Want better results from your supplements? Your success with supplements is rarely about any overhyped technology, nor about relying on news reports trumpeting the latest "food fad." Success comes from using supplements that include well-chosen quality ingredients, then using valid techniques to personally test whether they really work.
The Top 15 Supplement
"Tech" Tips -- Made Easy!
|Full disclosure: I'm a well-being advocate and a caring person, but I'm not a health professional. It's very important to note that I don't earn any sort of commission for recommending any particular supplement or company. My thoughts are based on a combination of (a) studying the advice of nutrition researchers, (b) visiting web sites where supplements are described, and (c) personal knowledge coming from experiences with many different supplements. I had to go through quite a few health problems, before discovering supplements and foods that I found to be more healthifying than anything else I've ever tried. I sincerely judge these supplements to be effective for the vast majority of people. However, effectiveness can vary depending on your biochemistry and state of health. You can read my full disclaimer here.|
How do we find and use the most effective supplements? This page will cover that topic carefully and compassionately. In later posts I'll detail some really powerful supplements, and name the best companies to buy from. Now here are those promised twelve best technique tips:
Prepare For Success
Optimize The Effectiveness
- Stick to trustworthy supplements. We should only use ones that are unlikely to have any harmful side effects. Consume only supplements recommended by people you place a lot of trust in. (Spoiler alert: If you'll visit AskHealthyWay.com, you'll get a nice preview of my future posts on the best companies and most powerful supplements.)
- A little shopping may help. Here are some items you probably will want to keep around:
- 7-day supplement boxes. If you take a lot of supplements, you can buy a weekly supplement box labeled for each day of the week. It saves time opening bottles.
- Digestive teas. This kind of tea uses ginger, peppermint and other spices to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Blender. This helps you mix up supplements that are packaged as bottles of powder. Plus, blending a food will often unlock nutrition within its cell walls and extract maximum benefit from it.
- Pill Splitter. This might be useful if you like having better control of dosage. But I don't often use one because high-quality supplements usually come as powder-containing "capsules" rather than solid "pills."
- Find out whether food may work better. It's usually smart to eat nutrient-rich food, sometimes instead of taking a supplement, or sometimes in addition to taking it. For example, you can get much better vitamin C from some fruits than you'd get from almost any pill. Try eating the wedges of a lime over the course of a day, or a tart mandarin orange.
- Resolve to be your own expert. I don't know how expert you are about nutrition, but I can definitely say that you're the best expert on your own bodily changes and feelings that occur when you take a supplement. Judge other "experts" not by their fame, but by how well their advice really works for you.
It's just good common sense that if your body welcomes a supplement and your health improves, you should consider taking it as long as it works. If it feels unhealthful, you probably should discontinue it even if it's been highly recommended to you. And some other supplements may work at first, but if their effectiveness changes you may later find that it's best to use it infrequently or even discontinue usage.
Test For The Truth
- Take supplements with food (usually.) A supplement is usually most effective if you take it with food (the supplement's label may state whether you should.) You want to surround a supplement with a variety of helpful nutrients. Here are some other ways to improve absorption of supplements:
- Don't dilute their effect with too much food or drink: Take them with as little as half a cup of a fresh veggie-rich smoothie.
- If you don't use a blender, chew your foods well to extract more of their nutrients.
- Include a digestive tea or digestive supplement with any medium-to-heavy meal.
- Eat consistently well, no "binges" (especially on junk food.)
- Choose easily digestible foods (not too much meat, grains, or anything that increases constipation.)
- Treat fatty or oily supplements as a special case. An oily supplement capsule doesn't disperse and absorb well, but you can do two things about that. Firstly, they'll absorb better when you consume them with an ounce or two of something that contains fat, such as an avocado. Second, mix the capsule well with food or drink before swallowing. You could mix an ounce or so of fruit (or fruit juice) in your mouth, bite down on the oil capsule and then swallow.
- Let your throat and mouth help out. Many of the nutrients in supplements can be absorbed and enter your bloodstream through these two places. This is important because the lower digestive tract probably won't digest and absorb everything.
First, be sure the supplement contains no dangerous ingredients. For example, hydrochloric acid is a supplement meant for the stomach and will harm the sensitive cells in your mouth and throat. If you're at all unsure, bite off the top of the supplement and taste it, keeping water close at hand just in case this little experiment "goes sour" (and of course, be near a good place to spit.)
You can slowly chew a pill, or take apart a capsule and pour its powder into your mouth. Be careful with powder in your mouth, because breathing (or mixing it too quickly with a fluid) can cause some of it to be ingested into your lungs.
Allow the supplement to slowly coat the sensitive tissues in your mouth and/or throat, while sipping little or no fluids: This will avoid washing down the nutrients, and give them time to absorb. If it doesn't taste good, keep it mostly off your tongue and coat your throat instead.
- Take a "supplement break" now and then. Even if a supplement is helpful, it sometimes happens that a body just doesn't want it every single day. Once every few weeks, consider taking a "break" from a supplement for a few days. That sometimes has a refreshing effect. If you start to feel less well without it during your break, begin taking it again, and next time take a shorter break.
- How to judge a new supplement. You want to make sure any effects you feel are caused by the supplement and nothing else. Within at least half an hour before and after you take the supplement, it's best to not eat anything or do anything unusually stimulating. If you can, expand that to two hours before and after. The best time to test and judge a supplement is when you get up in the morning, when nothing has happened for many hours.
- Quicker absorption will sharpen your testing. Sometimes it's easier to judge the effectiveness of a supplement if you let it dissolve in your mouth. That way you won't have to wait for it to be digested in your stomach at a snail's pace. The stomach has a much thicker lining, so everything takes effect more slowly there. The mouth and throat have thin membranes that allow many nutrients to take effect quickly.
Be sure the supplement contains no dangerous ingredients. Take it with a little bit of water, mixing it slowly in your mouth. Then let it coat your mouth and throat, where it's likely to absorb quickly.
- Give testing enough time. Most antioxidants take effect over a period of 5-30 minutes, especially powder-based antioxidants and herbs. You may even notice effects within a minute or two. Don't ingest anything else during this 30-minute period, so you can make a fair judgement.
On the other hand, oil-based supplements or protein powders may take effect in days or weeks rather than minutes. That's so gradual you may not be able to notice a difference. Try to give your testing of any supplement at least one week to show an effect.
- Retest when you notice your body changing. As we age, most of us develop a greater need for better nutrition. We become better able to notice the effects of supplements on your bodies. If you notice your body's health beginning to weaken in some area, test out some high-quality supplements that may be helpful in that area.
When you're young, the most highly-recommended supplements will probably help you even though you're not sure they're benefiting you. I recommend that you make sure you're getting enough protein, EFAs, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
As you progress to middle age and senior citizenship, keep this in mind and periodically retest recommended supplements: You may be surprised to discover how helpful they've become.
And whatever your age, do your best to replace junky foods with nutritious alternatives that taste good to you.
- Find the best dosage for you. The recommended dosage on the label is the maker's estimate of what will work best for most people. You might try taking only half, to see if that still benefits your health the same. You can also try taking more of a supplement, if it's expert-recommended as safe and gentle on your body.
Your body may want more of a supplement at first (this is often called the "loading phase" of replacing depleted nutrients.) Later you may do just fine on a little less, or even a lot less. That's because a supplement sometimes improves the health of some part of your body enough that it functions very well with little help from supplements.
- What to do if a supplement stops working. You can find out if a supplement has stopped working if you stop taking a supplement for two to fourteen days (the number of days depends on how quickly your body resumes needing its nutrients.) If you start missing its benefits, resume taking it.
If you don't miss the supplement at all, it may have already done as much good as it can, or it may have stopped working for you. You might even start to feel better without it: In that case, the supplement may have "turned" on you and started to somehow stress your body. Keep testing until you're fairly certain how your body is really reacting to the supplement.
Once you know that a supplement has stopped working, you have several alternatives. You could try taking another supplement containing similar active ingredients, but with a reputation for better purity. Or you could try a supplement that uses different ingredients to target the area of your health that the other supplement helped at first. Some other options are finding more beneficial foods to eat, or seeing a doctor who may be able to prescribe something that works.
- Listen to your body, mind and soul.
There's no guarantee that anyone's nutritional advice will be right for you, not even mine. If you learn to attend to both (1) the reactions of your body to your nutrition decisions, and (2) your emotional and spiritual needs, that may be better than any advice anyone can give.