As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Nutrition Consultant, I am often asked what nutritional supplements to take—and, equally important—what isn’t worth the price tag. This isn’t surprising, as there are a staggering amount of choices. To make things even more complicated, new products are a dime a dozen, and we’re frequently bombarded with supplement ads on social media. If you’re confused by all the options to consider, you’re not alone. So, how do you know if you’re taking the right supplements? And which are unnecessary? As we inch closer to the new year, let’s dive into exactly how to build your personalized supplement regimen in 2023.
What Is a Dietary Supplement?
Let’s begin here. A dietary supplement includes everything from vitamins and minerals to botanicals and herbs, enzymes, and more. It’s a bit of an umbrella aterm. For the most part, supplements are either thought of as an individual vitamin, mineral, or multivitamin. And if you stroll down the vitamin aisle at your local healthcare store, you’ll see that dietary supplements come in a variety of forms. This includes tablets, capsules, gummies, and powders. Supplements are also packed into drinks and energy bars. Generally speaking, popular supplements include a multivitamin, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12, probiotics, and fish oil. On the herbal side of things, you’ll find teas and other products with chamomile, peppermint, and echinacea.
The Purpose of Dietary Supplements
At the end of the day, supplements aren’t a substitute for a balanced, healthful diet. And unlike prescription drugs, supplements are not allowed to be marketed for the purpose of treating, diagnosing, preventing, or curing diseases. Knowing this, be wary of supplements that make disease claims, such as “lowers high cholesterol” or “treats heart disease.” Claims like these are meant for prescription drugs, not dietary supplements. In terms of how to build your personalized supplement regimen, each supplement should have a specific purpose and be vetted for quality.
supplements: safety and quality
Did you know the FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products—for safety and effectiveness—before they’re marketed? Rather, manufacturers and distributors take on these responsibilities. Seems like a bit of a loophole, right? Here’s the caveat: if the dietary supplement contains a new ingredient, manufacturers must notify the FDA. In that case, the FDA will review (not necessarily approve!) the new ingredient for safety, but not effectiveness. In terms of quality, this also falls on manufacturers. They ensure their products are pure.
Do You Need to Take Supplements?
The million dollar question. It’s important to understand that we’re all bio-individuals. Meaning, we all have unique nutrition and supplement needs. While supplements are heavily marketed, not everyone needs them. Depending on diet and lifestyle, some people are able to maintain adequate levels of most essential nutrients by eating a healthy, balanced diet. However, keep in mind that there’s a difference between a “reference range” and an “optimal range.” When possible, optimal is ideal. Therefore, supplements can be incredibly useful for not only filling gaps in your diet, but also helping you reach optimal levels. Our supplement guide is here to do both.
2 Things TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING A NEW SUPPLEMENT
Before you begin a new supplement routine, here’s how to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck:
are you aware of nutrient deficiencies?
Have you been diagnosed with a deficiency (iron, vitamin D, etc.)? What does your blood work report? Make sure that what you’re taking has a targeted purpose. Rather than waste your money on unneeded supplements, get your healthcare provider’s stamp of approval first. In the context of nutritional counseling, supplement guidance by a professional is key.
do you know how much to take?
Know how much of the supplement you’re supposed to take. A common misconception about dietary supplements is that if a vitamin or mineral is good for you, increasing your intake might deliver additional health benefits. This isn’t the case. For example, too much vitamin D can actually weaken bones, and biotin—a popular supplement to improve skin, nails, and hair—can interfere with lab-test results when taken at high levels.
Work with your healthcare provider to sufficiently answer these questions.
When to Take Your Daily Supplements
This depends, of course! Some supplements are more specific about the time of day, so it’s important to research individual recommendation for those. However, most are generally flexible. What matters is that you choose a time you know you can be consistent with. As for the empty stomach versus food debate—some vitamins are fat-soluble and some are water-soluble. Those that are fat-soluble, like vitamin D, should be paired with a source of fat (take with food or pair with a fat-forward supplement, like fish oil). Some vitamins only need to be paired with water—like B vitamins and vitamin C. For me personally, I like to take my probiotic and magnesium shortly before bed. Otherwise, I consume the rest of my supplements in the morning with my breakfast, alongside a glass of water.
how to build your personalized supplement regimen
In just two steps, learn how to choose the right vitamins and supplements for you.
1. The Foundation Level
When it comes to supplements, a solid foundation is key. These are supplements that most people benefit from. The supplements comprising this level support basic life processes—cellular energy production, growth, repair, and regeneration. Think of these as the essential nutrients for living well as a human. They include five building blocks:
- Multivitamin: fills nutritional gaps.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: helps decrease system-wide inflammation and supports brain health.
- Vitamin D + K2 + CoQ10: aids in bone health, immunity, and heart health.
- Pre / probiotic: supports a healthy gut microbiome for digestion and immune health.
- Magnesium: relieves muscle soreness while improving sleep quality, stress, and nerve function (for a liposomal magnesium option, opt for Cymbiotika).
2. The Personalization Level
Next, the personalization level. This is all about you, specifically. If you’re struggling with hormonal issues, insomnia, blood sugar imbalance, achey joints, allergies, gut issues, adrenal stress, etc., you’ll want to add other supplements to your routine. Depending on where you are in your fertility journey, this is also where you’d add in a prenatal! The goal here is to best support your personalized health goals. Ideally, speak with a practitioner in the wellness space to get optimal, tailored advice.
Support your health beyond supplements
As mentioned, supplements are meant to do just that: supplement your current lifestyle. Therefore, it’s important to eat well, get quality sleep, spend time outside, minimize daily stressors, and move your body.
Eat nourishing food
get quality sleep
Second, sleep! Deep, consistent sleep is essential for the body to rest, repair, and detox. Aim for 7-9 hours, per night.
spend time outside
Third, spend time outside / in the sun. Not only is it a mood-booster, but the sun is necessary for balanced blood sugar, optimized sleep, vitamin D levels, and so much more.
Fourth, minimize stress. This is easier said than done, but there are many ways to get certain stressors under control. This aids in healthy cortisol and hormone levels.
make time for movement
Lastly, make time for movement. Moderate exercise is the gateway to a balanced, vibrant body.
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Images courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Wellness with Edie! This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.