Reviewed by: Rob Miller
3 OUT OF 5
Natural supplements are concentrated forms of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other nutrients that occur in nature but have been commercially formulated to treat deficiencies in the human body.
Many supplements can be derived from natural sources, like herbs, while others can be compounded in labs from synthetic or semi-synthetic materials.
Consumers often look to vitamins to maintain or support health when the nutrients ingested from their diets can’t correct deficiencies and related maladies or if they have intestinal absorption problems.
Opting for natural supplements to treat common health issues has become an increasingly popular choice for those who are wary of the side effects of prescription drugs and their high costs.
For some, relief from illnesses, diseases, and disorders can come with the knowledge of supplements and their effects and prudent use.
It can be important to realize that while some supplements can be considered natural, not all are safe to liberally consume.
Vitamins can be classified as water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Many water-soluble vitamins are excreted through urine within a few hours of ingestion, but fat-soluble vitamins store themselves in tissues in the body and can build up, leading to an increased potential for toxicity.
Before using vitamins or minerals, understand that increasing the natural levels of these in your body can also require the supplementation of other, related vitamins and minerals.
This is because some vitamins and minerals require co-factors, or other supplements, to work well.
For example, taking a B12 vitamin can be most effective when also taking a B-complex vitamin, which includes all of the other B vitamins that create a pathway for absorption.
In addition, tinkering with one level of a vitamin or mineral in your body may also decrease other levels, as the supplemented vitamin or mineral may draw from ready, bodily reserves of natural co-factors to work.
The types of vitamins and supplements that can be beneficial can vary between individuals and can depend on one’s particular health problems.
For some, natural supplementation can be an effective solution for several different diseases and maladies: in the best cases, natural and safe vitamins and minerals can replace costly prescription drugs, which can have a wide range of side effects.
If you’re considering taking vitamins or supplements in conjunction with or in lieu of prescription medications to treat a health problem, talk to your doctor first.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, supplements or vitamins that you take can be passed along your fetus or your baby.
Children younger than 18 and adults older than 65 may need to consider that their metabolisms are different than the average person’s and that absorption levels of supplements can be effected.
Potential interactions with drugs currently taken, including those that can be considered “over-the-counter,” need to be assessed, as supplements can counteract them or reduce their effectiveness.
Iron has been determined to be the mineral in which Americans are the most deficient.
Supplementation of iron can increase energy levels, boost immune systems, and improve the appearance of hair, skin, and nails.
Women who still menstruate can especially benefit from taking iron, as the regular loss of blood can contribute to iron deficiency or anemia.
A large body of medical studies point to the advantages of taking fish oil for diseases and disorders related to inflammation, like arthritis and cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases.
Mental and mood disorders, such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even cancer can respond well to treatment with fish oil.
To get the most out of fish oil supplements, pay special attention to the ratios of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) contained within any particular supplement; a good supplement will contain at least twice as much EPA as DHA in it.
Vegetarians, alcohol drinkers, smokers, and people who suffer from anemia and digestive disorders like Crohn’s and celiac disease can find taking a B12 supplement advantageous to their health.
Vitamin C enjoys a great reputation for supporting immune systems and boosting collagen production to help keep those who ingest it healthy, reduce symptoms of the cold and flu, and prevent premature wrinkling.
Those who want to reduce their chances of catching seasonal illnesses or experiencing heart and eye problems may consider adding a few grams of this supplement to their daily diet.
The go-to supplement to treat the cold virus, however, is echinacea, which can also lower the severity and duration of illness.
Ginkgo increases blood flow in the brain and can be a great supplement to take for those who want to stave off Alzheimer’s disease, mood disorders, and maladies affecting the head, like vertigo, headaches, and concentration problems.
Shark cartilage can help soothe conditions related to psoriasis and arthritis, and can even help treat cancers. St.
John’s wort is a supplement most commonly used to treat mild or moderate depression, but it can also be helpful for conditions like heart palpitations, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotic supplements like Bio X4 introduce good bacteria in the body, which can help with digestion, eczema, and vaginitis, and can be especially good for older people to take.
They can also protect the lining of the intestines.
Acai berry is a powerful antioxidant that can reverse cellular damage and promote weight loss.
People who live in areas with high levels of pollution can incorporate this supplement into their diets to help control the symptoms of high stress levels.
And tea tree oil’s antiseptic properties can make it a low-cost treatment for acne, athlete’s foot, and ear infections.
Visit the following websites for more information about vitamins and supplements:
pg=1">Herbal Supplements: What to Know Before You Buy: The Mayo Clinic presents a guide that helps consumers decide if supplements are appropriate for them to take.
Vitamins and Their Functions and Sources: WebMD lists various supplements and categorizes them based on whether they are water-soluble or fat-soluble.
Their sources and functions are also included.
- Using Dietary Supplements Wisely: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine gives consumers tips and information about how to choose supplements and take them safely.
- Fish Oil: Dr. Axe provides a lengthy description of fish oil, its chemical components, and the conditions it can treat.
For some maladies, it gives suggestions for optimal dosages.
- Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics: Harvard Medical School discusses probiotics and the benefits they can offer to those who suffer from a number of disorders.
- Echinacea: The University of Maryland’s Medical Center provides a comprehensive overview of echinacea, its uses, precautions and dosage guidelines.
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