It’s tough to eat a well-balanced diet, and even tougher to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need through food alone. This is where dietary supplements come into the picture by boosting your nutritional intake and providing key nutrients. Dietary supplements come in several popular forms, including pills, powders and tinctures. They also cover a range of nutritional needs, from vitamins and minerals to amino acids, protein, fiber and more.
It’s easy to see why dietary supplements are popular, but exactly how do they support health? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and side effects of dietary supplements.
What Are Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements are products that enhance the number of nutrients you consume. They are taken in conjunction with your regular diet and may help elevate your body's vitamins and minerals. In addition to essential nutrients, supplements may also include probiotics, prebiotics or botanicals, like echinacea. Fiber, melatonin and omega-3 fatty acids are examples of common supplements on the market.
Dietary supplements come in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, powders and liquids. Gummy supplements, especially multivitamin gummies, are growing in popularity for adults as well as children. You may also notice that some supplements include beneficial extra ingredients like MCT oil or apple cider vinegar.
Advantages of Dietary Supplements
Around 77% of adult Americans take supplements to elevate their nutrition and improve their health. This could be to support general health or to resolve specific problems. For example, you might start taking a magnesium supplement to improve the quality of your sleep or a biotin supplement to help your hair and nails.
While everyone has their own health goals, there are some great reasons to consider adding supplementation to your daily regime. Dietary supplements can:
- Elevate your nutrition in a way that is difficult to do through diet alone
- Help you overcome nutritional deficiencies in specific vitamins and minerals
- Boost nutrition without additional calories if you’re restricting calories for weight loss
- Help you address specific concerns through targeted supplementation
While supplements are not intended to replace a well-balanced diet, they can be helpful if you’re busy and often eat on the go.
What Do Dietary Supplements Do?
Dietary supplements are intended to "fill in the blanks," so to speak, if your diet or nutrition is lacking. You might also take dietary supplements if you are experiencing certain conditions. Some people take vitamin D, for example, in the winter, because of a lack of exposure to sunlight. To learn more about what dietary supplements are intended to do, see this list from Harvard Medical School.
Side Effects Of Supplements
Supplements are widely considered safe, especially when taken as directed. It is important, however, to remember that anything you take may have side effects. Supplements may also interact with medications or laboratory tests, so it is important to talk with your doctor before starting any new supplement.
Potential side effects vary depending on the type of supplement and the dose you take. For example, if you take high doses of vitamin C you may experience nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Taking very high doses of vitamin A may interfere with prescription anticoagulants and can actually cause liver damage.
Before you add a new supplement to your regimen, you should:
- Ask your doctor about the supplement and any medications you currently take.
- Disclose all medications you take, prescription and over-the-counter.
- Disclose any allergies you have, including food and medication allergies.
- Discuss any health conditions you have, like migraines, diabetes, or heart conditions.
- Stop taking it if you experience side effects and contact your doctor.
It is important to tell your healthcare provider about every medication and supplement you take before a procedure, surgical or dental. They may tell you to stop taking them for a certain amount of time prior to the procedure to limit the chance of interference or complications. Last but not least, always follow the directions on the supplement package. Taking extra doses will not improve results, but may increase the likelihood of unwanted side effects.
Are Supplements Worth It?
Dietary supplements can be helpful tools to support your health goals. They may boost your nutrition and help you address specific problems. When taken as directed, supplements are safe and effective, but side effects may occur. Just remember to talk to your health care provider and choose high-quality supplements from a reputable source.
*The information in this article and throughout Trio Nutrition’s blog is for informational purposes only, and should never be mistaken for professional medical advice.