Happy, hot July! With summer fully in swing, I hope you’re able to enjoy some of the perks of this season and the amazing beauty our province has to offer this time of year.

This post we’re looking at how to identify quality supplements, and what the bare supplement necessities are to enhance our overall well-being.

Buying supplements used to be as easy as walking into the health food store and asking for some Vitamin C or a multi-vitamin. Not anymore! In the last decades, the natural health movement has exploded and now the average person is confronted with more choices than ever before. Which one to choose? Like shopping for a pair of jeans, one quickly discovers that one size never fits all.

I am a firm believer that supplements can play a key part in enhancing our body’s natural abilities to heal itself. However, there are a few important things to note:

  1. Taking a supplement on its own will NOT bring optimal health… but practicing a healthy lifestyle of eating a nutritious wholefoods diet, exercising daily, obtaining adequate sleep and weekly rest along with maintaining a positive mental/emotional outlook, together with quality supplements, can radicallytransform your life.
  2. It takes anywhere from 4-6 weeks (depending on the person) for your body to really notice the difference a quality supplement makes. Don’t give up!
  3. Keep in mind that just like any medication, supplements should be taken only after considering your own unique health needs. It is important to consult first with a knowledgeable practitioner regarding safe doses, potential side effects, and drug/herb/other interactions.

Lastly, don’t forget two of nature’s best supplements that are abundant at this time of year – sunshine and fresh air! If possible, get outdoors where you can spend a moderate amount of time in the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. It will do your body good!

What is really important?

With the huge selection available to us on the market today, how can you identify a quality product that is safest and most effective for you?

  1. Good Ingredients: There are basically 4 kinds of supplements on the market – pure chemical isolates, impure chemical isolates, herbs, and whole food. If you can, choose a whole foods-based supplement. The body can recognize and use natural ingredients more effectively than a synthetic/chemical supplement.
  2. Excipients: These are the “other” or “non-medicinal” ingredients you will see listed on the products label (ie. fillers, binders, coatings, flavours, etc.). While not all are bad, many commonly-used excipients register some level of toxicity and are potentially allergenic. This can affect how the body absorbs and uses the nutrients, and can also suppress the immune system. Where possible, buy “excipient-free” products, preferably capsules over tablets, or ones with vegan-based excipients.
  3. Form: Is your supplement a capsule, caplet, softgel, tablet, powder, or liquid? Some forms are easier to absorb than others. Look for powders, liquids, solvent-free vegetable capsules or vegetable-source gelatin capsules. They are safer and easier to digest.
  4. Dosing: How much of a supplement should you be taking? Not all supplements will contain adequate amounts of the necessary ingredient to have a marked, “therapeutic” effect. Dosing requirements will vary from person to person and case to case. Discuss adequate dosing levels with a knowledgeable healthcare professional to ensure safety and therapeutic effectiveness.
  5. Price: Everybody likes to save money, but with supplements (as with many things) it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for. Don’t let a “bargain” be the deciding factor. Give more importance to what you’re getting inside the bottle.
  6. Reputable manufacturer: A reputable company will create supplements based on solid research, buy the best raw ingredients, pay independent labs to test their products for authenticity, and conduct their own human clinical trials. Don’t hesitate to contact the company or manufacturer to ask for verification of quality. Good companies have nothing to hide. (Open the pdf link below to find out some good questions to ask.)

For the expanded version of this information, click here.

Dr. Sarah Sjovold is a Naturopathic Doctor practising at Livstil Wellness Clinic. She regularly sees patients in the Langley and Surrey area looking for help with digestion, detoxing. and immune support.

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