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Supplements: The Ultimate Guide

Written by Sabrina Wilson and updated on December 11, 2017

There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of you would have heard some rather conflicting information about supplements – not that this is all that surprising – there are literally thousands of supplements available on the market, many of which claim to impact health in a positive way.

Because of this it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what supplements are worth your time, and what aren’t worth a grain of salt.
Hell, many of you may even be questioning whether you need to take supplements at all?

Which lends itself to today’s article – and believe you me, it is an absolute doozy. With this, I intend to answer any questions about supplements that you may have, while also touching on those supplements that are scientifically proven to have a positive impact on your health.

Why Do We Need Supplements?

This question is an interesting one. And I guess it depends on what types of supplements we are looking at. There are (in my mind) two primary types of supplements: a) those that ensure normal function, and b) those that target the improvement of a specific condition.

Ensuring Normal Function

A common argument revolves around the assumption that if we eat a well-rounded diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, and natural whole foods, then we should have no need for supplements. And while this argument is indeed a logical one, that doesn’t really mean it’s true.

We live in a world where the vast majority of our food is mass produced. This form of mass production also involves the use of intensive fertilizes and compounds to speed up the growth process as means to increase production speed.

Positively, this means that we as a society always have food readily available at the supermarket.

ACV Supplements

The negative of this is that the food we eat is not as nutrient-dense as it would be if it had been grown and produced organically. With this in mind, even if we are eating a diet rich in ‘good’ foods, we are still unlikely to be consuming an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals.

Additionally, as foods is so readily available to us, we tend to eat in a rather routine manner (as opposed to eating seasonally, as we did in more traditional settings). This means that we are likely to consume certain vitamins and minerals on the regular, while completely avoiding others.

While this is unquestionably unintentional, it still leaves us short on certain nutrients – which can have a seriously negative impact on health.

So in short, some supplements provide us with a means to ensure we have adequate nutrients available at all times. This will guarantee we don’t become deficient, which can have a host of negative health implications.

Targeting Specific Improvements

On the other hand, there are specific compounds that improve the body’s ability to function in a specific manner. These compounds typically come from all natural ingredients, and interact with the body at a chemical level to achieve a desired outcome.

Improve digestion or appetite

These type of supplements may improve the condition of a specific illness or disease, may improve energy levels, or even increase our ability to function either physically or mentally.

The important thing to not is that we may not necessarily need these supplements, as we can function without them – but they do offer a way to improve ourselves and get more out of our body – which obviously has a host of positives associated.

How Do We Know What’s in Our Supplements?

Now I will be the first to admit that the supplement industry can be a little shady at times. For every good quality supplement on the shelves, there is a dozen more with subpar ingredients and using sneaky marketing strategies to pry away your hard earned cash.

Herbal medicine

Taking this into consideration, there is certain ways to ensure that what we are taking is what we need (and want) to be taking.

Certain supplements may contain a number of different compounds (dependent on the goal of that supplement, of course). In an ideal world, each of those would offer an effective means to achieve the same specific outcome.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Many supplements include ‘filler’ ingredients, that have no scientific evidence to support their use, and are included merely as a way bring the cost of production down. To avoid this it is imperative that you pay close attention to the ingredients list of your supplements, and take note of what actually has evidence to support its use (which we will touch on further down this article).

Another easy way to achieve this is to select supplements that only have a couple of ingredients listed within their formula. This is an easy way to guarantee you are not getting any fillers, and as a bit of bonus, the active ingredients are also likely to be provided in slightly larger doses, rendering them more effective.

It is also important to note that a good quality supplement will often provide testing information on their website, meaning that you can take a good look at things like the purity and the ingredient list if you are so inclined.

Are There Any Safety Issues Associated With Taking Supplements?

As with most things, certain issues can arise if we take supplements without considering the potential negatives associated.

It is always important to remember that while most supplements contain ingredients that are essential to the maintenance of health and function, they are actually chemical in nature – this means that if we consume too much, they can become toxic.

Poison Tomato

For this reason, it is incredibly important that we play close attention to the supplement directions to ensure that we do not overconsume a given compound.

Additionally, some specific compounds are not suitable people in certain scenarios (such as individuals with high blood sugar or high blood pressure, women during pregnancy, or adolescent children). These supplements will have a warning label attached to their supplement description.

With this in mind, ensure you read the label closely to maximize safety.
It is also important to note that the vast majority of supplements available over the counter do not require a prescription for a very specific reason – namely they are safe to consume (even in relatively high doses).

As such, while we certainly implore you to read the label of anything you decide to take closely, it is quite unlikely that you will have an adverse reaction to anything purchased without the need for a prescription.

What Are the Best Supplements for Certain Conditions?

The supplement industry is one of the very few that has an abundance of research to supports its cause. Taking this into consideration, there are specific supplements that have been shown to positively impact a vast number of specific conditions, reducing their severity, while in some cases acting as an extremely potent preventative measure.

Best Supplements for Heart Health

There are a multitude of individual supplements that have been shown to impact the health of the heart in a positive manner. Those that currently appear both completely safe for consumption and demonstrate a large and positive effect include Coenzyme Q10 [1], Omega 3 Fatty Acids (AKA Fish oil supplementation) [2], and green tea [3]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Heart Health
Best Energy Supplements for Chronic Fatigue

Chronic fatigue is an incredibly debilitating disease that results in extremely low energy levels. Despite its somewhat moderate prevalence, there has been very little luck identifying its cause, and subsequently, its cure.

Fatigue or tiredness

With this in mind, one of the best ways to combat chronic fatigue is to ensure that the body has all of the essential nutrients required for energy production readily available.

As such, a great option to supplement traditional chronic fatigue treatments is a high quality multi-vitamin that contains adequate amounts of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Calcium, and Magnesium [4]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Energy

There are various supplements that can cause large increases in our energy levels, while also staving off feelings of fatigue and lethargy. Those which have the most evidence to support their use include Caffeine [5], Guarana [6], Ginseng [7], and Coenzyme Q10 [1].

Best Energy Supplements for Chronic Fatigue

It is important o note that in excessive dosages, these particular supplements can have some associated side effects. These may include jitteriness, nausea, bloating, and a crash in energy. As such it is imperative that you keep to the recommended dosages.

Best Supplements for High Blood Pressure

High Blood pressure is one of the most prevalent risk factors in today’s society, which is a known risk factor to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, all cause mortality, and even age related declines in cognitive function.

Doctor checking blood pressure of pregnant woman.

High blood pressure is thought to be brought on by a number of lifestyle factors, including a lack of exercise, smoking, sedentary behavior, and a poor diet. While correcting these things can certainly go a very long way in lowering blood pressure, there are also a number of specific compounds that have been shown to have appositive effect.

These include Garlic extract [8], Berberine [9], and Fish Oil [2]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a disease becoming increasingly prevalent in our aging population. Also known as degenerative joint disease, it is typified by a substantial breakdown in the cartilage that covers the body’s joints. This can lead to bone damage, joint stiffness and dysfunction, and increased risk of bone and joint injury, in combined with a significant increase in joint pain.

Key supplements that have shown to impact osteoarthritis in an extremely positive manner include Chondroitin and Glucosamine [10], Omega 3 Fatty Acids [10], and Curcumin [10]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Men Over 40 and Over 50

Ageing males tend to see substantial increases in the risk of developing joint issues, cardiovascular dysfunction, and metabolic disease, all in conjunction with declines in cognitive function. Taking all of this into consideration, there is a number of key compounds that have been shown to positively impact health while slowing the negative effects that occur with aging.

Of these, the most effective appear to be Omega 3 Fatty Acids [2], Vitamin D3 [11], Chondroitin and Glucosamine [10], and Magnesium [12]. We also recommend the regular supplementation of Boron [13], as it has shown strong associations with improved prostate health. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Women Over 40 and Over 50

In a very similar fashion to their male counterparts, ageing females also typically see a decline in cardiovascular health, an increased risk of developing metabolic diseases (such as diabetes and obesity), in conjunction with associated declines in cognition.

Additionally, women post menopause have a significantly increased risk of developing osteoporosis – a disease typified by a significant reduction in bone mineral density that can greatly increase the risk of bone breaks and fractures.

With all this in mind, we recommend a number of supplements to maximize the health of females over 40 and 50 years of age. These include Omega 3 Fatty Acids [2], Vitamin D3 [11], Chondroitin and Glucosamine [10], and Magnesium [12]. We also recommend the regular supplementation of Calcium [14], as it has shown strong associations with improved bone mineral density. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Weight Loss

While a specific compound is unlikely to promote as much weight loss as making large changes to both your diet and exercise regime, they can certainly help by giving us an extra boost (in which they make the perfect ‘supplement’ to diet and exercise).

How to Lose Weight with Essential Oils

Taking this into consideration, there are a number of supplements that have shown to aid weight loss through a number of different mechanisms. Of those that have scientific evidence to support their use, the following appear to be the most effective: Green Tea [15], Caffeine [16], and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA for short) [17]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Building Muscle

In a similar vein of thought, muscle building supplements are likely to have very little impact unless you are eating to meet your needs, while also participating in regular resistance training based exercise. But, if you are ticking these two boxes, then there are a couple of key supplements that can take your muscle building pursuits to the next level.

Muscle spasms or cramps

Those most supported by the scientific community are unquestionably Creatine [18] and Whey Protein [19]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Hair Growth

Hair loss is something effects a vast majority of the population (both male and female) as they enter the later stages of life. As such, there has been a host of research within this area with somewhat conflicting results.

head lice

Despite this, two key supplements have been identified to promote the growth of new hair in those individuals who have thinning hair, or who are in the early stages of balding. These are Biotin [20] and Vitamin D [21]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Memory

There is a group of supplements known as Adaptogens that have been shown to cause acute improvements in memory and cognitive function, essentially providing us with a significant boost in brain power.

As an added bonus, when these supplements are taken long term they may also have the capacity to stave off age related declines in mental state and cognitive function. An example of this that we have reviewed is Natrol Cognium.

Those that appear most effective include Ginseng [22] and Ashwaghanda [23]. See our full article here

Best Supplements for Inflammation

Stress in all forms (physical, emotional, and mental) results in what is known as a fight or flight response, in which we see a huge increase in blood flow in conjunction with increased adrenaline secretion – both of which cause a subsequent increase in inflammation.

Inflammation - Joint or wrist pain

In the short term, this inflammation can be beneficial as it prepares the body for immediate action, while also flushing the body with specific hormones and nutrients.

Unfortunately, if prolonged, inflammation can lead to a host of health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, in conjunction with inhibited mental function and associated feelings of depression and lethargy.

Fortunately, there are a number of different supplements that have shown to fight inflammation within the human body, providing a much greater quality of life in its entirety. The most effective of these being Fish Oil [2], Alpha-Lipoic Acid [24], Curcumin [25], and Ginger [26]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Joint Pain

Our joints take bit of beating every single day. As a result, over time, they can become inflamed and painful. This is further impacted by age related deteriorations in joint quality, which can further exacerbate our joint related problems.

back pain - joint pain

Considering this, it is quite fortunate that there are number of key supplements that have shown to improve joint health and function, while simultaneously reducing inflammation within the joint capsule. This can result in significant declines in joint pain.

Of those supplements that have evidence to support their use Chondroitin and Glucosamine [10], Vitamin D3 [11], and fish oil [27] appear to offer the most bang for your buck. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious health issue that is typified by an inability to manage blood sugar levels, which can cause a host of negative health implications (including cardiovascular dysfunction, metabolic disease, cancer, weight gain, and an increased risk of all-cause mortality. It is important to note that diabetes should first be addressed with medication, a change in diet, and a healthy exercise regime.

Diabetes shot

Once these things are successfully in place, then there are a number of supplements that can assist us further. The most effective appear to be Green Tea [3], Magnesium [12], Alpha-Lipoic Acid [24], Cinnamon [28], and Chromium [29]. See our full article here.

Best Supplements for Skin Health

Each and every day our skin is exposed to chemicals and toxins in the air. This can lead to a substantial drop in skin health and skin quality, in conjunction with associated blemishes. Fortunately there are some supplements that have shown to improve the skins ability to remove toxins, while also improving the health and function of the skin cells.

coconut oil for skincare