If you’ve ever wondered, “Should I take a supplement for this?” this is the post for you. We’ll walk through a decision-making tool to help you figure out when you should take a vitamin/mineral supplement, and when you probably shouldn’t (or simply don't need to).
Let’s note up front that I’ll be speaking generally in this post, because there’s no way we could cover everything in one blog. I’m also specifically talking about vitamin and mineral supplements here; some of this can be generalized to other categories of supplements, but not all of it.
And as always, I highly recommend talking to a doctor or dietitian about your specific history and concerns!
So – when should I take a supplement?
There’s a growing body of evidence that people with mental health issues specifically may have higher needs for various nutrients. As one small example, there are some connections between genetic B vitamin processing disorders and mood disorders, which means that some people with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia may need more or different forms of various B vitamins to meet their individual needs.
Often, when someone’s labs show a less-than-optimal level of a vitamin or mineral and they have substantial dietary changes to make, I’ll recommend a supplement temporarily and continue to monitor their intake of that nutrient until I feel they’ve reached a point where they are consistently getting enough from their diet alone.
OK then, so when shouldn’t I take a supplement?
In general (with some notable exceptions), the nutrients we make into supplements are contained in foods we could be and should be eating.
And typically, the packaging of those nutrients within a food are more “friendly” to our bodies because:
I think there’s also an argument to be made that we just don’t know all the nutrients that are out there yet! We are constantly discovering new phytochemicals and nutraceuticals that turn out to be incredibly important for optimal health and disease prevention. We certainly don’t want to miss out on these nutrients by thinking that we can just take supplements and then we don’t have to eat our fruits and veggies.
The bottom line:
The main questions when deciding whether to take a supplement are:
Interested to learn more? If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or message me directly. If you’d like more personalized guidance, schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute discovery call with me! I’d love to work with you.
Erica Golden, RDN, LD, IFNCP
Mental health, gut health, and eating disorder dietitian
Erica Golden, RDN