take care not to overcook your foods, since high temperature can destroy even the healthiest foods’ nutrient content. Steam, saute or lightly bake to keep the vitamins and minerals intact in the food. Understand the macronutrients – carbs, protein and fats – in order to know what they do for your body and the importance of each in building the tissues of your body. You can learn which carbs are necessary for energy and health, which proteins are best for strong muscle and how important the healthy fats are in your diet.
Read the label. Since not all brands of nutritional supplements are the same in terms of quality, efficacy and price, it is important to know the quality of the brand you are buying. By reading the label of the supplements you purchase, you can determine their dosage range and whether or not the supplements also contain fillers, binders, and other additives of no nutritional value, and to which you might be allergic or sensitive, such as sugars or gluten. (Generally safe additives include alginic acid, cellulose, calcium or magnesium stearate, dicalcium phosphate, gum accacia, and silica.) Labels usually also contain instructions for how nutrients should best be consumed to optimize their effectiveness. Reputable companies typically list all ingredients in their nutritional formulas and, upon request, are usually willing to also provide further information regarding their efficacy. For maximum bioavailability and absorption, consider liquid isotonic supplements. They are the same pressure as the fluids of your body, allowing your digestive system to sense them as “predigested” and moving them quickly to the gut where absorption quickly occurs.
Know when and how to take your supplements. As a general rule, vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken during meals or 15 minutes before or after eating, in order to enhance their assimilation. This is especially true of fat- soluble vitamins, which ideally should also be taken during the meal of the day with the highest fat content. Overall, however, most vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken with the first meal of the day. Isotonic supplements are best taken on an empty stomach, excluding vitamin B12. It is best absorbed with food so that the stomach can produce intrinsic factor that allows the absorption to occur.
When using high dosages of vitamin C and B complex vitamins, take them in divided doses throughout the day, rather than all at one time. They will be better absorbed and give your body an “infusion” throughout the day. For energy, consider an energy drink loaded with B vitamins and amino acids but have none of the caffeine that make people crave sweets and become jittery.
Beware of “megadosing.” Certain nutrients, including all fat-soluble vitamins and certain minerals and B-complex vitamins, can be toxic in high doses. To avoid the risk of toxicity, avoid taking high doses of nutrients unless you do so under the guidance of physician trained in their use. The one exception to this rule seems to be the new evidence surround vitamin D. As a fat soluble vitamin the health profession has been wary of large doses. However, recent science reveals that many of us are extremely vitamin D deficient. Our indoor lifestyle and limited diets make us very susceptible. Doses of 5,000 to 10,000 IU are now commonly being employeed with no adverse effects.
Pay attention to any reactions following supplementation. If you experience nausea or other side effects after taking supplements, immediately discontinue their use. In many cases, such reactions are due to excessive dosages or symptoms of detoxification provoked by supplementation and will cease once supplementation is discontinued. But if symptoms persist, seek medical attention. Isotonic liquid supplements rarely cause these symptoms as they have no binders and fillers.
Consult with a physician before mixing supplements with medication. While most supplements taken in moderate doses are generally safe, certain nutrients can be contraindicated when used with prescribed medications. Iron tablets, for instance, should not be taken when using antibiotics. To ensure safety, always consult with a nutritionally-oriented physician prior to beginning any supplementation program.
Be consistent. Irregular use of nutritional supplements provides little or no benefit, since the benefits of diet and proper nutrition are cumulative and accrue over time. By following a daily supplement routine, you can ensure that your body regularly receives the nutritional support it requires to properly perform its many functions.