As a dietitian people think that the first thing that we do is put you on a diet and send you home with a handful of vitamins and supplements.
This is not the case; instead I spend a lot of time taking people off complex and often unnecessary and expensive supplement regimes.
Here are a few things to think about before you take the latest health powder or supplement.
DO YOU NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
If you are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals then a supplement is important and should be taken as prescribed by your doctor.
However, if you have a balanced diet and your blood works you often don't need additional supplements too.
For example, high doses of water-soluble vitamins, such as B6 can cause nerve damage. Whereas high doses of vitamin fat soluble vitamin, such as vitamin A can cause brittle bones, fatigue, joint pain and dry skin.
Supplements can also affect the absorption and function of certain medications.
For example, vitamin C is often taken during the colder months to reduce the duration of colds, but did you know that high doses of vitamin C can affect the effectiveness of acetaminophen, aspirin and warfarin just to name a few?
This is why talking to your GP and pharmacist is so important.
THERE CAN BE SIDE-EFFECTS
So many people come into my clinic on numerous supplements and complain of irritable bowel like symptoms. The interesting thing is when I remove the non-vital supplements, these symptoms often improve or resolve completely.
For example, some women take zinc for their skin and nails but did you know that zinc supplementation can cause gut irritation, nausea and vomiting? Or that high doses of vitamin E can cause nausea, flatulence, diarrhoea and heart palpitations?
Just because they are marketed as a natural product, doesn't mean it's free from side-effects. The regulations around health products are poor.
Health foods such as protein powders, collagen powders and super food boosts are often regulated by Food Standard Australia and New Zealand's guidelines.
A supplement company has recently made news, following the publication of a study showing their health supplements including protein powders and weight loss products caused acute liver failure due to heavy metal contamination, toxic compounds and bacterial contamination. Australia doesn't have mandatory testing for heavy metals, which is how they continue to be sold in Australia today.
Australia needs better testing of health supplements, natural remedies or super food mixes and they should be held to similar standard as medically prescribed drugs.
Never cease medications prescribed by a health professional.
Jessica Ammendolia is an accredited dietitian and nutritionist
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