Fact Or Fiction? The Truth About the Nutritional Supplement Industry. Part Two: Misunderstandings

Understanding the role of The FDA in the supplement industry is a critical component in making decisions on which products to avoid as well as which ones to consume. Part one in this series presented us with a general understanding of this relationship. The simple explanation for why we provide this type of information is to help you, the reader, understand how important the education and research side of health and wellness really is. If you missed part one, you could find it here. Now, let’s finish our look at some further misunderstandings, myths and, with any luck, separate fact from fiction with regard to the health and wellness industry.

Overall, the spike in supplement consumption is an excellent example of the world we are living in. Now, more than ever, people are taking their health seriously. We see the results play out as the overall quality of health and longevity is better than ever before. This is great news, and as more people make health their number one priority, we all benefit. As more people open their wallets, the market will fill the demand by researching even more nutraceutical technologies with the hopes of improving health. We live in a time where we are fortunate to choose from the multitude of solutions out there designed to assist in improving health and wellness. As individuals, it’s important to note that there is no one single answer to each of our different needs. Something that may work for you may not have the same positive effects on your spouse. We should all be wary of any one supplement or program that promises to cure any and all ailments for those willing to try it. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and it’s critical to educate yourself on what your body needs. There is no “one size fits all” product that will solve all health issues. The bottom line is this: To attain optimal health, it’s not as simple as going to the nearest health food store and loading up a cart full of supplements. The first step in any health journey should start by identifying what your body needs and at what doses. A little research can go a long way when identifying quality products and supplements, versus the ones filled with false promises, magic pills and quick fixes. This is the black eye of the supplement industry. It’s not as easy as you may think to distinguish fact from fiction regarding quality, potency and whether or not the claims made about some of these supplements carry any weight.

While the trajectory of this billion-dollar industry and its overall positive effects on people’s health continues to rise, the reason why people should or should not take supplements can still seem vague. What is it that’s missing from our diet that the body needs to function at maximum capacity? This question opens up the argument as to whether or not a well-balanced diet, consisting of lean proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables is sufficient to fulfill the vitamin and mineral profile that the body needs. If we were to eat this ” well-balanced diet”, do the foods even contain the vitamins and minerals our body needs? While these are fundamental questions, the answers are often generalized, which fails us as individuals. The body’s nutritional needs are akin to someone’s personality. From one person to another, everyone is a little bit different. This is the problem with authorities like The FDA making blanket statements about what defines a healthy diet.

Since nutritional needs vary from person to person, the best way to identify what you need personally should be to start by getting your blood work done to determine what your body needs. It’s important to note that all of us at The Greenlaw Report suggest seeing your physician before starting any supplement or health program. This is the stance of the medical world as well. Not only is this important for the safety of your overall health, but also running blood work to identify what your body needs could also save you money by showing you what you don’t need. As the mountain of research pointing to the fact that food does not provide us with the nutrition we need grows, supplementation becomes almost critical. Doctors and researchers are also linking malnutrition to a scary amount of physical and mental health issues. Slowly but surely, the medical world is catching on to the impact that supplements and nutrition have on our health. Prescribing supplements is now common practice to address deficiencies in the body. The bottom line is that people take supplements because we are no longer capable of fueling the body properly by just eating a well-balanced diet.

If supplementation is one of the few ways to fuel your body properly in this day and age, can too much of a good thing actually harm your health? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, there are toxic levels of vitamins and reactions vary depending on the individual as well as the nutrient. While most of the effects of overdoing supplements aren’t too serious, there are some vitamins that will cause permanent damage if abused. For example, toxic levels of vitamin B-6 have been known to cause neuropathy in some. This can lead to permanent nerve damage in the body, causing weakness, pain and numbness in parts of the body.

While taking B-6 in large doses can produce dangerous side-effects, there are other vitamins where the daily recommended dose is not only safe but required actually to counteract the deficiency in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins are a good example of this. Vitamin D is one of these fat-soluble vitamins that are deficient in most people and the only way to fulfill the body’s needs is to consume more than 100% of the recommended daily dose. Once again, this is where we encourage you to stay educated and in control of your body.

Another dangerous misconception regarding supplements is whether or not they are safe to take while using prescription drugs. Many people believe that drugs and supplements can coexist within the body without interfering with each other. The fact is: There are some herbal supplements that will neutralize the effectiveness of some medications and, in some cases, cause harmful side effects. For example, people on blood thinning medications need to be aware that consuming supplements with vitamin K will counteract the results of their medication. Vitamin K is known to promote blood clotting in the body and can pose a major threat to those in need of reducing blood clots. Although this next example is not as the previous one, it does highlight the fact that supplements and medications have the power to neutralize each other. Most of you should be familiar with probiotics by now. Probiotics can be found in bacteria strains in yogurt, cheese and supplements; often taken to promote gut health. If you get sick and are prescribed an antibiotic, you should stop the use of probiotics if only to save some money. One of the roles of an antibiotic is to go in and kill bacteria in the body, this would include the probiotics you are paying to consume.

Additionally, one of the most dangerous aspects of mixing supplements and pharmaceuticals is the lack of information on the risks of combining the two and what reactions exist. As more time passes, there will hopefully be a more comprehensive list of what can and cannot be taken together, but for now, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you do decide to combine supplements and medication, introduce one supplement at a time. This makes it easier to identify any negative interactions, but before even experimenting, please check with your physician.

These are just a few examples of the misconceptions out there regarding supplements. We have come a long way from the men traveling the country by wagon, selling cures for any and all ailments, yet some people remain skeptical. The importance of supplementation in today’s world is non-negotiable. What is important is that people need to understand their individual body needs and how to maximize results and avoid false promises.