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  • Writer's pictureamyk73

Are You Taking Too Many Supplements?

From vitamins, minerals, supplements, herbal extracts and protein powders there is a dizzying array of product options when it comes to supplemental nutritional products. While there are many benefits to taking quality supplements there is also a growing concern if we are taking too many and if what we are taking is actually helping our health.

Vitamins and supplements are big business. In fact, they are the fastest growing health segment due to more people turning to natural options to support their health. Concerns over the quality of nutrients found in the food system has also further driven people to consider supplements as necessary to supporting health and well-being.

While supplements can play a valuable role in supporting overall health, there's a fine line between beneficial supplementation and overdoing it. The potential pitfalls of taking too many supplements is severe. By understanding how to use supplements to support our health you can approach supplementation wisely and maximize your benefits from using them.

The Allure of Supplements

Supplements offer a convenient way to fill nutritional gaps, especially for those with dietary restrictions or limited access to certain foods. They are useful in supporting changes in dietary needs, healing, preventing, and overall supporting health and well-being. Additionally, certain ones can be enhancers of vitality, promising everything from improved energy levels to enhanced cognitive function and better athletic performance. Some of these claims are legitimate and some misguide us into making purchases for products that don't deliver promised results. With popularity of supplements, comes the responsibility of knowing what is right for our own needs and what is simply good marketing.

I appreciate the availability of supplements to help clients with their health needs as most are derived from nutritional deficiencies. It is long proven that even most diseases start with prolonged chronic deficiency in key vitamins and minerals. However, it is truly important to know that supplements are medicines and should be supplemental to receiving nutrients in the best form the body can process. That process would be through food itself whenever and as much as possible. The other aspect of this is that supplements should not be considered life-long replacements for food nutrients. Like herbal extracts we should be monitoring our need for supplements while focusing on nutritional dietary factors to build up a more natural way of receiving those essential vitamins and minerals.

"Supplements should always be considered supplemental to a diet based on high quality food nutrients." -Amy Kramer, Board Certified Doctor of Naturopathy

The Risks of Over-Supplementation

Despite their allure, supplements come with risks, especially when taken in excess. Here are some of the potential dangers of over-supplementation:

1. Nutrient Imbalances and Gaps Filled by Vitamins and Minerals

Taking excessive amounts of certain vitamins or minerals can disrupt the delicate balance within the body. For example, excessive intake of calcium supplements without sufficient magnesium intake can lead to imbalances that affect bone health and cardiovascular function.

It is also a concern if we think we need a particular supplement because "everyone" could benefit from it. While its true many people can be deficient in a specific vitamin or mineral it does not automatically mean you are too. It also doesn't account for how that specific vitamin or mineral will interact with your specific health needs. This thinking however, results in billions of dollars in sales each year for popular supplements people commonly believe they need.

2. Toxicity of Vitamins and Minerals

Some vitamins and minerals can accumulate in the body to toxic levels when consumed in excess. For instance, high doses of vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, and selenium can be toxic and cause symptoms ranging from nausea and fatigue to organ damage. Likewise, not pairing the supplement with its correct counter-partner can also cause imbalances of excess resulting in toxicity. For example, taking turmeric without black pepper prevents the activation of the curcumin in turmeric. Without this activation process, the body builds up turmeric beyond what it can use and if it is not eliminated, there is a risk of toxicity.


This leads to another consideration of simply taking the wrong thing. This can be from taking an inferior product to not having the right supplement dose, variation, and format for your needs. Taking the wrong vitamin or mineral for your needs can also cause imbalances in your other levels and results in complicated health concerns. It important to understand your nutrient needs and again first try to fulfill them from organic food sources where possible.

Relying on vitamins and minerals while eating a diet in highly processed foods is yet another area where toxicity can occur. In this situation, we get the double whammy of toxicity where the supplements used are not able to counterbalance nutrient needs that are depleted or worsened through dietary choices. This puts stress on the body through and endless tug-of-war for nutrients to repair from the damage caused through processed, manufactured, chemical food products.

3. Interactions:

Supplements can interact with medications or other supplements, leading to adverse effects. For example, St. John's Wort, a popular herbal supplement for mood support, can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications by speeding up their metabolism in the liver. We also see the reverse of this situation where the prescription medication can prevent absorption and use of vitamins and minerals obtained through diet or supplementation creating a deficiency.

It is unfortunately necessary to be aware of the side effects and interactions from prescription medications. There is not one single prescription medication that does not have side effects of some form. Understanding these and questioning them with your medical provider gives you the ability to open the discussion for alternatives, including natural protocols that may be as beneficial but without the side effects.

Where it is not possible to avoid a prescription, then we must address interactions. Being open with your medical doctor on what vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other forms of natural medicine you use is necessary. Additionally, if it is a life-long prescription then working through addressing nutrient deficiencies that may result should also be included in that conversation. For example, heart patients who can no longer drink or consume grapefruit and may miss key nutrients from this gap.

It is important to note, that as your health changes your nutrient needs also change. This results in reviewing that you take for supplements and determining if there is still a need for them or not right now. I personally recommend a Vitamin Check at least bi-annually.

4. Financial Burden:

The cost of purchasing multiple supplements can add up quickly, especially if they're not necessary or effective. Spending money on unnecessary supplements can strain your budget without providing significant health benefits. For many of us, this is a key area of concern.

When working with clients, I always look at what they need nutritionally, what works in their diet for those needs and then where to supplement. I also consider different brands, doses, and ways to meet the nutritional need while honoring budget considerations.

Supplements are not inexpensive. When considering which supplements to choose cost does play a role in that selection process. We sadly do have to balance quality with price to find that balance point in our health. This is why understanding what you actually need and continually monitoring changes can be beneficial to not only saving you money but ensuring what you take is giving you maximum benefit.

Dragonspit Apothecary carries many top quality supplement brands that have a variety of price points to fit your budget.

5. False Sense of Security:

Relying too heavily on supplements may lead individuals to neglect other aspects of health, such as maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. Supplements should complement a healthy lifestyle, not substitute for it. Here again, a vitamin or supplement is only going to help so much in an overall wellness plan to heal and feel your best. You must take other actions to allow that supplement the best chance of working well in your body.

Personally, I think this aspect is an important one for all of our health and anything we take to support it - natural or prescription. Health through a magical pill doesn't exist. Certainly, these things can help but long term, life-long use of them takes away from the body's inherent design, ability to heal and build health. I find we can quickly disregard healthy habits that are necessary for health to thrive in light of taking a pill we believe is making things better all on its own. Eventually, we find that approach doesn't work, results in more dosage levels being required and a gap farther away from ideal health growing instead.

How to Supplement Wisely

While supplements can be valuable tools for supporting health, it's essential to approach supplementation with caution and moderation. Here are some tips for supplementing wisely:

1. Have Regular Vitamin Checks with a Holistic Health Professional

Before starting any new supplement regimen, consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian. They can help assess your individual needs, recommend appropriate supplements, and ensure they won't interact negatively with any medications you're taking. I recommend a Vitamin Check at least bi-annually or as major changes in your health occur.

Your medical doctor also needs to be aware of any nutritional supplements you take when they have made a prescription for you.

2. Focus on Whole Foods:

Whenever possible, aim to obtain nutrients from whole foods rather than relying solely on supplements. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides a wide array of nutrients in their natural form, which is often better absorbed and utilized by the body.

Eliminate processed, manufactured, enriched, chemically derived food products to support ideal absorption and use of vitamins and minerals to the cells.

3. Stick to Recommended Dosages:

Follow the recommended dosages provided on supplement labels, and avoid exceeding them unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional. More isn't always better when it comes to supplements.

I also advise to take only until you don't need them. This is especially true of herbal extracts but relates to all supplements, vitamins and minerals as going beyond your need point introduces the risk of toxicity and diminishing returns. See, the point is to establish the vitamin and mineral levels you need in your body. Once that is achieved, we want to maintain them organically through diet as much as possible.

"The real goal is to not replace your prescriptions with supplements that span your cabinets but to get the body to a place health is managed organically through diet as designed." - Amy Kramer, Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor

4. Periodically Reevaluate:

Regularly reassess your supplement regimen to ensure it aligns with your current health needs. As circumstances change, your supplement needs may also evolve.

A Vitamin Check with your holistic health practitioner is ideal because they will not only review what you currently take in your regularly but look at other aspects of your health to determine if all vitamin and minerals levels are being met. They can also guide you on combinations of supplements to take together, when it makes sense to take certain supplements and offer insights into quality bioavailable brands.

5. Quality Matters:

Choose supplements from reputable brands that undergo third-party testing for quality and purity. It also matters where you purchase your supplements. Many brand labels can be altered by 3rd parties and resold at places like Amazon and Walmart. Seeking quality from trustworthy sources is the best way to ensure you are getting what you pay for and it is going to be the best available. Shopping at your local natural health food store or through your holistic health practitioner can save you money and provide confidence in quality.

While supplements can offer benefits when used appropriately, taking too many can have adverse effects on your health and finances. It's crucial to approach supplementation with caution, focusing on obtaining nutrients primarily from whole foods and consulting with healthcare professionals for quality, support, and guidance. By supplementing wisely and prioritizing a balanced lifestyle, you can support your health without falling into the trap of over-supplementation. Remember, moderation and balance is key to achieving optimal wellness.

Book your Vitamin Check today at Dragonspit Apothecary! This service can be performed virtually or in-person.

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