Supplements are not magic potions, yet sometimes we unwittingly attribute them with this power. Does this sound familiar? You begin a supplement regimen to address a nutritional deficiency or to help manage a perimenopause or menopause symptom or health issue, and after a few days or a week you ask yourself: how do I know this supplement is working? How long should it take for me to experience results? How do I know I’m taking the right dose for me?
In fact, there are many variables to consider when taking supplements. Let’s check them out.
Factors that influence supplement effectiveness
Taking nutritional and/or herbal supplements may provide a significant boost to your health, remedy deficiencies, and help with a wide range of health concerns. Yet every person’s response to a supplement is unique because of various factors, such as:
- Age: Research shows that the human body absorbs and utilizes vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and substances less efficiently as it ages. Some examples are iron, calcium and vitamins D, folate, and B12. Women in perimenopause and menopause are at ages when deficiencies in these nutrients can be common.
- Diet: You cannot out-supplement a poor diet. Nothing replaces following a diet rich in whole foods, which contain vitamins, minerals, and other essential ingredients that work in synch in the body.
- Underlying health issues: This includes health conditions that can affect nutrient absorption and utilizations, such as any gastrointestinal problems (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, malabsorption, gastric ulcers), celiac disease, and lactose intolerance.
- Poor sleep and insomnia: In a 2019 study based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the authors reported that getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep was associated with a negative correlation for vitamin D, calcium, niacin, magnesium, and dietary fiber.
- Stress: Poorly or unmanaged chronic stress can significantly reduce the benefits you can get from your supplements.
- Physical activity: Regular physical activity has an impact on nutrient absorption and utilization. Supplements cannot take the place of exercise.
- Baseline nutrient levels: If the nutrient you are hoping to improve is only moderately low at baseline, then you may notice a positive response sooner than you would if you are severely deficient in a nutrient.
- Environment: Environmental factors such as exposure to pollutants, food additives, chemicals in personal care and household products, heavy metals, and medications all may have an impact on how your body absorbs and uses nutrients. Smoking, for example, has been shown to lower levels of vitamin C and B-carotene, while the cadmium in tobacco reduces the bioavailability of selenium.
How do you know a supplement is working?
If you are experiencing some relief or positive change in a symptom or health issue, that’s an indication that the supplement is working. However, in many cases, the best way to get a more tangible indication is to get a blood test. This will measure the concentration of a specific nutrient, such as vitamin D or calcium, for example, in your system.
In fact, it is highly recommended you have a blood test before starting a supplement program so you have a baseline level from which to gauge your progress. Blood test results also can provide insight into the levels of other nutrients or factors that may be contributing to your health concerns and allow you and your doctor to make a more accurate treatment plan.
Let’s say you are taking vitamin B12 to help boost your energy. You may notice an improvement in vitality after several weeks of taking a supplement daily. More significant improvement may be evident after several months. Magnesium is a mineral that is relatively fast acting. If you are taking magnesium to help with muscle cramps or sleep, you may notice some response within days of starting supplementation. Our Morphus Magnesium contains a highly absorbable from of magnesium that translates into quick improvements.
Use of vitamin E (e.g., tocotrienols) to support cardiovascular health, however, is a supplement that works behind the scenes. Research shows that this potent antioxidant in the form of tocotrienols, has a significant impact on cardiovascular health factors. Tocotrienols reduce lipid levels and increase good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL) levels, unlike the other form of vitamin E, tocopherols. Try our Morphus Toco-E to protect your cardiovascular health.
Generally, therefore, it is recommended you undergo blood testing every six to 12 months to monitor the levels of the nutrients you are targeting. Levels of nutrients that are working internally without your noticing more tangible results (e.g., vitamin E for heart health, calcium for bone health, fiber to lower cholesterol) can reflect their impact on your blood test results. Try our Morphus Fiberus prebiotic fibre powder to increase the fibre in your diet.
How do I know I’m taking the right dose for me?
First of all, “dose” and “dosage” are not the same thing. A dose means a specified amount of a supplement or medication taken at one time (e.g., 500 mg). The dosage refers to how to take the supplement or medication, which includes the dose, the number of doses, and the frequency of doses over a specific period of time. For example, take one 500-mg twice a day, every 12 hours.
Although supplement packaging comes with dosage recommendations, they are not necessarily for everyone. If you are trying to correct a vitamin D deficiency, for example, your dose and dosage will be different than it will for someone who is taking a supplement to support their overall health.
That’s why it’s important to discuss your needs and dosing with a healthcare professional if you are planning to take one or more supplements.
Other things you should know about taking supplements
- Be patient. It takes time for your body to adjust to and utilize the supplements you are taking. While some supplements may begin to provide results within a week or two, such as melatonin for sleep or magnesium or digestive enzymes for gastrointestinal issues, others may take up to several months. However, know that when you begin a consistent supplement regimen, the body knows and immediately begins some type of processing. You are on your way!
- Listen to your doctor. When addressing nutritional deficiencies, it’s important to follow your doctor’s dosage and testing recommendations. Keep a record of your dosing and how you are feeling, as this information can help your doctor make changes in dosages if necessary.
- Quality matters. Choose high-quality supplements. While inexpensive and/or poorly produced supplements may save you money in the short-term, they may jeopardize your health and your wallet in the long-term. And you may be getting a supplement made with fillers and not an appropriate dose of its active ingredients. When shopping for supplements, look for those whose use is supported by scientific research and that use high-quality ingredients. Our Morphus Supplements, are high-quality and we used them first before bringing them to you to prove they worked.
- Lifestyle matters too. We’ve already mentioned that you can’t out-supplement a poor diet. You also need to get adequate sleep, manage stress, and exercise regularly if you want to support your supplementation efforts.
- Timing. When you take your supplements can be just as important as what you are taking. If you are taking Morphus Magnesium to help with sleep, for example, you should dose before bedtime. Iron should not be taken with green tea, as the beverage can reduce absorption of the mineral. Some nutritional supplements should not be taken with various medications as well. Always consult a knowledgeable nutritionist about the timing of your supplement use, especially if you are taking multiple supplements and also taking medications.
To get the most benefit from your supplement use, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable healthcare provider and choose the best supplement for your needs and lifestyle. Regular blood testing is also recommended to ensure your supplementation efforts are paying off for you.