The real problem with your health supplements

You may be a consumer of fish oil, protein, rare herbs and spirulina supplements or you may be the cynical kind that needs nothing of the sorts.

Either way, our society is booming with cosmetics and supplements alike. And this trend is going nowhere any sooner.

The health supplements market will hit a whopping $194 billion by 2025, which is just a 5 years, 6 month gap from now.

So how did we go from food and prescriptions to consuming supplements for health and beauty?

Proprietary and supplementary food has been around for decades now. But the needs of consumers has changed. We now pick products that gives targeted benefits. Nobody takes random Multi-vitamins now as much as they did ten years ago. People take supplements for deficiencies they know for sure they have. People either look up their own symptoms or take diagnostic blood tests.

We must thank diagnostic labs for now allowing tests to be taken in self-interests without recommendation from doctors giving us the flexibility and power over our health.

The boom of internet, health bloggers, alternative medicine, diets, influencers and nutrition becoming common knowledge has led a lot of people to believe they need supplements to makeup for the nutrient void in regular food ( which is only partially true because you CAN get all nutrients only from food).

This combined with technology and knowledge to harvest material that targets specific needs ( like hair growth supplements) has given the big pharma another detour from making profit only from sickness. So now we have the “wellness” industry, a distinct ecosystem thriving and growing on its own. And I do not see much harm with that except on two things.

1) We CAN’T be sure of the CLEANLINESS of the source or of the packaging at first glance

There are different standards to the same supplement. For example, Omega 3 fish oil capsules priced at $3 dollars, can have rancid fish odour, whereas a cleaner but pricier one will deliver benefits without rancidity. This comes down to multi step processing, which the end consumer is less likely to know about.

Rancidity is the general term used in oils when they undergo self oxidation or hydrolysis, reducing the shelf life and nutritional value.

How do you get hold of clean Omega 3 capsules?

Sometimes you can’t figure this out without trial and error. A rancid capsule will leave a fish odour in the oesophagus few minutes after consumption, while a cleaner one won’t. Reading on the consumer reviews will help get an idea if the tablet is rancid or not.

You can check if your product complies with International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) here:

Another example is the spirulina supplement. Dubbed the super food, spirulina supplementation is on a steady rise but the source from where they are harvested is a little tricky to track.

Spirulina assimilates most minerals from the environment and tends to assimilate heavy metals, if present. So for the price of great protein and nutrients you would be consuming free heavy metals like lead, arsenic and mercury. These are the last things you would want in your system.

So how do you know if the spirulina is grown and harvested from clean waters?

You can call up the manufacturer to know if it was grown in tanks, river water catchment or the sea. If it is sea water you can be half sure, that the spirulina may have imbibed some heavy metals and inorganic chemicals. When it is grown in other sources you must be sure to ask if it was grown in effluent water from industries and dyeing units. Always opt for spirulina from fresh water. Never take a protein supplement unless you are physically active enough to promote muscle mass. Always consume more water to flush out protein byproducts that may settle in the kidneys.

How about biotin, iron and zinc supplements?

It is always safe to get blood work done to find out what exactly is lacking before taking vitamins. Excessive inorganic residue can be harmful to the liver and kidneys in unprecedented ways. Opt for supplements from plant or natural sources, because they are absorbed better. If you experience heartburn or develop ulcers on supplementation, you should stop the product or switch brands because the fillers in vitamins may be corrosive to the stomach lining. Always take supplements with, during or middle of the meal than minutes after eating for better digestion.

2) What do you do with all the empty packaging?

The one problem I dealt with in great pain was finding ways to reuse or dispose the empty packages. You may use them as containers for other things, if your city does not have a dedicated recycling plant. Find if the product you use has a disposable refill pack.

The over dependence on supplements can lead you to think there is no optimal health without them. It can lead to a sense of helplessness when you can’t get your hands on the packs in time. This common psychological side effect of dependence can be overcome by finding natural, alternative and raw sources of the nutrients and reducing the regularity of consumption.

Eat fish oil once in 5 days while you get enough mild sunlight, eat flax, chia, pumpkin seeds, and eat oily fish like salmon the other days of the week.

Either way, we can’t actually guage how much we eat gets absorbed as much as we know what our food and supplements contain.

Finding natural sources of healthy food, eating a balanced diet, being physically active whenever possible and supplementing wisely are the sure steps to mental, physical and environmental health.

Published by Shrutthi Shivaswamy Prabhakaran

Documenting unique people |Minimal living |Design harmony and other things that bother me

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