There are many supplements on the market that promise to help improve health, but do they really work? And are they worth the money? In this, the fourth and final piece of the FoodTrients supplements series, we will take a look at some of the most common supplements and their purported benefits. We will also discuss whether getting nutrients from food or supplements is more beneficial for your body so that you get all the answers to whether or not supplements can support you for certain common health conditions.
Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way that drugs are in the U.S. This means that they do not have to go through the same rigorous testing and approval process. Additionally, supplements can interact with medications you may be taking, and they may have side effects. Many of them can actually influence your health in a variety of ways so it is always best to speak with your doctor or registered dietitian before starting any supplement regimen, even if it is something as simple as a multivitamin.
The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is caused by the breakdown of cartilage (rubbery tissue that cushions your joints), causing pain and swelling.
There are many supplements marketed to people with this condition, especially glucosamine and chondroitin. Glucosamine is a compound that may help to rebuild cartilage. Chondroitin is a compound found in cartilage that helps to prevent its breakdown. There is some evidence that these supplements can help to relieve pain and improve joint function. However, they are not a cure for arthritis, and they do not work for everyone.
Some people with arthritis also take omega-3 fatty acid supplements for the anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found that omega-3’s can help to reduce pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune condition). In addition, regular exercise and eating an anti-inflammatory diet can also help to reduce symptoms and improve overall joint health. Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, etc.) and nuts/seeds like walnuts, flax, chia, and hemp all contain omega 3’s if you want a food source for this nutrient.
Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing, commonly triggered by allergens, exercise, and weather changes. While there is no cure for asthma, there are ways to manage the condition and lessen the symptoms.
One approach is to take supplements that support respiratory health including herbs like thyme and ginger, which have been shown to help relax bronchial muscles. Vitamins C and E are also important for asthma sufferers, as they could help reduce inflammation in the lungs. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease mucus production and reduce the severity of asthma attacks for some people.
Mushrooms have also been proven to improve immune function and reduce asthma symptoms. Because they’re a source of fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, and minerals, mushrooms may help support the immune system. While more research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms by which mushrooms help, it is clear that they could be a valuable addition to asthma management for some people.
Cancer affects millions of people around the world and while there is no single cause or cure for this condition, one important factor to consider is diet. Consuming a wide variety of nutritious foods can help to strengthen the immune system and protect against damaging free radicals or support your health during cancer treatment.
Taking supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium could also be beneficial for some types of cancers. Studies have shown vitamins C and D can help strengthen the immune system if you have a deficiency and don’t get enough from the food you eat. Calcium plays an important role in bone health – as does vitamin D – for people with cancer (and everyone!).
Mushrooms such as cordyceps, maitake, turkey tail, shitake have some research to indicate benefits for people with cancer. More research is needed to determine the efficacy and how they work. Mushrooms in cooking do provide vitamins and minerals so, if you’re looking for a way to add in some extra nutrients, consider adding mushrooms to your diet as a start!
Diabetes is a condition that affects the body’s ability to process blood sugar. There are two types of diabetes, type I and type II. Type I diabetes is when the body does not produce insulin at all (an autoimmune condition), and type II diabetes is when the body does not use insulin properly (connections with lifestyle and diet choices). Most dietary supplements are targeted towards type II diabetes.
While lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can help to manage symptoms of type II diabetes, there are also many different supplements and other treatments that claim to help people with this condition. These remedies should be approached with caution, as there is little scientific evidence to support their efficacy for treating or managing diabetes. Keep in mind that if they do work for you, there’s a risk your blood sugars could get too low, especially if combined with medications.
Some herbal remedies have been shown to have certain benefits for people with diabetes including cinnamon and turmeric which have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation. Berberine, an extract from the herb goldenseal, has also been shown to help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
Chromium, a trace mineral, has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. While supplements containing chromium are widely available, there are ways to add chromium in your diet. Find it in foods like whole grains, nuts, and meat.
While more research is needed to confirm the efficacy of these and other herbs for treating diabetes, there is some evidence to suggest that they may offer some benefits in managing your blood sugar. Your doctor and registered dietitian can help you better understand if supplements could be helpful for you.
Certain supplements may help to prevent or manage heart disease. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation and improve heart health. Vitamin D is also thought to protect against heart disease, some studies suggest it can help regulate blood pressure.
In addition, magnesium supplements have been shown to lower blood pressure in some people. Red yeast rice extract is another supplement that has been linked to heart health benefits like lowering cholesterol levels. It can improve how your body processes fats in the bloodstream and it can help your blood circulate better. Red Yeast Rice can interact with certain medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before starting it.
While these supplements can be helpful, it is important to speak with your health team before taking them, as they may interact with other medications. Heart disease is a serious condition, but by making healthy lifestyle choices and taking the right supplements, it is possible to reduce the risk of developing the disease or experiencing complications from it. Dietary changes like increasing fiber and decreasing saturated fat is one of the most powerful things you can do for your heart.
The best way to get the nutrients your body needs is through a healthy diet. However, there are times when supplements can be helpful. If you have a specific health condition, talk to your Registered Dietitian about whether or not supplements may help. They can offer guidance on what types of supplements to take and how much with personalized information just for you.
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2. Turmeric | NCCIH. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric
3. Could Omega-3 Supplements Help With Depression? Accessed May 3, 2022. https://foodtrients.com/news-page/health/omega-3-supplements-help-depression/
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