Dietary supplements: benefits, types, intake rules and possible problems
Advertising positions dietary supplements as a genuine panacea for most diseases and health issues. In fact, they can be both harmful and beneficial to the body.
Concentrates of natural and biologically active substances fall under the definition of biologically active additives or dietary supplements. The following raw materials are used for manufacturing them:
- Medicinal plants
- Substances of mineral, animal and marine origins
The American chemist Carl Renborg was the first person to create a biological supplement. While in prison, Renborg set up a goal of making food more wholesome for inmates. As a result, he invented a substance that contained crushed nails, plants and herbs.
A true boom in dietary supplements occurred in the second half of the previous century. At that time, substances for weight loss gained wide recognition. However, many of them failed to deliver the promised effect and only caused harm to people’s health.
The modern dietary supplement market is very diverse. There is no unambiguous opinion on the part that official medicine plays regarding their effectiveness or harmfulness. The result of taking such supplements depends on several different factors:
- Individual characteristics of the body
- The person’s lifestyle
- Physical activity
- Presence of various diseases
Of the utmost importance is the quality of a specific dietary supplement, its production technology, and the raw materials being used. Dietary supplements made on a natural basis in compliance with all safety regulations are indeed capable of having a positive impact. It manifests itself in the following ways:
- Saturating the body with useful trace elements and vitamins. Often it’s impossible to get them in the required amount from food.
- Enhancing the protective functions of the body. A properly selected supplement can strengthen the immune system and prevent certain diseases.
- Getting rid of toxins. The components present in some dietary supplements normalize metabolic processes. Plus, they contribute to the removal of harmful substances accumulated in the body due to improper nutrition and poor ecology.
Biologically active substances of high quality can help the body recover faster after taking synthetic medications and antibiotics. They support the normal functioning of internal organs and body systems.
The fact that selected dietary supplements have health benefits does not mean that you can use them to treat any type of diseases. They fundamentally differ from standard medicines in the following aspects:
- Are devoid of a clear chemical formula
- Have a unique recipe
Another feature of dietary supplements is that they impact the whole body in a complex way and not only in a specific organ.
Varieties of dietary supplements
There are several types of dietary supplements. Each of them is characterized by certain properties and effects that it produces on the body.
Nutraceuticals contribute to the enrichment of the body with individual nutrients. The spectrum of their effects consists in the following:
- Rapid compensation for the shortage of missing elements
- Boosting the body’s resistance to negative environmental factors
Due to the immunomodulatory properties of nutraceuticals, they are able to remove toxins. This group of supplements is used to prevent cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Herbal teas, herb collections and plant extracts as well as animal and bee waste products are classified as parapharmaceuticals. They can both have an overall restorative effect and improve the work of specific organs. In this aspect, parapharmaceuticals are similar to the impact of drugs.
The third category of biologically active substances is represented by prebiotics and probiotics that have a positive effect on the intestinal microflora. They are often used as a therapy to restore the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract after poisoning or a course of taking antibiotics.
In addition to their features of action, biologically active additives are classified by composition. There can be herbal, mineral or animal. Vitamin complexes are isolated in a separate type.
The use of biologically active additives is determined not only by their composition and variety but also by the rules of intake. To get the maximum positive result, it is necessary to adhere to certain recommendations:
- Follow a specific intake schedule. Take them only in the morning, or in the morning and in the evening, but always at the same time.
- Avoid taking medications with food. It’s better to take them 15 minutes before or after a meal. Thanks to that, dietary supplements will be less affected by gastric juice and will be better absorbed. The exception is a specific type of substance that you should take with food.
Certain products neutralize the beneficial effect of taking biologically active substances and make their intake useless. These products include oatmeal and coffee. After consuming them, you need to wait about an hour and only then, take supplements.
The drinking regime requires special attention. You should drink at least 1.5 liters of water per day. Without this, the dry components contained in the dietary supplement will not produce a proper beneficial effect on your body.
Water also helps avoid the intoxication of the body with harmful substances and toxins that have been removed from cells and tissues. If there is not enough water, these products will get into the intestines and cause a violation of its normal operation. Plus, they can provoke headaches and malaise.
A biologically active supplement can be either useful or harmful to the body. It depends, first of all, on its quality. Despite the fact that the production and sale of dietary supplements are strictly controlled, there are a large number of low-quality and counterfeit products on the market. Therefore, you should be as careful as possible when choosing dietary supplements.
It’s best to buy them in pharmacies. All products distributed through them undergo thorough inspections and are stored in compliance with all necessary requirements.
Another option is to purchase supplements in sports nutrition stores. The products presented in them are also subjected to thorough checks.
The least reliable way of buying biologically active substances is through network marketing agents. In their work, they focus on sales volumes and maximum profit. They rarely pay enough attention to the quality of the products sold or their safety for people’s health. Dietary supplements acquired in this way will be simply useless for you. Even worse, they might harm your body.
Even a high-quality dietary supplement can be harmful to your health. This happens in three cases.
The first is the most common — it’s unsupervised use. It’s strictly forbidden to take this or another type of supplement, guided by your own desire, or from advice from friends or from promises shown by ads. You should coordinate the intake of any dietary supplements with a doctor. Otherwise, there is a risk of overdosing on certain elements. You should first pass a test for an allergic reaction to the components contained in the product.
The second issue is an overdose of a biologically active substance. Many people who want to strengthen or accelerate the result (for example, weight loss) start taking dietary supplements in large doses. This doesn’t deliver the desired effect in any way but tends to cause health problems.
The third situation, fraught with negative consequences, is associated with the simultaneous intake of dietary supplements and other drugs (supplements or medications). The individual components present in these products can be totally incompatible with each other.
For example, the simultaneous use of calcium and iron leads to the fact that both of these substances fail to get absorbed and become useless. Ginkgo Biloba worsens blood clotting, so its use is contraindicated before surgery. This proves once again that to take any biological supplements, you need to get a doctor’s permission.