Unlocking the Puzzle of Supplements

Written by Dr. Budweiser

The use of herbs and animal glands as medicines dates as far back as the origins of civilized man. The earliest discovered recordings of herbal medicines were inscribed on six-thousand-year-old clay tablets written by the Sumarians, who lived on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is Iraq today. The Asian cultures, especially in the Sichuan province in China, also have a long recorded history of herbal use dating back more than three thousand years and closer to home the Native American Indians as well as the early European settlers used herbs and animal glands as medicine. We have come a long way since then and today these natural medicines are primarily referred to as supplements.

So what is a supplement?

“A dietary supplement, also known as a food supplement, nutritional supplement, functional foods or a nutraceutical, is a product intended to supplement the diet and provide nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids or amino acids that may be missing or may not be consumed in sufficient quantities in a person’s diet. Some countries define dietary supplements as foods, while in others they are defined as drugs or natural health products.”

Today, the supplement industry is a whopping $37 billion in the US alone. This huge industry has created an enormous variety of all sorts of dietary supplements ranging right across the quality spectrum. Some good, some great, some wreak more havoc than benefits and some simply don’t have a single microgram of active ingredients they claim to have on the label. With so much conflicting information out there and so many questionable brands, it can be very difficult to a) decide whether one should be taking any supplements at all and b) if so, which ones should one take?

Do I believe in my professional opinion that we should be consuming supplements? The short answer is a resounding YES! Even when on a healthy diet, soil depletion, green harvesting, nutrient depletion in fruits and vegetables (see table below), chemicals and pesticides, elapsed time from farm to table, stress and pollution make it near impossible for you to get all the nutrients your body needs solely from the foods you eat. It would be prudent and I would HIGHLY recommend that everyone add supplements to their diet…  at least the basics. The long answer… well I will leave that for another article. Today, I would like to focus more on what are some frequently asked questions about supplements, what types of supplements to choose and HOW to choose good quality products.

Comparison of Depletion of Nutrients in Fruits & Vegetables 1985 - 2002

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) created the definition of supplements. This act laid a foundation for a new class of foods. This may seem obvious but dietary supplements must be ingested through the mouth in a pill, tablet, capsule, soft gel, powder, chewy gummy, chewable tablet, melt away, drink, or in a food bar form. 


 

The kinds of ingredients included can cover a wide range. So, let’s take a look at the types of ingredients in supplement products which are regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that the body needs for normal growth and metabolism.

Enzymes

Enzymes are catalysts that the body needs to unlock specific chemical reactions in the body such as digestive and metabolic functions.

Minerals

Next, are the minerals which are inorganic elements, such as calcium and magnesium that the body needs for normal health. Your body cannot make these, so you need to get them through your diet.

Botanicals

These are more like herbs than foods.  Botanicals can include ingredients from plant leaves, flowers, roots, seeds or bark. 

Amino Acids

This category of nutrients are the building blocks of all proteins. There are hundreds of amino acids on this planet but only a mere twenty are in the human body.  Eight of those twenty CANNOT be manufactured by your cells so they must be acquired through your diet.

Organ Tissues & Glandulars

These support the body’s systems which are directed by the hormonal system.

Metabolites, Constituents & Extracts

The final category includes the metabolites, constituents and extracts. This is a “catch-all” category for supplements produced from whole ingredients. This category would include the Omega 3’s, botanical extracts and metabolites in a supplement form.


 

We live in an era where it is important to supplement our daily food intake with these nutrients. In my daily practice, I have many patients ask me about supplements and share with me their concerns regarding taking them. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions I get.

 

1. How long do they stay in the body upon ingestion?

Nutraceuticals, which are food supplements that contain health giving additives, will differ in the amount of time the active ingredients actually remain in your body. For instance, water soluble nutrients like Vitamin C, generally will be break down and leave the body the same day or even a few hours after you ingest it. The body utilizes what it needs and discards the rest. On the other hand, fat soluble nutrients, such as Vitamin A, can be stored in the liver for weeks before being distributed to your body tissues when needed.

2. How long should you take a particular supplement or a combination of supplements before deciding if it works or not?

The answer to this question depends on two things. It depends on the supplement and the expected outcome. For example, joint health ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin usually take 6-8 weeks before they start to work. Melatonin, on the other hand, generally starts to work within the first week or even the first day. Other necessary supplements need to be ingested on a daily basis because they are critical for the normal cellular physiological processes that the body performs. 

3. What is the difference between the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), and the Daily Value (DV) for vitamins and minerals?

The Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) and the Daily Value (DV) are updated versions of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). They all mean the same thing. These all represent the MINIMUMS needed on a daily basis. The real question here should be what are the OPTIMUM levels needed to thrive as opposed to just getting by.

4. Can supplements interact with prescribed medications?

Yes, some of them can. St. John’s Wort is the most common example.  This popular herb is often taken for mild depression but it can also increase the metabolism of estrogen derived birth control pills. It can prolong narcotic induced sleep time. It can change the effects of some blood pressure drugs. It can also decrease the effects of antidepressants like Xanax, Cymbalta, Zoloft, or trazadone. You should make it a point to discuss your use of herbal formulas with your physician if he/she is prescribing pharmaceuticals to you. Do NOT attempt to diagnose yourself! Most other herbs including Echinacea, garlic, gingko, ginseng, goldenseal, and milk thistle don’t regularly interfere with prescribed medications.

5. Are there certain foods that can react with pharmaceutical drugs?

Foods can interact with prescribed medications. The most notorious example is grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice inhibits the detoxification of certain drugs in the intestines and in the liver, making the drugs more powerful.

6. Can prescription drugs interfere or deplete the body of essential nutrients?

Yes, some medications can interfere and even deplete the body of essential nutrients. A common example is medication designed to lower cholesterol in the body. Some research suggests that cholesterol lowering drugs deplete the body of Coenzyme Q10. Symptoms of CoQ10 deficiency include high blood pressure, lack of energy, gingivitis, stroke, and generalized weakening of the immune system. In this instance, adding a quality CoQ10 supplement to your diet can be very beneficial.

Nutrient deficiencies are very often overlooked. In some cases, you may be getting enough vitamin and minerals to prevent obvious signs of deficiencies but not enough to support optimal wellness. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported that Americans under consume several nutrients, including vitamins A,C,D, and E, Folate and Magnesium along with other nutrients in certain population groups. Unfortunately, most of the time when they do supplement it is with synthetic vitamins and ground up rocks as minerals. Our bodies weren’t designed to break down and absorb ground up rocks and vitamins manufactured from coal tar and petroleum.

Nutrient deficiency risk is greater in people who are following restrictive type diets, are suffering from certain health conditions or are taking prescription medications. Processed foods can contribute to this problem as well because they can be lacking in density of the required nutrients needed for health.


 

Now that I have addressed the main concerns regarding taking supplements, let’s take a look at how to choose the best supplements.

7 Tips To Consider When Purchasing Dietary Supplements:

  1. Don’t believe claims that sound too good to be true. Unlike drugs, supplements are designed to act slowly and gradually. If a product promises quick results, it could include drugs or synthetic stimulants.
  2. There are 3 categories of supplements that tend to be misbranded more than any other type: weight loss, bodybuilding, and sexual enhancement supplements. You should be extra vigilant when buying these products.
  3. Price does not always determine the quality of a supplement however, it costs money to produce a quality product. If a supplement is more expensive, that may indicate the company spent extra on testing and quality control. Generic, store label brands rely on contract manufacturers, meaning they have little control over sourcing, processing, and testing.
  4. Look for 3rd party certifications. Experts agree that if you want ultimate assurance that you are receiving a quality product, you should look for NSF, NPA, UL, and/or USP certifications.
  5. Check out the FDA warnings at http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/default.htm
  6. Look for branded ingredients like “TM” (trademarked) on the label indicating that there is probably research behind it.
  7. Read and understand supplement labels. A quick internet search of a good dictionary can tell you if you are getting a synthetic stimulant or filler.

If you have any further questions or doubts, we would be happy to help. Just contact us and book an appointment.

References:

  • http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/
  • National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
  • Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion, 2nd Edition, Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN, James B. LaValle, RPh, DHM, NMD, CCN

About the Author Dr. Budweiser

Dr. Budweiser is dedicated to the belief and philosophy that the mission of the medical industry should be to assist people with attaining health freedom. With more than 20 years experience as a chiropractor and a 30-year history in nutrition and as an international speaker, he travels the world sharing his knowledge on health, wellness and abundance. As a neuro-musculo-skeletal expert, he is an expert in the human frame and wellness and has been wildly successful in using The Weiser Living concept to help others regain their health and wholeness.

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