Taking vitamin and mineral supplements can be a great way to ensure that you're getting all the nutrients your body needs. However, before you start taking any supplements, it's important to ask yourself some important questions to make sure you're making the right choices for your health. This ultimate checklist will help guide you through the process of deciding whether or not to take supplements and which ones to choose.
What are vitamin and mineral supplements?
Before we dive into the questions you should ask before taking vitamin and mineral supplements, it's important to understand exactly what these supplements are, and what they can do for us.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are products that contain vitamins and minerals that are intended to supplement one’s diet and provide additional nutrients that may be missing or insufficient in one’s diet1.
Vitamins and minerals are essential substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally2.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are frequently misused and taken without professional advice2. They are often used as a form of medicine to treat ailments such as colds or to counteract lifestyle issues such as stress2. Contrary to popular belief, vitamins aren’t drugs or miracle cures2.
It’s important to note that while dietitians recommend that you obtain most vitamins and minerals through your diet, this isn’t always possible3. For example, if you don’t consume enough fruits, vegetables, or other healthy foods, a multivitamin may fill nutritional gaps3.
Now that we have an understanding of what vitamin and mineral supplements are, let's talk about the questions you may want to ask yourself before trying them out.
Do I have a deficiency or need for this supplement?
Before taking any vitamin or mineral supplement, it's important to determine whether you have a deficiency or actually need it.
This can be done through blood tests or by consulting with a healthcare professional.
Taking supplements when you don't need them can actually be harmful to your health, so it's important to only take them when necessary.
Additionally, some supplements can interact with medications or other supplements, so it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
What is the recommended dosage and how often should I take it?
The recommended dosage and frequency of taking a vitamin or mineral supplement can vary depending on the specific supplement and the individual's needs.
It's important to read the label and follow the instructions carefully. In some cases, taking the supplement with food or at a specific time of day may be recommended.
It's also important to not exceed the recommended dosage, as this can lead to negative side effects. If you're unsure about the recommended dosage or frequency, consult with a healthcare professional.
Are there any potential side effects or interactions with other medications I am taking?
It's important to consider any potential side effects or interactions with other medications before taking a vitamin or mineral supplement.
Some supplements can interact with prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, or other supplements, leading to negative side effects or reduced effectiveness.
It's similarly important to talk to a healthcare professional before taking any new supplements, especially if you are taking other medications or have a pre-existing medical condition. They can help you determine if the supplement is safe and appropriate for you to take.
Is this supplement from a reputable brand and has it been tested for quality and purity?
Before taking any vitamin or mineral supplement, it's important to ensure that it comes from a reputable brand and has been tested for quality and purity.
Look for supplements that have been certified by third-party organizations, such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or ConsumerLab.com. These organizations test supplements for purity, potency, and quality, and can help you determine if a supplement is safe and effective.
Additionally, be wary of supplements that make exaggerated or unsupported claims, as these may not be backed by scientific evidence.
Can I get the same nutrients from my diet or should I consider a supplement?
It's always best to try to get your nutrients from a balanced and varied diet. However, there may be certain situations where a supplement can be helpful, such as if you have a nutrient deficiency or if you have a medical condition that affects nutrient absorption.
Before taking any supplements, it's important to speak with your healthcare provider to determine if they are necessary and safe for you to take. They can also help you determine the appropriate dosage and type of supplement to take.
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor About Taking Supplements?
Before taking any vitamin or mineral supplements, it's important to consult with your doctor. They can help determine if you actually need the supplement based on your current diet and health.
Let's go over a few additional questions you might want to ask your doctor before considering supplements.
Ask about benefits and risks
It's important to ask about the potential benefits and risks of taking the supplement, as well as the recommended dosage and duration of use. Your doctor can provide you with the information needed to determine if a supplement may be beneficial or detrimental.
Ask about studies and research
You may want to ask if there have been any studies conducted to show that this supplement is safe and effective. It's important to do your research and ensure that you're not putting your health at risk by taking something that hasn't been thoroughly tested.
Ask about potential side effects
One of the most important questions to consider is what possible side effects the supplement may have. Certain supplements may have adverse reactions in specific people or may come with an extreme side effect profile. It's important to research and understand the potential risks and benefits of any supplement before adding it to your daily routine.
One important consideration is whether the supplement could cause excess bleeding, which could be a concern if you are scheduled for surgery. In this case, you may need to stop taking the supplement prior to the procedure.
Ask about possible drug interactions
You should consider whether the supplement may interact with any other medications or supplements you're currently taking. It's also important to ask whether the supplement could potentially reduce or increase the effectiveness of any medicines you're currently using.
Ask about safety during pregnancy
If you are pregnant or nursing, it is especially important to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. Some supplements may not be safe for you or your baby, so it is important to get professional advice before starting any new regimen.
Ask where to report adverse side effects
You may want to know who you should contact if you experience any out-of-the-ordinary side effects. Your doctor should be able to provide you with a number or website to contact if necessary. It's important to be informed and cautious when it comes to taking supplements.