Are you taking your health supplements correctly?
Keeping our immune system healthy is our top priority.
Keeping our immune system healthy is our top priority. People usually consume vitamins and various health supplements to boost the immune system. Health supplements provide optimum daily allowances of vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids and amino acids missing from our daily diets.
A healthy balanced diet is vital to provide our body with sufficient nutrients to carry out routine tasks. Since our body cannot make the essential nutrients like carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water, the only source to acquire them are from food items or supplements. Despite taking numerous efforts to eat a balanced diet, we fall short of the recommended daily amount of certain nutrients. Also, the food habits of people generally do not provide an adequate amount of nutrients. This often results in deficiency of essential nutrients in our body. Thus, supplements are widely consumed to meet the nutrient demand.
How health supplements help boost the immune system?
Our immune system constantly defends us against pathogens like viruses, toxins, and bacteria. Weakened immune system hampers our defending ability and makes us more prone to many infections. Consuming nutritious food, getting adequate amount of sleep and exercising play a vital role in keeping our immune system healthy. Additionally, research has shown that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness. This is one of the common reasons why doctors prescribe supplements to boost one's immunity and general health.
Monitor your consumption of health supplements
"Too much of everything is not good". Vitamins can help ward off disease and other health problems but excessive consumption of vitamin C supplements may cause nausea, diarrhoea and disruption of the antioxidant balance in the body. So, one must be extra cautious while taking supplements. There is no harm in taking health supplements but we need to make sure that we are taking them properly because if consumed in higher quantities than recommended, may prove to be harmful. An overdose of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, D, E, K, Zinc, etc. can lead to toxicity in the body. And, daily intake of zinc should not exceed 50mg, otherwise, it can cause fever, nausea, fatigue and interfere in the absorption of iron & copper.
Supplements may not be necessary for everyone. They are commonly used to fill in the nutritional gaps and are beneficial for people who may need levels of certain nutrients such as pregnant women and people with food allergies. Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. They need to take Folic acid (400 micrograms) daily. The best ways to get this are from supplements or fortified food. Supplements like vitamin C play a vital role in maintaining good health and are recommended for people who are more prone to seasonal flu or have a history of a weak immune responses. Others can get it by eating a diet rich in green vegetables and citrus fruits.
Right way to take supplements
Take your supplements as directed: Unmonitored intake of health supplements can lead to many ailments in the long run. Therefore, supplements are to be taken as per the dosage recommendations printed on the label or after consulting a doctor. Certain vitamins and minerals can affect the absorption or efficacy of some medications such as anticoagulants, certain antacids and antibiotics. Therefore, it is important to read the label of all of your prescription and OTC medications to understand all the medicines and supplements you take and their potential interactions. Depending on the absorption factors, some supplements should be taken with food and others on an empty stomach.
Be cautious: One must be extremely cautious while taking Iron and Vitamins A, D and E supplements. Excessive intake of iron can build up toxic levels in the heart and liver and can cause fatigue, joint pain, sexual impotence and depression. Overdose can damage your organs or lead to coma and death. Depending on the age, the upper-level intake is 40-45 mg. Vitamins A, D and E are "fat-soluble" vitamins. They are stored in your liver and fat tissue for long periods of time. Excessive intake poses a greater risk for toxicity.
Never substitute for food: Supplements are not meant to be used as a food replacement. They are used as supplements to your diet.
(The author is a Senior Dietician, Aster CMI Hospital)