Written by James Cooper
Last Updated

There are many dietary supplements out there so it can be incredibly confusing to know which one you should be taking, or if you need to be taking anything at all. You should always talk to your doctor before starting on a new supplement, particularly if you are taking medication. 

Taking supplements which you don’t really need can create an imbalance in your body and in some cases could even cause harm so you should always follow the dosage instructions and be careful if you are combining different supplements. 

There are many kinds including vitamins, minerals and also elements such as fish oils which are all included in the supplement family. Some supplements have multiple ingredients including a range of vitamins and minerals. There are also supplements specifically designed to help with sports and exercise, such as creatine, whey protein, amino acids and loads more.

What supplements should I take?

Do you need to take a supplement?

The best option for getting your vitamins and minerals is through a healthy balanced diet but sometimes it can be difficult to manage that, so taking a multi-vitamin can feel like the safest way to boost your intake. However, most healthy people on a healthy diet really don’t need to take anything. 

Do you need to take a supplement?

What about medical conditions?

There are some conditions which might cause a lack of certain nutrients in the body in which case a supplement might be deemed medically necessary. You should always talk to your doctor first if any of the following might apply:

Pregnancy – might require iron or folic acid, or pre-natal vitamins

Children – might require Vitamin D or iron

Restricted diet – might need extra Vitamin B12 or calcium

Over 50 – might need extra Vitamin D and Vitamin B12

Certain bowel/gut conditions – might have trouble absorbing nutrients

If you are worried that you might be lacking in vitamins or minerals due to a health condition or your diet, then you can always get a blood test carried out by your doctor to confirm if this is the case, before starting on any supplements. 

Although it’s fairly rare to experience a severe lack of nutrition, there are some key nutrients which are more common to be lacking in the body, including Vitamin D, Iron, Calcium and Magnesium, due to lifestyle and diet. 

Are there any safety concerns?

While taking a regular multi vitamin won’t cause you any harm, if you combine that with other supplements and food and drink with fortified vitamins, you could end up ingesting more than the recommended amount. 

 

This can cause a variety of problems, ranging from nausea to bleeding. The problem is that supplements are not regulated so it’s hard to tell what’s really inside them. Make sure you tell your doctor about any supplements you are taking. 

Can supplements interact with medication?

Yes, that’s why you need to speak to your doctor. St John’s Wort is a herbal supplement for mild depression but it can prevent the contraceptive pill from working, for example. Supplements can affect how much you might bleed on the operating table, or how effective your anesthetic is?

Here are some key supplements to seek advice on before taking: 

Vitamin A and beta-carotene – high doses of these two can increase lung cancer risk in smokers and cause problems in pregnancy. 

Vitamin C and E – overuse can trigger tumor growth and cause problems with cancer treatment.

Vitamin B12 – too high a dose can lead to anxiety, headaches and dizzy feelings. 

Vitamin D – too high a dose can cause calcium to build up, leading to kidney stones.

What do supplements do?

While a general multi vitamin is proven to support health, along with calcium and Vitamin D which are proven for bone support, other supplements have a lot less scientific backing behind the, for example, ginkgo biloba.

No supplements can cure health conditions so any claims along these lines are not true at all. Omega 3 has been shown to have a beneficial health impact and while vitamins can help to fix a deficiency in your diet, they cannot lower health risks. 

Taking vitamins alone does not protect you against developing conditions like cancer, or heart disease and they also can help to improve your thinking or your memory. These kinds of claims are all bogus. 

What do supplements do?

Conclusion

You should always check with your doctor before starting any kind of new supplement routine and never go over the recommended dosage levels. If you are using a multi-vitamin this might not give you the recommended levels of all required vitamins and minerals. 

When storing your supplements keep them in a dry, dark place such as a cupboard, but don’t store them next to your medication in case you get them mixed up. Taking a supplement can be a great way to top up nutrients missing from your diet but make sure you need them first and check they aren’t going to cause any problems with your health or medications. 

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