Until the 1990s, there were no regulations regarding the ingredients or formulation of natural supplements in the United States. In 1994, congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (aka: DSHEA). This act defined the purpose of supplements and provided guidelines regarding their formulation. These are:
1. An over-the-counter dietary supplement is not intended to take the place of nourishment from food. It must be considered a valuable addition to an overall balanced diet.
2. These products must be labeled as dietary supplements, as opposed to miracle cures or other sensationalist labeling.
3. Supplements must contain beneficial dietary ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, amino acids, botanicals and/or herbs (as opposed to inert, placebo-like ingredients).
4. Products intended as supplements must fall into the category of products consumed orally in a variety of forms, such as:
Delivery via other methods causes products to fall outside of this designation.
5. Labeling must be complete, clear, accurate and truthful.
Are Natural Supplements Safe?
According to the National Center For Complementary And Integrative Health, supplements that follow these guidelines are safe and beneficial to use when packaging directions and/or doctors’ instructions are followed carefully.
When choosing supplements, it is important to understand that a product labeled as “natural” is not necessarily safe. This is especially true when you are using essential oils or when combining supplements with prescription medications.
Always research any essential oil you plan to use and don’t combine more than two types of oil unless you are very sure you know what you are doing. When working with essential oils, it is a good idea to consult an herbalist and/or follow specific recipes for best results.
When adding any sort of supplement to your daily health and fitness routine, it is always wise to consult your doctor or other health professional. If you are taking prescription medications (especially blood thinners) use of some vitamins, herbs and other supplements can be dangerous.
If you have a health condition such as diabetes or if you are pregnant or nursing, it is very important to consult with your health professional when using supplements of any kind.
Are Supplements Necessary?
Unless you grow your own whole foods in a well-fertilized, all-natural, organic garden, supplements are probably quite necessary. Commercially grown fruits and veggies have been shown to contain far less nutrition than their counterparts of some 50 years ago because the soil where they are grown is badly depleted and they are, unfortunately, fed chemical fertilizers and sprayed with toxic chemicals on a regular basis.
For this reason, even if you avoid processed foods and buy lots of fruits and veggies at your local grocery, you will probably still need to supplement your diet somewhat. Be sure to choose wisely when you select your supplements.
A high quality, all natural daily multi-vitamin is a must-have for everyone. For children’s supplements, be sure to talk with your pediatrician before selecting. Other important supplements you may wish to add include water soluble vitamins such as B and C. Added omega 3 fatty acids (e.g. flax seed or fish oil) are also very beneficial.
Aside from these basics, be sure to do your own research and consult with your doctor to design a program of natural supplementation to support and enhance a healthy and balanced daily diet.