Do you supplement? Some folks are true believers when it comes to vitamins and supplements and know the ins and outs of every bottle in the health-food aisle. Others think that supplements are useless and do little more than trick people into paying $24.99 for a bottle of modern-day snake oil. And many, perhaps the majority, are somewhere in the middle trying to stay healthy without going broke.
For people going through breast cancer treatment, nutrition is especially important. You want to give your body everything it could possibly need. A cancer patient may be more motivated to try supplements, but at the same time be hesitant to take anything that might compromise treatment.
There’s a lot of information out there, and it can be overwhelming to sort through. Before opening up an account at your local health food store, check out our seven basic guidelines for evaluating how, or if, to use vitamins and supplements. You’ll be less likely to waste time and money if you keep these tips in mind:
1. THE MORE OUTRAGEOUS A CLAIM…
The more likely it is to be false, or at least misconstrued. The more sensationalized something sounds, the less likely it is to be 100 percent true. Sometimes we hear incredible claims from people or sources that we sincerely trust, but remember that proper context counts for a lot, and one person’s results does not equal universal truth. Sometimes you’ll find information based on a nugget of truth, but blown out of proportion so much that it’s no longer valid. Try to find additional, well-respected sources to corroborate claims.
Remember that breastcancer.org (and every other reputable source we’ve checked) says that there aren’t any supplements that can treat or cure cancer. For more information on how to evaluate internet health claims, check out this article.
2. VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS ARE REGULATED DIFFERENTLY THAN DRUGS
The FDA tests and approves both over-the-counter and prescription medications in the US, but vitamins and supplements are not regulated. The manufacturers of dietary supplements are responsible for evaluating the safety and efficacy of their products. The FDA will take action if a product is found to be mislabeled or unsafe after it reaches the market.
3. IT’S STILL BEST TO GET MOST OF OUR NUTRITION FROM FOOD
In a best-case scenario, we would meet all our needs for vitamins and minerals through a healthy, nutrient-dense diet. Nutrients are generally best absorbed when they are consumed in their whole-food form, and if you are getting a healthy diet extra supplements may simply be a waste of money. There are times when nutrition needs can’t be met through diet alone, and it’s those cases when supplements may be helpful.
4. NATURAL DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL SAFE
Poison oak is natural. Some arsenic occurs naturally in soil. It doesn’t mean that we want to go around brewing these things into a new-fangled elixir. That’s not to say that consuming more natural products is a bad idea, but be aware that sometimes the word “natural” is more a marketing tactic than anything else. According to breastcancer.org , the most important question to ask is not “Is this natural?” but “Will this benefit my health?”
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