Should You Talk To Your Doctor Before You Start Taking Supplements?

Supplements have become so popular that entire grocery store aisles are now dedicated to vitamins that claim to help with everything from digestive health to mood to weight loss. Since they are so readily available, it seems like most supplements should be safe to take, right? Actually, you may want to hold off on buying any until you speak with your doctor. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and it can be difficult to know exactly what you're ingesting (via The Healthy). "Supplements may carry harmful risks such as inaccurate dosing information and contaminated ingredients," said Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN.

This isn't to say that all supplements are bad. There are many reasons you may benefit from getting additional vitamins and minerals in your body, whether you have a health condition or nutrient deficiency. The best way to make sure you're taking a supplement that will actually help you and won't cause you harm is to speak with your doctor about the product you have bought or intend to buy. They can go over the ingredient list with you and make sure there is nothing harmful inside of the bottle. You can also only buy from brands that have been third-party tested by organizations like NSF or Informed Choice, which monitor the safety of supplements.

Do you need to take supplements?

It seems like most people take at least one supplement, but are you wasting your money with these products? For most people, eating a well-balanced diet will give you all the vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy (via Penn Medicine). Nutrients from real foods are used in the body as efficiently as possible, making them more effective than anything you can buy in a bottle. The average adult who eats enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and fats each day shouldn't need to take any supplements.

However, taking supplements isn't inherently bad. It can even be beneficial for people who have a hard time getting enough nutrients through food alone. "In addition to a healthy diet, there is evidence that some supplements can benefit your overall well-being with little to no risk," said Jeffrey Millstein, MD, a physician at Penn Internal Medicine Woodbury Heights. Tweens and teens, for example, may benefit from taking vitamin D and calcium because their bodies are working hard to build strong bones (via The Healthy). Whether you want to start taking supplements or you're wondering if you should be taking them, it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor first about your individual health needs.