A balanced and varied diet is the preferred means of obtaining essential vitamins and minerals, however nutrient deficiencies can occur even amongst those populations with a bounty of food.
Whilst it is true that use of supplements generally has few adverse reactions, they are not completely devoid of side effects.
Due to fewer regulations, poor quality control and less stringent regulatory processes, contamination issues can pose a threat to the manufacturing process, tarnishing the safety of supplementing with natural medicines. Contaminants including heavy metals, pesticides, microorganisms, insects, prescription drugs or cheaper substitute materials are not uncommonly found in over-the-counter natural medicines and are believed to account for the some of the side effects associated with supplement use.
Such cautions are easily avoided by choosing your supplements wisely. When it comes to selecting safe yet effective natural medicines, it is best to stick to the following guidelines:
- To guarantee a high-quality product, familiarise yourself with reputable brands that maintain quality assurances and quality control procedures. If you are unsure of where to turn to, seek the guidance of a healthcare practitioner that is knowledgeable in nutritional medicine.
- For individuals with a complex health history, those taking prescription or over-the-counter medication, and those planning surgery, it is best that you consult with your healthcare provider before supplementing with natural medicines. This will help to avoid any unwanted side effects and will also provide you with an opportunity to discuss the type of supplement that is best suited to you.
- Nutrients taken in excess over long periods of time can overwhelm the body and lead to toxicities. To avoid this, be sure that you do not exceed the stated recommended daily dose.
- Even the use of vitamin and mineral supplements may provide an insufficient supply of one or more nutrients, particularly if an individual’s nutrient requirements are in high demand. When checking the label on your chosen supplement, make sure that the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for each nutrient is listed at 100% or above. This will not only prevent nutrient deficiencies from occurring, but also cover differences within the individual need.
- Be cautious with the following nutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, copper, iron and zinc. These nutrients maintain a very narrow range between the RDA and the upper limit of what is tolerable to the body. Avoid taking any of these as individual nutrient formulations, as high dosages can cause unwanted side effects. Instead, use a broad multivitamin supplement, where the dosages of these nutrients will be lower and less likely to cause adverse reactions.
- Above all else, remember that dietary supplements are intended to supplement the diet and should not be relied on as a food substitute. For best results pair your chosen supplement with a well-balanced and varied diet.
If you’re after additional food and nutritional alternatives, book an appointment with our Naturopath, Julia. Available for consultation on Tuesdays and Thursdays.