by Dr. Will Cole
We live in an awesome time for health and wellness. You can go to almost any grocery store, gas station, or airport and find some sort of healthy option. However, we can easily be overwhelmed with all of our choices, especially when it comes to supplements. It’s hard to know what is worth our money and what will actually work. This leaves many of us with a medicine cabinet full of half empty bottles of supplements given up in favor of the next best thing.
This is why some of the main questions I get in my functional medicine clinic are regarding supplements. My patients want to know if what they are taking is really going to work and how long they need to wait until they notice a difference in their health. Here are the six factors I always consider when managing my patients supplement regimens.
1. Your starting point
The very first thing to consider is the status of your health before taking any supplements. Since every person’s health journey is different, their starting points are going to be different as well. For example, a person with a severe nutrient deficiency is going to require more than someone who is just slightly deficient.
This is where your starting point comes into play. If you don’t know your deficiencies you won’t know how much to take to make a difference. This leaves many people taking the right supplements at lower dosages than they require so they don’t end up feeling any better. If they were taking enough they would see an improvement. This is why it’s important to work with a qualified practitioner who can determine the right dose for your particular health case so you don’t waste your time.
With so many options of the same kind of herb or vitamin it is beyond confusing to know which brand to choose from. I like to approach choosing a supplement like hiring a new employee – vet your options and do a thorough background check. Make sure to examine the label to uncover any hidden inflammatory ingredients such as grains or sugar, as well as any artificial colors and fillers. Researching each brand can also be beneficial to learn more about the quality of the ingredients and where they source them from.
4. Your personal needs
Every person’s health case is unique and will have different requirements for healing. Even if two people have the same diagnosis their bodies may each respond differently to the same treatment. While I may sound like a broken record by now, this is another reason why it is so important to work with a practitioner who has experience taking underlying dysfunctions into account when choosing which supplements are right for each individual. Check out my supplement and adaptogen guide to help you make the best choice if you aren’t working with a professional.
5. Absorption rate
An often-overlooked factor to consider is how well your body is able to absorb the nutrients in a supplement. Chronic inflammation and underlying gut problems can inhibit cellular absorption of these much needed nutrients. Without first addressing these underlying problems it can make the benefits of supplementation very minimal or even non-existent. Again, a qualified practitioner can run labs to determine if these issues are a factor in your health case and can help come up with a plan to address them.
No matter how many supplements you are taking, it won’t make up for a poor diet. It’s like pouring a cup of clean water into a bucket full of muddy water – the mud will still be there but maybe just a little more diluted. The same goes for adding in supplements, you might find some relief but the symptoms will always still be there to some extent. We have to remember that food is your foundation and comes first as medicine. Supplements are just another tool to up your wellness game from there.
Once we’ve taken all of these factors into account, in general how long does it take to see improvements from supplementation? In my clinical experience you can expect to notice a difference anywhere between one day and four-eight weeks. It all depends on how deficient were beforehand. If you still aren’t seeing improvements after that time frame, it’s time to seek out a practitioner who can help you determine the best option for your health case.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
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