Food Supplements_2: right questions to choose them well

Article by Solongevity Research
As mentioned in the first article of this guide, dietary supplementation is not universal: there are no “the best” dietary supplements that are good for everyone, but their choice should vary according to age, gender and health status, as well as the goals you want to achieve. But, in practice, what does that mean? To understand it, we propose a series of questions that can help you draw a first personal profile and, eventually to share it with a nutrition professional to proceed for a tailored food supplements integration plan. Keeping a food diary for some time helps to understand if your nutrition habit is unbalanced and suggest for tests to identify possible nutrient deficiencies.

How do I feel?

It is certainly the first question to start with and includes both psychological and physical as well as cognitive well-being. There are physiological conditions that require special attention. For women, for example, are pregnancy, breastfeeding and perimenopause or menopause. Being followed by professionals in these cases is really a must, because the metabolism changes considerably. It goes without saying that this question implicitly contains another one: how old am I? Be careful, however, because there is not only the anagraphic age, but also the biological age, strongly influenced by both genetics and lifestyle.

Do I have any illnesses?

Are food supplements drugs? This is a very frequent question and the answer is no. This, however, does not mean they do not have any health effects: on the contrary, they can be very useful, especially for preventive purposes. As we already mentioned, even a simple gastritis can modify the absorption of nutrients. An health check up is always useful, because it also helps to become aware of some conditions that can be the onset of chronic diseases in the long run. These conditions are mostly reversible if tackled on time.  For example, dyslipidemia or other conditions can lead to metabolic syndrome, which is often underdiagnosed. The syndrome also has a metabolic impacts thanks to its demanded drugs, because some of them reduce or interfere with the absorption and synthesis of nutritional principles as side effect. For example, statins reduce vitamin Q10 absorption, beta-blockers and diuretics interfere with the B-vitamin group and trace minerals, and acetaminophen interferes with endogenous glutathione production.

How do I eat? 

We’ve already mentioned it but it’s worth pointing it out: many of us manage to get enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients through food. The diet, however, must be very varied and well balanced, on the model of the Mediterranean diet. It is not always so simple, due to the chronic lack of time and stress that plague our lives. And often we believe we eat much better than we actually do. To get an idea of our diet, the advice is to keep a diary for a few weeks: if something is missing or consumed excessively, it will immediately jump out at you, eventually at  your nutritionist.

Do I have food intolerances or allergies, or conditions that affect nutrient absorption? 

If the answer is yes, this is essential information to report to professionals drafting your dietary supplement plan. The doctor, if not already aware of it, can prescribe in-depth examinations to assess the presence of the disorder and how much it affects the intake of nutrients. Results in hand, you will proceed to fill any deficits by choosing the most suitable products. Even a simple gastritis, for example, can modify the ability of our body to digest and absorb nutrients, so even the formulation and dosage of a supplement could change.
Dietary supplementation is not universal: it’s not the same for everyone and changes based on age, gender, health status, and the goals you want to reach


Do I follow a particular diet?

People who follow particular diets and avoiding certain foods, if they fail to balance and diversify their diets sufficiently, are more likely to suffer from nutrients deficiencies. Vegan people, for example, since they exclude any food of animal origin, are more likely to not get enough vitamin B12 and some essential amino acids. The same can happen to older people. Even those who are simply dieting or fasting, maybe following the fashion of the moment, may have deficiencies. In this regard, it should be remembered that food supplements taken in the proper way do not make you fat. Practicing physical activity, especially if frequent and high intensity, can affect nutrient requirements

Do I engage in physical activity? If so, what and how?

In order to understand if we need to supplement our daily diet, it is important to frame our lifestyle. Nutrient needs, in fact, change based on daily consumption and habits, such as the physical activity and the frequency and intensity of training. For instance, a regular workout activity (3 times a week, 30′) and their predominance (aerobic or anaerobic, intense or resistance) can really suggest for a complete different set of food supplement

What tests are useful ? 

Laboratory diagnostics can really help us in understanding deficiencies and specific supplementation needs. There is the possibility to assess the status and deficiency of all major vitamin groups (for example A, D, K, C, B) and also of oligoelements (copper, iron, etc..). These examinations are sometimes expensive: the cost can be around a few hundred euros if you wanted to do them all, and it is for this reason that they are not normally prescribed by the family doctor, and covered by NHS, unless there are obvious symptoms of deficiency. Actually it is a very useful health investment for those who want to start a tailored nutritional and food supplementation plan and anticipate physiological and pathological problems related to the lack of basic nutritional principles. It is a checkup that should be repeated periodically, especially during important transitions in our lives.
Before the interview with the doctor or nutrition professional, it is useful to draw an initial personal profile and define your goals.

What are my objectives?

The reasons why a person starts to think about the need to integrate his or her diet can be the most varied: the solutions will therefore be just as varied and specific to the objective to be achieved. Some people, for example, are more susceptible than others to seasonal diseases and could look for a way to support their immune system. Others suffer from recurrent cystitis and need to rebalance their microbiota. it is key to establish the goal in advance and, helped by a professional,  if there are really any valid products, scientifically tested, to leverage on. Once these products have been identified, we need to understand if it is possible to measure their effectiveness on us. The questions to ask then are
  • Are there any biomarker or health data to properly and objectively describe my current status ?
  • What kind of results can I expect and how long after taking the supplement?
  • How often should I track the pertinent biomarkers?
  • In addition to taking supplements, what else should I do to maximize their effectiveness?

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