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 Nutritional Medicine: Practical Guidelines: Buying and Taking Supplements 
 

Occasionally timed-release pills are not properly timed, so that the tablet does not disintegrate and dissolve in time or in the right place to be well absorbed from the intestinal tract. Most plain supplements are fairly well absorbed and utilized, so a slow-release form is unnecessary. There are two exceptions to this that are worth mentioning. One is vitamin B3, or niacin, which can cause a temporary flush of the skin, but is less likely to do so in timed-release form. (Remember, however, that the timed-release form is more likely to cause liver problems in some people.) The other valuable timed-release supplement is iron, which often causes some constipation and indigestion in plain form. It is usually better tolerated as timed-release iron fumarate. The common drug-store variety, iron sulfate, seems to be the worst for causing constipation.

Combination Supplements
Except for a multivitamin and a few simple combinations, it is better to take your individual nutrients in separate pills. This makes it easier to change the dose of one nutrient without having to alter many others at the same time. It is almost invariably less expensive to take separate nutrients, but you can expect to take from six to 10 pills twice per day for a comprehensive, basic supplement program. This is assuming you are healthy. If you have a health problem, you might end up taking 10-15 pills twice a day. For vigorous longevity programs, you may end up taking quite a few more.

Manufacturers make specific combinations to distinguish their product from othersÑto establish a position, or "market niche." Such "exclusive" products can often command a higher price. Do not be drawn in by their exaggerated claims. A product may well have all of the claimed benefits, but is it worth the price? Compare the ingredients (mg to mg, or IU to IU) and the price. Once you have an established program with which you are satisfied, then you might find a few combinations that meet your needs, and you can use them to reduce the number of pills that you take.

If you find that a particular brand works for you and it is reasonably priced, stay with it. You might want to ask your health practitioner for advice. If you haven't tried comparable products, you would be wise to shop around for price. Ask how long a brand has been on the market. Most of the reliable companies have been around for a while. (Of course, new reliable companies do appear in the marketplace.)

There was a time when there were more unscrupulous companies selling dietary supplements, but as the industry has matured they have formed trade groups to help monitor each other. Also, the consumer is becoming more sophisticated at evaluating supplements, because there are frequent articles in the newspapers and magazines on the topic. Companies now have to keep on their toes if they are to stay in business, and they have to sell effective, competitive products.

When to Take Supplements
Most of the time, it is a good idea to take supplements with food. Nutrients occur in nature as combinations with each other and with other substances in foods. Generally, they work together in digestion, absorption and other physiological processes. Also, it is much easier on the digestion to take supplements with food. Supplements are concentrated, and sometimes they can cause digestive upset or abdominal discomfort when taken in large doses on an empty stomach.

Single nutrients, such as vitamin C can usually be taken at any time, in almost any dose, without upsetting your system. Taking a drink of pure vitamin C powder mixed with dilute fruit juice is actually refreshing, and it is an easy way to take a large dose.

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 About The Author
Michael Janson MDMichael Janson, M.D., is past-president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine and the American Preventive Medical Association. He founded one of the first holistic medical practices in New England......more
 
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