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5 Tips to Be Supplement Savvy


Updated January 02, 2007

Tip #1: Keep Track

Make a detailed list of the vitamins and supplements you're taking. Keep running totals - you may be getting a particular nutrient from different sources. For example, your multivitamin may have 2 mg of copper and your arthritis supplement may have 1 mg. Combined, it exceeds the recommended daily maximum.

Keep a copy of your list in your health records. Give a copy to your family doctor - some supplements have been found to interact with medications. For example, St. John's wort may increase the effects of prescription anti-depressants and can also interfere with drugs for HIV, cancer, and birth control, among others.

Tip #2: Get a Pill Box

In order to get the full benefit from the supplements you're taking, you need to be consistent. It's not good enough to take a vitamin everytime you remember. One of the main reasons people give up on their supplements is because they don't notice any effect - because they are not consistent. A pill box can help you stay on track. You can find them at the drugstore. Look for an extra large size.

Tip #3: Save Money By Seeing a Professional

I have found time after time when clients come into my office they are taking the wrong supplements for their needs. I help them streamline their supplement program so they spend less money and get real results. Seeing an alternative practitioner is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your health. To find a practitioner near you, go to the Practitioner Directory.

Tip #4: Stay Informed

The Vitamin and Supplement Guide and Diseases and Health Conditions Center can get you started.

Tip #5: Watch Out For These Common Culprits

  • Unnecessary iron - Men and menopausal women don't lose iron in the same way as menstruating women, so they don't usually don't need to take iron. Iron promotes free radical damage and is suspected to be a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Too much vitamin A - Does it stay within a safe daily limit by providing no more than 5,000 IU of vitamin A a day? The risk of toxicity is with preformed vitamin A (look for retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate on the label and not with the precursor beta-carotene.
  • Excess copper - 1 mg or less of copper each day is a reasonable limit for most people (zinc and copper intake from all sources must be balanced at an approximate ratio of 8:1 zinc to copper. If you are under chronic stress, have a poor diet, are taking oral contraceptives, have anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, fibroids, endometriosis, increased breast cancer risk, or reproductive problems you may need a copper-free formula. If you have copper pipes, you may want to have copper levels tested.
  • Too much vitamin C - Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that excess vitamin C worsened osteoarthritis in animals. Excess vitamin C can also interfere with the metabolism of other vitamins and minerals.
  • Not enough calcium, magnesium, and other bone-building vitamins and minerals - In addition to calcium, the body also needs vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, manganese, and other minerals to prevent osteoporosis.
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