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Supplements: A Guide for Body Health in 2021

Supplements: A Guide for Body Health in 2021

Have you considered taking supplements? This is a choice many people make in pursuit of a healthier body, more energy, or other possible advantages. The variety of supplements out there can make it intimidating to just jump in without advice. How do you choose the right one? How do you stay safe?

This short guide will introduce you to some of the most common and essential questions about taking supplements. You’ll learn some facts you can use to take the next steps, such as what supplements are, why people choose to take them, and where to find them.

  • What is a supplement?
  • What reasons do people have for taking supplements?
  • Do I need a prescription for supplements?
  • What are the most widely used supplements?
  • Where are supplements available?

What is a Supplement?

A supplement (also commonly referred to as a dietary supplement) is an edible that is taken by the mouth and designed to provide nutrients that “supplement” your existing diet.  

They are often taken by people who would have trouble accessing the nutrients through their normal diet. Sometimes, the access may come down to location. For example, it’s hard to get fresh fruit in some parts of the world in winter. 

However, even people who have access to natural sources may want to use supplements to support their personal choices. For example, vegans may choose to supplement with calcium because that particular nutrient is hard to access in the right concentrations in a plant-based diet.

There are hundreds of other circumstances where a supplement might be used to improve access to a nutrient. Accordingly, dietary supplements are available in dozens of forms to match the nutrients they contain. You may be able to find:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Softgels
  • Gelcaps
  • Powders
  • Liquids

Supplements are often kept in the form that makes their nutrients easier to digest. For example, supplements that need to be processed deeper in the digestive system may be covered by caps and shells that prevent them from dissolving too quickly. Other supplements may be powders or liquids so they can be absorbed quickly into the body.

Why Do People Take Supplements?

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People take supplements for many different reasons. In many cases, they are trying to achieve a healthy result. However, supplements are also taken with the goal of testing human limits. Any of the following common reasons for taking supplements may apply to you:

To balance special diets

Supplements can help you balance out special diets that may be depriving you of one or several types of nutrients. Veganism was one example that was discussed earlier, but there are many reasons you might be placed on a restrictive diet. You may also be placed on one of these diets if you’re:

  • Recovering from medical procedures
  • Preparing for surgeries
  • Trying to identify food intolerances
  • Trying to aggressively lose weight

To slow down the signs of aging

Scientists are currently exploring links between vitamin deficiencies and the signs of aging. Preliminary testing has shown that a Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to facial signs of aging. Vitamin deficiencies have been linked to many other physical problems such as pale appearance, and sunken features.

With the right assessment, you may be able to identify vitamin deficiencies that are contributing to early signs of aging. Supplements can help you re-introduce the vitamins that you’ve been missing back into your diet.

To achieve peak performance

The body requires heavy concentrations of some nutrients in order to develop muscles of a certain size, or at a certain speed. These concentrations can not be easily obtained from natural foods.

You may have heard of “protein powder”, or other workout enhancers. These are common types of supplements. They often include concentrations of protein, calcium, Vitamin D, and other nutrients essential for building muscle.

To help with temporary shortages

Many events can deplete your body’s natural reserves of nutrients. For example, an illness or episode of over-exertion can drain important nutrients that need to be recovered before you’ll feel back to normal. 

Supplements may help your body recover more quickly by supplying it with uncommon nutrients in more concentrated amounts.

To adapt to seasonal changes

Diet and lifestyle changes that occur throughout the year can change your access to certain nutrients. For example, when the weather turns cold and you head indoors, you can expect to absorb fewer nutrients from sunlight. Supplements can help you compensate for the effect these habit changes have on your body.

What Are the Most Widely Used Supplements?

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In a recent consumer survey performed by the Council for Responsible Nutrition in 2019, several thousand US adults were polled about their supplement usage. This data formed the basis for some research into the most widely used supplements. 

Among adults, some of the most popular dietary supplements were:

  • Multivitamins: Multivitamins are designed to provide a spectrum of benefits to the people who take them. The vitamins that are included may be focused on providing benefits based on age, activity level, or diet.
  • D Vitamins: D vitamins are associated with bone health. Sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D, but may not be around all year in all areas. A deficiency can cause serious health problems. You can supplement with several different D vitamins, including D3. 
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is associated with the health of the immune system, and helps to repair body tissues. It is available in rich amounts in citrus, greens, and some peppers. Many people supplement with Vitamin C during cold and flu season in the hopes that it will help them resist infections.  
  • Protein: Protein is used to develop and repair muscles. Athletes and bodybuilders need a significant amount of protein to achieve fitness goals. Many of them choose to supplement with protein powders made from whey, soy, and other high-protein ingredients.  
  • Calcium: Calcium is another nutrient that is associated with bone health. Vitamin D allows calcium to be absorbed more effectively. They are often taken together or combined into multivitamins.  
  • B Vitamins: B vitamins help the body to function properly. These vitamins can be harder to find naturally but may appear in organ meats, eggs, legumes, and yeasts. Some report that supplementing with B12 gives them an extra sense of energy. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids have been connected to cardiovascular health. The body cannot make these acids on its own, and they can be difficult to fit into a diet. Significant amounts are only found naturally in cold-water fatty fish, plant oils, and seeds. Supplements can contain much higher concentrations.
  • Green tea: The health benefits of green tea include high amounts of antioxidants. Green tea supplements concentrate many cups worth of green tea into swallowable tablets or pills. 
  • Magnesium: This nutrient has been associated with several important health factors including the management of blood pressure and blood sugar. The symptoms of a deficiency can be serious and may include nausea and loss of appetite. However, a magnesium deficiency is uncommon except in medical cases.
  • Iron: Iron is an essential nutrient, and failing to get enough of it may result in illnesses like amenia. Vegetarians and vegans often choose to supplement with iron because it is most easily available in meat. Doctors may choose to treat deficiencies with supplements rather than diets.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E is believed to support eye health and immune function. It is one of the most popular supplements for those who want to fight the signs of aging. It is not well-proven to provide anti-aging benefits. 
  • Turmeric: Turmeric is a popular supplement that may affect the digestive system, respiratory system, or other parts of the body. It does not provide an essential nutrient.

  • Do I Need a Prescription for Supplements?

    You will not need a prescription to purchase supplements, though it can be a good idea to speak to your doctor before you make any serious changes to your diet.. Supplements are not considered to be drugs and don’t present serious risks unless instructions are ignored. 

    It is important that you always remember not to attempt to treat vitamin deficiencies yourself. If you believe you’re missing out on a nutrient, supplements may help. However, if you already have an advanced long-term nutrient deficiency, you may be experiencing side effects that need medical treatment. 

    Additionally, you should not attempt to diagnose any problem as a deficiency on your own. What appears to be a deficiency may in fact be a different underlying condition. Failure to treat the right condition can put you at risk.

    Where are Supplements Available?

    Supplements are widely available nearly everywhere. Look for them:

    • In your local grocery store: Grocery stores in your area can be a great source for a variety of supplements. Complex multivitamins and other dietary supplements can often be found in their own section. You may also be able to find protein powders from different brands.
    • In your pharmacy: Most pharmacies carry a rich selection of supplements. These smaller stores may choose to focus on wellness supplements to appeal to customers who are shopping for medicines. 
    • At your gym: Your gym may have a better selection of protein powders, recovery formulas, and bulk-building multivitamins than you’ll find at other stores. They may carry some supplements that are exclusive to their brand or location. 
    • At your beauticians: Salons, like many other types of businesses, can often be found with a selection of supplements. These supplements are often focused on improving your appearance or protecting the results of your beauty treatments. 
    • Online: Nearly every type of supplement that is available can be found online. With enough guidance from your doctor or other trusted expert, you can find supplements that are designed to match special diets, rare disorders, or specific lifestyles.  

    Is It Time to Try Supplements?

    Now could be the right time for you to find out what supplements can do for you.

    As you’ve learned, people take supplements for many different reasons. They may help you if you have trouble accessing the nutrients you need in your own diet. You may also find them helpful if you are recovering from an illness, trying to become an athlete, or adapting to the fact that you can’t go outdoors like you used to. 

    When you’re ready to try experimenting with supplements, there are many markets that are waiting to serve you. Remember that you may be able to find the supplements you need at your local grocery store or pharmacy. You can also try your gym if you want muscle-building supplements or beauty parlors if you need anti-aging supplements.

    If you have trouble finding any supplements, remember that nearly every supplement available for sale can be found online. Try stores like WellSpring first when you need supplements to save some time. 

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