14 Questions About Starting Dietary Supplements

by Melissa Chichester

Gummies. Powders. Tablets. Caplets. Softgels.

If you’re new to the world of supplements, it might be a little overwhelming because of the abundance of choices out there! 

According to the 2019 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, 77% of Americans reported taking a dietary supplement at least once during the year they were surveyed. Maybe you even had a friend or family member recommend a supplement they insist plays an important role in their wellness. 

Whether you’re just curious or ready to start taking a supplement yourself, it is a big decision to make – so here are 14 common questions about starting to take supplements. 

What are supplements?

Supplements are products that deliver nutrients you may not be getting from food alone. They are a complement to a healthy diet and exercise program. Supplements come in many different forms, including liquid, capsules, softgels, powders, herbs, and more.

What supplements should I take for my well-being? 

Deciding what type of supplements to take should be discussed with a healthcare practitioner. Your doctor can ask for a simple blood test to measure specific levels of different nutrients. For example, for people living in northern climates, it is common for doctors to measure Vitamin D levels. 

A simple multivitamin that contains a spectrum of nutrients is a common supplement to start with for many people. You might remember looking forward to taking a daily multivitamin as a kid if it had a cartoon character on it!  

How long should I take supplements?

The duration of time you will take a supplement depends on many factors. Some supplements are only recommended for a certain period of time, such as prenatal vitamins for pregnant women and women preparing for pregnancy. Others – like a daily multivitamin – might be a supplement taken for many years.

It is important to discuss health changes with your physician so you can evaluate your supplement routine regularly.  

How do I take the correct dose?

Supplements are clearly labeled with the serving size. That includes the Daily Recommended Value percentage of that nutrient. However, your healthcare practitioner may recommend more or less of that nutrient depending on your needs. 

What brand of supplements should I take?

Well, you know we’re a little biased here and are going to say Puritan’s Pride! For nearly 50 years, we have been providing our customers with quality vitamins and outstanding customer service. Our mission has always been to make the highest quality nutritional supplements available at the best value!  

But we also understand there’s a large spectrum of brands out there – some of which we carry at Puritan’s Pride! 

The bottom line: Research brands to find quality you can trust – and steer clear of supplements that make wild and sensational claims that seem too good to be true.

Woman looking at supplement bottle

Will supplements interfere with my medications?

If you are taking medications, it is essential to ask your doctor about starting any supplements since some supplements and medications may interact with each other. This is highly individual, and you should always consult a professional when taking supplements with medication. 

How do I know what is actually in my supplement?

A reputable brand will have a transparent label and list every single ingredient in the supplement on the label. Most manufacturers will also call out what your supplement doesn’t contain. 

For example, Super C-1000mg with Bioflavonoids and Rose Hips states: “No Artificial Color, Flavor or Sweetener” among a host of other things right on the label. 

What should I look for on the label of my supplement?

Supplement labels provide many clues about their validity. Unfortunately, there are supplements out there that are not transparent about their ingredients or manufacturing methods and may not follow legal manufacturing guidelines. 

Here are some items to look for on a supplement label:

  • A customer service number so you can call right away if you aren’t satisfied 
  • The serving size and how many servings are in each bottle
  • Supplement facts – what percent Daily Value is in each nutrient 
  • Primary active ingredients 
  • Any other ingredients 
  • A list of what is not included, such as “gluten-free” and “sugar-free” 
  • A quality manufacturing seal or other seals, such as USDA Organic
  • Directions on how to take your supplement 
  • A safety warning label with any potential reactions or pregnancy use guidelines
  • The website name 

>>How to Read a Supplement Label

How can I know what supplements are FDA-approved?

The FDA does not “approve” supplements but instead regulates them similar to food. The FDA also reminds us that “dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or alleviate the effects of diseases.” They also require that supplements be labeled as “dietary supplements.” 

Will supplements upset my digestive system? 

This is a highly personal question and depends on many factors. This includes your personal health history, the nutrients you are taking, and the dose. If you are concerned about digestive upset, consult your physician. Taking supplements with a meal may also help. In fact, some supplements state on the label that they should be taken with food to avoid potential stomach upset. 

Vitamins and supplements bottles

Does a higher price tag mean the supplement is better for me?

No. Supplement prices vary by brand and a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean you will get better results. Read the label and read about the brand to make the best decision for yourself. 

Will supplements provide me with support immediately?

Not necessarily. Supplements are supportive, and some supplements need to be taken for several months before their intended effects occur. Supplements are like anything wellness-related – it takes time, consistency, and dedication to see results. 

How can I tell if my supplement is working?

You can monitor the success of your supplement with your physician. For example, if you’re looking to support healthy Vitamin D levels, you will need a blood test before and after supplementing with Vitamin D. 

Will taking a higher dose of a supplement get faster results?

No. You should always take the recommended dose. More is not always better. Taking too much of one supplement can negate the efficiency of other nutrients and may cause toxicity. 

You probably see a theme here – the most important questions you have about taking supplements can be answered by someone who knows your health almost as well as you do – your doctor. Supplements can be a great way to add nutrients to your healthy lifestyle and provide the support you’re looking for. It is simply important to use them properly so you can receive the most benefits from them for years to come.