Taking supplements: 5 easy tips

Taking the right supplements can enhance your health, but they're not always safe. Find out how to protect yourself with these expert tips.

Taking supplements: 5 easy tips

1. Check your calcium source

  • Drug company marketers don't exactly promote this on their supplement packages, but the human body is better at absorbing one common form of calcium than another.
  • Choose calcium citrate (such as Citracal) instead of the other variety, calcium carbonate, which is often found in antacids such as Tums. Calcium citrate is absorbed two-and-a-half times more easily.
  • If you choose this form, however, says Dr. Mary Hardy, double your dose. Calcium citrate contains less elemental calcium (the stuff that matters) than calcium carbonate.

2. Stifle the gas with enzymes

  • First, the facts on flatulence: everyone does it, on average about 14 discharges a day (it doesn't take much to make the odour).
  • Now, how to stop doing it so much: take a dose of digestive enzymes, either fruit-based papain and bromelain, which come from papaya and pineapple, or animal-based trypsin and pepsin, with each meal. That's the recommendation of Dr. Hardy.
  • Many over-the-counter digestive enzymes contain both types. The enzymes will help you better digest your food, leaving less to ferment in your colon—which produces the stinky gas that gets you those weird looks in the elevator.

3. Beware of dangerous metals in supplements

  • We're so accustomed to assuming that anything sold in a drug or health food store is safe, that it probably never occurred to you that your Ayurvedic health remedies could contain dangerous levels of lead and other heavy metals.
  • But when Boston doctors bought dozens of the remedies at stores throughout the region and tested them, they found 20 percent had significant amounts of lead, mercury or arsenic, sometimes at very high levels.
  • What to do? Buy your herbs from a trusted herbalist and ask where the remedy originated. Those grown in India, China and other developing countries are more likely to contain the contaminants.

4. Check out a supplement before taking it

  • Supplements often don't contain the amount of active ingredient—or even any active ingredient—listed on their labels. If you want to check out the quality of your supplement before you plunk down $25, go to www.consumerlab.com.
  • This independent laboratory tests supplements and provides reports on their ingredients. You'll need a membership for the full report, but even the partial reports provide good information. If the supplement isn't listed, it either wasn't tested or it was tested and found wanting. The site only posts products that passed testing.
  • Another way to ensure quality is to buy store brands from leading retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs and Jean Coutu Pharmacy. They have a reputation to protect and are more likely to use reputable manufacturers and manufacturing processes.

5. Stay away from sex-enhancement supplements

  • If you head online to buy herbs and other supplements to make you more powerful in bed, hold on.
  • Health Canada warns that numerous online sexual enhancement products contain drugs, herbs and other products that aren't listed on the labels. These could be dangerous, potentially interacting with other drugs you're taking, or triggering a life-threatening allergy.
  • Specific ones to watch out for are Zimaxx, Nasutra, Vigor-25, Actra-Rx or 4EVERON. Although they're not authorized for sale in Canada, they may have been sold over the Internet or brought into Canada by travelers for personal use. If you need to get your blood moving, good old magazines and videos are a better choice.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu