The Supplement Series: the six things to watch out for when taking a supplement

The good news is that on the whole we are becoming more and more conscious of the importance of our health and balance within our bodies - especially important for having a healthy baby.

The bad news is that in this day and age being healthy isn’t always so simple….

Hypervitaminosis: a modern day problem:

As a result of our increasing health awareness the supplement and vitamin market has boomed over the last decade or so. Unfortunately it remains pretty unregulated and that means there is a lot of opportunity for certain companies to take advantage of people’s desire to be healthy and sell us products that may actually have the reverse effect.

Hypervitaminosis is becoming an increasing issue. It is essentially when we have far too much/an imbalance of a particular vitamin or mineral in our body. Something that can be dangerous, toxic and have unintended consequences. So what are the key things to watch out for?

ONE: do you really need it? Let’s be honest, we all like a quick fix and all like to feel that by taking a pill we are making our bodies better. Of course in some cases it is absolutely right and necessary to take a supplement and can have great benefit. Vitamin D deficiency for example is something that is increasingly being recognised as an issue, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere or as a result of office based jobs. That being said, if we are taking daily supplements that we don’t need, we can inadvertently be causing imbalances in our body not what you want when you are trying to have a healthy baby…..so….

TWO: get your facts straight: if you feel you may have an imbalance somewhere - ask your doctor to do a test, this is particularly important if you are pregnant or are looking to become pregnant. A simple blood test is usually all that is needed to detect that we are lacking in a particular vitamin and mineral and it is a much smarter approach to see what the status is inside before we start adding things we may or may not need. The reality is most supplements advise consulting your doctor before taking and there is a reason for that….

THREE: how much?!: next time you’re in a health food store, pick up a couple of different brands of the same vitamin or supplement. You may notice wildly different levels in one vs another (again - this is thanks to not enough regulation) and is another reason to know your levels and do your research. Some supplements wont actually offer enough to make a difference. and others could be offering far too much. Its a minefield out there. See below for recommended intakes on some of few researched supplements we think are actually worthwhile).

FOUR: water soluble or fat soluble? There are some supplements that you need to be particularly careful of and that generally relates to whether something is water soluble or fat soluble. What does that mean? Well if something is ‘water soluble’ this essentially means can it be passed out in water if there is too much of it and isnt stored in the body’s fat. Vitamin C is one example of a water soluble vitamin which is why generally speaking it’s ok to take that daily. Fat soluble is a different matter. This means it is stored in the fat tissue within our bodies and the excess doesn’t get excreted. Vitamins A, D, E and K are examples of fat soluble. Too much of these is not what we want.

FIVE: can your body even process it?! All too often there are supplements or vitamins on the market that our bodies cannot even really use or process in the form they are sold. Our bodies are designed to extract what we need largely through food sources and sometimes the synthetic alternatives that come in supplements cannot be fully utilised. Folic Acid is a prime example. This is the synthetic version. Research shows that our bodies are much better able to process the food based form: methylfolate so if you’re taking a supplement always do your research otherwise at best its a waste of money and at worst it could have negative side effects or consequences. Click here for more. Vitamin D also comes in two forms and it is D3 (the form your body produces when exposed to the sun) that you really want. These are just two examples…

SIX: what does the science say? At Better Babies we are all about looking at what the evidence says. There is a lot of research on vitamins, but often when it comes to supplements (particularly ones that promise the earth) you have to be a bit more careful. Here are some of our favourites (based on science) that we think are worth looking in to if you’re trying to conceive (n.b this is not an exhaustive list just a few where we think the benefits are potentially meaningful/worth considering):

Ashwagandha: officially classed as an ‘adaptogen’ which is a substance that can help the body naturally rebalance hormones. Particularly good if you have high levels of the stress hormone - something we know that will interfere with conception. Click here for much more. Do not take this if you are pregnant.

Maca: another adaptogen which shows real results in clinical trials keeping your all important hormones in balance. Something that our modern world seems to want to knock off course. Click here for more. Do not take this if you are pregnant.

CoQ10: This has shown some very decent results when it comes to protecting eggs from oxidative stress and eventually cell damage. Especially good if you’re over 30 and/or worry that your lifestyle may have contributed to potential damage. Click here for more.

DHA: you may have heard of the benefit of Omega 3s well here they are. These powerful little molecules have shown to be quite powerful reducing inflammation which has been shown to be a potential cause of preterm birth and also plays a key role in the healthy development of a baby’s brain. Click here for much more.

Folic Acid/Methylfolate: there is very little doubt - we need to have enough folate (a B Vitamin) within our bodies if we want to avoid issues in our babies such as neural tube defects. It is very important. However, did you know that the body is much less able to use and process the synthetic form of folate (Folic Acid) and therefore it is much better to take the food form: Methylfolate - click here for much more.

Finally - if you are pregnant or are taking other prescribed medication it is essential to talk to your doctor about any additional supplements you are taking. Not a time to risk taking unregulated medicine.

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.