The Safety of Supplements

Digestive Ailments

by Donna Gibson in Donna's Blogs
March 8, 2018

Digestive ailments often call for specific vitamin and mineral recommendations. In turn, you may find yourself standing in a store or searching online, doing your best to choose a safe, quality supplement.

Reflux, heartburn, ulcers, diverticulitis, celiac disease, Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis, pancreatitis, and irritable bowel syndrome can all cause damage within the gut. (This is not an all-inclusive list). Gastrointestinal (GI) ailments may stem from inflammation or they may trigger more serious inflammatory conditions. Depending on what part of the gut is effected, absorption of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients may be compromised. Healing the gut as soon as possible is ideal to alleviate symptoms and to prevent further problems.

The number of people seeking natural methods to heal digestive ailments is on the rise. A Nutritionist skilled in using food as natural medicine can help decrease the need for extra prescription medications that may induce unwelcome side effects. Quality supplements and herbal remedies are often recommended if vital healing foods are not an option due to digestive challenges.

The supplement industry is fast, furious, and often alluring, with the offer of false promises. Products and manufacturers change constantly, bringing new confusing labels for the consumer to decipher. In the past week I set out to review the newest research on available supplements, and changes unfolding within the industry.

I found marketing is clever and ingredients are worrisome; it is a challenge to find a vitamin or mineral supplement with the safest ingredients. There is more to identifying a safe supplement than walking into a health food store. A higher price tag does not guarantee the safety or effectiveness of a supplement. The best path to purchasing a safe product is knowing credible resources and what to avoid.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. They may contain fillers ranging from cyanide to arsenic, or dangerous preservatives and food dyes. The manufacturer carries the responsibility to bring a safe supplement to the consumer market. The FDA is responsible for taking action against a manufacturer if a supplement is found to be harmful or unsafe.

There are non-Federal government organizations who research supplements and then provide reports to the consumer market. The FDA does not monitor these organizations, nor do they take responsibility for the information they provide. Often this information is in the form of scientific research articles, which can be confusing for consumers to understand and interpret. The amount of misinformation available is so confusing at this point, the FDA provides guidelines to try to help consumers identify reputable sources, as well as questionable sources or websites.

As a consumer, you must research how to research supplements, and even then, there is no guarantee you will find accurate information.

Know what to avoid in a supplement:
Fillers such as soybean oil are often hydrogenated and genetically modified; therefore, when taken every day, over time they could quite possibly contribute to another problem arising. Soybean oil will usually be one of the first ingredients.

Common Ingredients to Look Out For:
-Magnesium Stearate: This is a common lubricant coating on supplements so they do not stick to manufacturing equipment, and they are also easier to swallow. This can be a by-product of other hydrogenated oils with dangerously high levels of pesticides.
-Synthetic Food Coloring: Food dyes have been linked to ADD and behavioral problems in children.
–FD&C Blue No.
–FD&C Blue No. 2

–FD&C Green No. 3 
–FD&C Red No. 3
–FD&C Red No. 40

–FD&C Yellow No. 5    
–FD&C Yellow No. 6
-Titanium Dioxide
-MSG (also commonly labeled as “natural flavor”)

There are many more. This is a short list of common unsafe ingredients.

Herbal Remedies, Teas, Spices
When purchasing natural remedies such as tea, spices, or herbs in a capsule or liquid form, be informed on reputable brands to choose. If you can’t find them locally, you can usually find them on Amazon. We are an Amazon Affiliate and the links below show the actual products I choose, in my opinion, in my own home to use, if and when they are necessary.

Gaia Herbs is my first choice for herbal remedies in a capsule or liquid form. They use quality glass packaging and hold high standards for production. I find their teas highly effective as well. Gaia is my go to for a Turmeric supplement, and it contains the needed synergistic black pepper. As Turmeric’s natural anti-inflammatory and healing properties become more accepted in Western medicine, more manufacturers are producing Turmeric to meet the demand. Gaia has a long-standing quality Turmeric supplement. Gaia Turmeric

Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and soothes the digestive system; providing relief from nausea, cramping, and heartburn. You can buy ginger root at the grocery store to make your own tea. There is also crystallized ginger and packaged ginger tea available. Many people turn to ginger tea as a portable option. When appropriate, a ginger capsule from Gaia is an option. Recommendations should be per case by a Holistic Nutritionist or a Holistic MD. Gaia Ginger

Tea is powerful medicine, and often more affordable than supplements. Again, be an informed consumer. Tea bags can be bleached and heavily coated in pesticides. This is a situation where a few extra dollars (if not more) is worth it. Nourishing the digestive system with natural remedies can help alleviate symptoms and bring much-needed relief.

Lemon Ginger tea helps to decrease gas and bloating, warms you internally and soothes your stomach.
Lemon Ginger Tea
Organic Ginger Tea

Common Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Important Fact: Many people take all of their vitamins, minerals, and supplements at one time. Please read the label instructions or go to a trusted source for the ideal time of day to take a specific supplement. Knowing foods or other supplements that interfere with absorption is key to allowing each supplement to work.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is usually a standard recommendation from health care practitioners; doses range from 1000 International Units daily to 5000 International Units daily when purchasing over the counter. If Vitamin D levels are too low, a doctor may prescribe a higher dose for a set period of time. Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system, boosts your mood, helps maintain healthy bone mass, and supports energy levels. This is the short list of benefits of Vitamin D – not to mention how many protective and preventative properties it holds.

Vitamin D is a hormone, therefore a deficiency may impact sleep, stress, and mood. Vitamin D stores in the body so finding the right dosage for you is important. Too little or too much can create problems. The first step is knowing your levels if you need to restore the balance of Vitamin D in your body, and then maintain a good level over time. Don’t forget that 10 minutes of sunshine is a good source of Vitamin D! Vitamin D rich food sources should always be incorporated if possible.

For Vitamin D, I like Garden of Life when there is anything awry in the gut due to the added benefits of some digestive enzymes. These enzymes may help break down food a bit more and encourage further absorption.
Garden of Life Vitamin D – 2000 iu
Garden of Life Vitamin D – 5000 iu

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are often overlooked until symptoms become more serious. B12 supplementation is essential for vegans and vegetarians. Stress often plays a role in the development of a B12 deficiency. Auto-immune digestive disorders can spark a B12 deficiency. A Vitamin B12 deficiency can be dangerous. Having your Vitamin B12 tested during a physical is a good idea. Symptoms may include, (but are not limited to), fatigue, muscle weakness, breathlessness, anemia, blurry vision, and cognitive difficulties. Correcting a serious B12 deficiency can take weeks to months or longer. Addressing the underlying causes of the deficiency is a must.

When choosing B12, I recommend the liquid in the form of Methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin has a small amount of cyanide in the formula, “cyan”. The research states it is broken down quickly and harmless, but Methylcobalamin is stated to be the most effective form of B12.
B12 Liquid

Imbalances between healthy bacteria and “bad bacteria” may occur in a healthy GI System. A quality probiotic supports the immune system and helps to ward off illness. Probiotic-rich foods nourish the digestive system. Examples of probiotic-rich foods include kefir, plain yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, and pickled foods such as beets.

A daily probiotic supplement supports digestive wellness.

Garden of Life Probiotic contains 40 Billion Live Cultures. The next product down in this line is 30 Billion. 50 Billion comes in at the winning number according to recommendations. 30 Billion may work for some, depending on other factors in your intake. Other products offered by this brand target gender, age, and specific health conditions. Supplements are not to be taken lightly (no pun intended). If you need help deciding what may be right for you, feel free to reach out.

In my opinion, liquid vitamins should be considered first if possible. Absorption problems lurking in the digestive system may hinder the ability to absorb a capsule or tablet. Some brands allow you to open the capsules and pour the contents into water to drink them versus swallowing pills. Look for supplements with fewer ingredients and remember there are ingredients listed under the “label”, meaning they are usually printed under the square box that lists the amounts of the % Daily Value for the Vitamin itself. These are easy to miss! “Natural” has no credence as to safety or effectiveness. 

There is no perfect supplement to replace the natural vitamins and minerals we obtain from nourishing food. Our bodies recognize food in its natural state and can easily digest and absorb nutrients when the GI system is in good working order. When we need supplementation, choosing quality is imperative to our health. Seek advice from a knowledgeable professional. Check labels on products you get in the habit of using; the ingredients may change over time. Sometimes you have to pick the best of the products you can find, but there are times I have walked away empty-handed to find a safer product.

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