Everyone needs their proper nutritional intake each day in order to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle. While some achieve this through their regular diet, others may need to take nutritional supplements. Any good nutrition manufacturer is glad to provide the product.

There are many reasons to consider starting a supplement routine. Those with poor eating habits might need supplements to get their daily recommended nutrients, or some may simply need them because nutrition absorption can decline with age. Others may need to supplement a specialized diet (such as a vegan diet) to stay as healthy as possible.

While some may argue about the true effectiveness of certain supplements, learning the basics can help you discover a routine that’s right for you.

Consult your doctor

Before taking any kind of supplement, it’s always best to speak with your doctor about it. Your doctor is most likely to recommend a supplement if you have nutritional deficiencies or if you have other health issues. Many pregnant women take prenatal vitamins for their iron content or to cover any other lacking nutrients — these supplements help support a baby’s growth and are generally recommended by doctors.

If you are in good health, the likelihood of your doctor recommending a supplement is low, and it’s wise to heed their opinion. Most doctors are particularly wary of any supplement that claims to cure a specific condition. The FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplements, so there is no real evidence to back up such claims.

Types of supplements

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of supplements categorized by the way they are absorbed. This changes the way they should be taken as well as some of their effects on the body.

Water soluble supplements can be taken on an empty stomach and are easily absorbed. This means they can be taken at any time, though many choose to take these shortly after waking up. Any excess nutrients from water soluble supplements are expelled through urine, so these are typically safe to take.

Fat soluble supplements, on the other hand, are absorbed through body fat and are best taken with meals (including saturated fats) to assist in this process. Excess nutrients from these supplements are stored in the liver, which makes them inadvisable to those with liver problems or who consume large amounts of alcohol.

Supplement risks

It’s still a topic of debate amongst many healthcare professionals whether nutrients do the same things in pill form as their more natural counterparts. But what’s certain is that you can ingest toxic amounts of nutrients through the misuse of supplements.

For example, abusing vitamin A for a long period of time can cause blood vessels to harden and increase the likelihood of bone complications later in life. Taking in too much vitamin E greatly increases the risk of heart failure. Milder symptoms of supplement misuse can be things like frequent cramping and feelings of nausea.

Any unusual sensations experienced after taking nutritional supplements should be considered serious, and you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

Setting your routine

If your doctor does recommend nutritional supplements, it’s important to follow their instructions carefully. The goal will generally be to make up for any nutrients you may be lacking according to the Federal Dietary Guidelines.

There are also some recommended supplements such as B-12 vitamins for people over 50 or vitamin D supplements for those who spend most of their time indoors. You’ll need to plan your diet to best complement any supplements you’re taking, and don’t forget to ask your doctor about any reactions they could have with other substances.

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