Have you ever purchased a vitamin/supplement for a specific purpose only to be disappointed that it ‘didn’t work’? I think we have all experienced this at some point or another. The major downfall of having supplements so readily available is that many people think they are simple to self-prescribe.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Dose: Did you take enough to achieve an outcome? Therapeutic dose is the amount of medication used to achieve a desired effect. Dietary supplements are like drugs in that a certain dose needs to be administered in order for them to work. This dose varies by individual and by the condition being treated. Timing of dose can also be a factor. For example, herbal supplements are often better absorbed on an empty stomach.
Duration & Consistency: How long did you take it for? Some products may take up to 8 weeks or longer before major improvements occur. Others may produce effects in a matter of a few days. The typical time it takes to receive benefit from a supplement falls somewhere in between. Consistency and patience are key.
Digestion/Absorption: When we ingest anything (food or supplements), it must first be broken down (digested) before it can be properly absorbed. If your digestion is poor, you may not be absorbing the product. Also some vitamins need to be taken with fats in order to be absorbed. An example would be Vitamin D (as it is fat-soluble).
Diagnosis: While they may be helpful at times, television shows, health food store employees, & the internet (“Dr. Google”) are poor substitutes for a primary healthcare provider. Take care of yourself! See someone qualified who has clinical experience and the ability to take your entire case into account (not just an isolated symptom). Someone may be taking ginseng because they read that it is good for fatigue…but their fatigue is not resolving because of low iron stores…. Proper diagnosis + proper treatment = better results.
Quality: Most times when it comes to dietary supplements, you get what you pay for. The majority of products found at the drugstore simply don’t make the cut. Why? They are often synthetic and have extremely low bio-availability which means that they are not well absorbed by the body. In most cases, it is well worth it to use high-quality professional line products. Does that mean they all need to be organic and made from whole foods? Not necessarily. For your diet, ABSOLUTELY, it is best to eat an organic plant-based whole foods diet. However, I believe that when then body needs a therapeutic dose of something, the first priority should be to use a highly-bioavailable professional line supplement so that the desired outcome can be achieved (be it raw, organic or otherwise).
I hope this reading has inspired you to think more about the supplements you use and how you use them. With a sea of products on the market and the media on ‘health-information overdrive’, finding what’s right for you can be a daunting task. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional to determine exactly what is right for you.
Dr. Kerri, ND