Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Most adults in the United States take dietary supplements, whether once a day or when they feel they need to for specific issues. Dietary supplements may include vitamins, essential oils, herbal extracts, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes, among other products. They may come in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, palatable energy bars or drinks, as well as in liquid form. Some of the most commonly-used supplements include Vitamin D, iron, calcium, fish oils, glucosamine, and probiotics. These products may be purchased without the prescription of a physician.


Dietary supplements are intended to be used as supplements and not replacements. They are not prescription drugs and are therefore not suitable treatment for serious illnesses and diseases. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements, but different regulations exist for supplements compared to over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Dietary supplements are not reviewed and approved prior to appearing on the market. The company that makes the supplements is responsible for keeping proof that the product is safe, although they are not required to provide such proof before the product is marketed and sold.

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It is important to remember that supplements cannot be used as replacements for food items that make up a healthy diet. In many cases, nutrients are absorbed better when they come from food sources as opposed to supplements. Eating well should be your first concern. If it is not possible to obtain all of the nutrients you need from your diet, then supplements are an option. For instance, people who suffer from lactose intolerance may be advised to take calcium supplements since dietary calcium is commonly found in dairy products. Research has indicated that supplements can be helpful in maintaining health and managing certain conditions. Calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, have all been shown to have a positive effect for various health conditions.


Supplements contain active ingredients and they do have risks, including unanticipated side effects. It is important to be alert to the possibility of side effects, especially when using a supplement for the first time. Supplements commonly cause side effects when they are used in combination with other medication or supplements, or when they are used as a replacement for prescribed medicine. Some supplements may increase a patient’s risk of bleeding before, during, and after surgery or they may affect how a person responds to anesthesia. Taking more supplements or finding more sources of a particular supplement is not always a good idea. As vitamins are often added to foods, it is important to be aware that your chances of experiencing side effects increase according to how much of the supplement you are taking in throughout the day.

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If you’re considering a dietary supplement, the first thing to do is speak to your health care provider. This could be a doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian. He or she can help you to determine whether you should take a supplement and if so, how much. You should keep a record of the supplements that you take, as you would if you were taking prescription medication. Include the name of the product, the dosage you take, and how often you take. Write down why you use each product. You can keep this record and take it along when you see your physician.