Avoiding the Pitfalls of Supplement Usage


Dietary supplements are so popular and mass consumed these days that there seems to be no need to convince anyone about their benefits. From athletes and bodybuilders to people suffering from allergies or various other conditions that prevent them from consuming certain foods that contain high doses of certain necessary nutrients, people use them as an easy way to achieve desired levels of said nutrients in your body. For instance, in the United States more than half the population uses some form of dietary supplements.

However, supplements don’t come without their own health risks. Uninformed and uncritical usage of supplements can lead to a number of health complications. As with any other foods we introduce into our system, we need to know what we are taking and what effect (both wanted and unwanted) they might have on our overall health. Here are a few potential pitfalls we need to avoid in order to use supplements safely and properly.

Don’t overdo it

As you can already deduce from their name, the main purpose of supplements is to supplement your diet, not to replace it. Our bodies only need a certain amount of certain substances to work at an optimal level, and the goal is to hit that sweet spot – not to push it over the limit. In case of certain supplements such as vitamins A and D or iron, there is a heightened risk of excessive amounts in our system, which can lead to a variety of medical problems. Make sure you follow the suggested dosage guidelines and don’t think that a little bit extra will go a long way.

Don’t forego food

Supplements are basically concentrated amounts of certain nutrients already found in various natural food sources. When given a choice, you should always go for natural food sources rich with desired nutrients than with supplements. Any doctor will tell you that supplements are not a proper replacement for food, because natural food sources also contain other beneficial nutrients. Therefore, over-focusing on supplements can potentially lead to a lack of other necessary nutrients.

Consult a professional

Whenever you’re considering using a new product, a smart thing to do is to talk to your doctor and make sure that it’s safe – doubly so if you already have a medical conditions and taking medicine to treat it. There have been numerous cases of adverse effects involving a combination of medicine and supplements. Just because supplements are generally sold without a prescription, it doesn’t mean that they are safe, or at least not safe for everyone. Don’t leave anything to chance and consult a doctor for an expert assessment of potential risks.

Know what you’re buying

Even though supplements usually come with an “all natural” label, there has been a number of cases where analysis have shown the presence of various non-natural substances, such as steroids or prescription drugs in certain products. The problem here is that supplements exist in a bit of a grey zone, because in a lot of countries (US, for instance) they are legally treated as food, not as medicine, and thus not controlled and tested as strictly as the pharmaceutical industry. Still, that’s not to say that they are not monitored at all. Supplement manufacturers are legally required to list all the ingredients contained in a supplement, so make sure you read the ingredients list carefully.

A lot of supplementary products – especially workout supplements – promise to deliver results in a short time frame. Instead of buying into the hype, try talking to people with experience with supplement usage and seek out brands and products with a solid reputation and a visible track record. Also, be careful of where you’re buying – especially if you’re ordering online. Web stores based in one country may be selling products that are illegal in some other countries, so make sure you order from reliable and reputable suppliers of sports supplements.

In case you experience certain symptoms such as nausea, disorientation or strong headaches, don’t hesitate in seeking out medical assistance. While supplements are generally considered safe for general consumption, adverse effects have been recorded in small percentages, and while these are usually mild medical problems, in some cases they have been severe. Always keep in mind that, when it comes to supplements, the path to a healthier life is found through caution.


Jenny Hahn