Supplements, too many to chose from!

Have you been in the health food store lately? Or, for that matter, Wal-mart, the grocery store or the pharmacy? The shelves are lined with supplements of all kinds. Confused? Most everyone is! What do I take, how much do I take, should I take liquids or capsules, or tablets? The truth in labeling laws require that herbs and supplements make no health claims or statements. Yet Americans seem to be spending more and more money on supplements-- to the tune of a billion dollars last year alone. No wonder everyone wants a piece of the action.

When talking with the average consumer, some feel they were helped dramatically through the use of supplementation, others say they have several bottles, sometimes dozens and don't feel they have been helped. Is it the wrong herb or supplement-- or was it the brand? Where are we going wrong?

The average individual will use supplements for one of three reasons: the state of their wellness is failing and they are not finding the help they need; they are looking to promote their state of wellness and cut health care costs; or they just think that they should be taking some supplementation. I can't argue with any of those reasons but to just randomly stab in the dark with supplementation use can be a waste of your time and money.

If you are about to embark on a trip to the health food store for supplements, here are some things that will help you pick the right one. Notice I said a trip to the health food store, not Wal mart. All supplements are not created equal. Always buy quality. The other things to keep in mind is getting and using enough-- balance and synergy, the right combination.

Use and bioavailability: The stuff of standardized dose flies in the face of most herbalists including myself. I'm all for regulation, quality and results but to take a pill or capsule of dried herbs containing a standardized dose doesn't mean your body is able to use the nutrients supplied. Herbs are weeds with very hard cell walls-- so hard that our body many times cannot chemically break down the cell wall to reach the phytochemicals inside. So, use liquids, preferably tinctures made with grain spirits. Or, take the dried herb capsule, open it and make a tea.

Balance and synergy: Your body is a chemical factory that needs a proper balance of vitamins and minerals to perform its daily functions. The term RDA, required daily amount, was determined by studies done by the FDA on healthy individuals, being given the bear minimums needed to sustain life; let me stress the last part, bear minimum. Our dietary supply of nutrients and their efficacy is seriously diminished by alcohol, allergies and infections, air pollution and other toxins, smoking and stress. You may need more than the RDA.

The right combination: consider this relationship: bioflavanoids, another kind of vitamin C, needs to be taken with vitamin C or the bioavailability will be severely diminished. Vitamin C also needs to be present for the absorption of iron. Calcium, yes, is necessary for women, especially those reaching towards menopause and after, yet calcium is not bioavailable in the body without magnesium. In fact, if you took your daily diet apart you would find that your diet is more than likely supplying the necessary amounts of calcium. This is where supplementation is the most confusing.

Your health is your responsibility, not the doctor's or anyone else's. Read about any condition that you may have; find out what the experts say. Seek out the help of someone who is knowledgeable about supplementation. Journal your results and remember, your health and wellness is not static-- it is constantly shifting as will your need for supplements.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website May 4, 1999

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