Local experts weigh in on how to find what’s best for you.
Following your favorite Instagram star’s supplement regime for better health? Don’t. Supplementing should be an individualized wellness practice. To verify what supplements are optimal for your constitution, if any, work closely with your health care provider and get a blood panel, urine test or stool test.
“We’re seeing a lot of high zinc intake these days to help with immune support, but not everybody needs zinc, and you could get copper deficiency if you take too much of it. The right balance is needed for good bones, hair and healthy immune system. Find a health care provider you trust, whether in primary care who takes a deeper dive or in the functional/ holistic space, who can help determine what your body needs,” says Kristin Oja, who holds a doctorate in nursing practice and is the founder of STAT Wellness in Upper Westside.
Oja, who specializes in functional medicine, offers an example of how she would advise a patient based on blood panel results: “The normal range for vitamin D is 30-100, but if your lab panel shows you at 31, that’s not optimal if we’re thinking about bone density, mood, immune support and cancer prevention. We want you to be closer to 60,” she says.
Your trusted health care provider also will make sure supplements don’t conflict with prescribed medications and offer advice on how to take it and how much to take. A fatsoluble vitamin such as vitamin D, for instance, should be taken with food to enhance its absorption. Collagen, popular in powder supplements touting skin benefits, must be paired with vitamin C to have bioavailability for the body to absorb the collagen, notes Susanne Zellmer, co-founder of Buckhead-based DYO+, a new supplements brand.
Since most people don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet, fish oil is often a supplement Oja recommends for overall wellness. The same goes for vitamin D, as clothes and/or sunscreen block vitamin D synthesis. And in a Western world where antibiotics are often over-prescribed and germs are frequently washed away, probiotics can help restore good bacteria in the gut, a positive thing for the immune system.
Do some research to find quality over-the-counter supplements. It is not required by law, but some supplement manufacturers use third-party testing to show their commitment to producing a superior product free of harmful levels of contaminants and verify that it contains what is stated on the label.
Patrycja Horodyska, co-founder of DYO+, can’t say enough about a good manufacturer: “We were lucky to find a producer who has been in the business for four generations and over 100 years, and has all the strict German certifications as well as to add the FDA-approved label to our products.”
The packaging can make a difference, too. “Look for amber-colored glass bottles to help the vitamins maintain their potency and ensure plastic microparticles don’t go into the product,” Zellmer says.
Due to the many false claims on OTC supplements, Oja prefers pharmaceutical grade, which undergo strict testing. “The supplement industry is the wild, wild west,” she says.
As for what form to choose, options range from oral pills, capsules, powders and liquid formulas to IV drips and injections, and even topical creams that absorb through the skin. It comes down to what your health care provider recommends and personal preference (some people hate needles or swallowing pills). “Medical studies have shown that liquid extracts have faster absorption rates, higher efficacy rates and are easier to digest,” Zellmer says.
Life is too short not to feel your best. “It’s important to know what’s going on and get to the root cause,” Oja says.
Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.