Supplements-Are they helping you or harming you?

By June 23, 2013Nutrition

Although nutritional supplements can play an important role in supporting your health, they can also harm you if you are not taking them in the right way.

As a holistic nutritionist in Oakville, I meet many clients who take so many different supplements. Usually they take them for specific health care problems as a safer alternative to drugs or as an insurance policy to make for nutrient deficiencies in their diet. Most of the time, I find that people are taking either unnecessary supplements, taking them in the wrong way or wrong form or using poor quality ones.

It is important to note that taking a single nutrient can cause depletion in other nutrients and that low quality supplements filled with fillers and additives can end up harming your body instead of helping it. Moreover certain supplements have to be taken in specific doses or for a specific duration to be effective.

Also if you are taking medications you have to check for supplement drug interactions because certain nutrients can decrease or increase the effect of medications. Another important point is that some drugs can deplete your body of specific nutrients making it essential to supplement.

Choosing an appropriate supplement and creating a supplement program requires careful thought and consideration and sometimes help from a qualified holistic nutritionist.

Some might say why take supplements if we are eating a whole foods diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits every day. The reality is most people don’t eat healthy on a daily basis, besides processed and low quality foods are prevalent in our diet. With conventional agricultural methods used now and the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, our food and soil have lost a big percentage of nutrients compared to the food our grandparents used to eat.

Furthermore there are a number of factors that deplete nutrients from our bodies such as stress, environmental toxins and drugs. Nutritional supplements are sometimes necessary not only to make up for dietary deficiencies but also to help manage and prevent specific health conditions.

There are so many supplements available and they can all be beneficial for you, so it is important to choose the ones that suit your diet, lifestyle and health needs. For example, the supplements I would recommend for an athlete are different from those for a pregnant woman or a child. You have to look for supplements that address your specific health needs and any underlying medical problems, for example:

  • Vegetarians and vegans may have difficulty getting all essential nutrients from diet alone. They may be lacking iron, B12 and calcium.
  • Children who are picky eaters may be lacking in various nutrients.
  • Teenagers who do not eat a healthy diet may be lacking calcium and other minerals.
  • Women of child bearing age may need extra calcium and iron especially if they have heavy periods. If they are planning to get pregnant, higher amounts of folic acid is recommended.
  • Athletes require extra antioxidants to compensate for free radicals generated during intense exercise.
  • Seniors require extra B vitamins especially B12, calcium and vitamin D, while they should avoid iron containing supplements. Other supplements may also be needed depending on health condition and prescription drugs used.

A registered holistic nutritionist can help you with creating a personalized targeted supplement protocol that focuses on your concerns and corrects nutritional imbalances.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a supplement. It can be a tough task to choose a good supplement from so many different choices available at health food stores. Here are some tips to help you in making the right choice:

  • Look for food based natural vitamins and nutrients versus synthetic chemical ones.  Although they may be higher priced, they are much better absorbed by the body and have no long term side effects. Synthetic vitamins may be used when high doses are needed of a specific nutrient for certain periods of time to address specific health conditions.
  • Choose liquid and powder forms over capsules and tablets as they are better absorbed by the body. Avoid large time release pills as they are hard on our digestion.
  • Avoid supplements with sugar, starch, corn, wheat, dairy, salt, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives. These are unnecessary ingredients that can cause allergies in some people. You will be surprised toknow that famous brand children multivitamins are loaded with this harmful ingredients.
  • Buy from a reputable manufacturer with quality certifications.
  • If you are pregnant, breast feeding or have a chronic medical condition or allergy, make sure to ask a nutritionist before taking any supplements.
  • Read the labels carefully for the ingredients as well as expiration date and manufacturer information.
  • If you have questions about a certain brand, call the manufacturer and ask your questions.
  • Don’t take a higher dosage of a product than recommended on the label unless advised to do so by your health care provider or nutritionist.
  • Avoid using single nutrient supplementation unless under supervision of a nutritionist.

One thing to keep in mind is that supplements are intended to complement not replace a healthy lifestyle. Eating a natural, alive and good quality whole foods diet is key for optimum health. It ensures getting nutrients in their natural best absorbable form and in context with other hundreds of nutrients that act as co-factors ensuring maximum absorption and assimilation.

Besides there are forces in nature that are necessary for life, but cannot be recreated in a lab and this life force is present only in living foods.

As an Oakville-based holistic nutritionist, I always advise my clients to include as many natural foods and super foods in their diet, as they can. This way they can get most of their essential nutrients in a natural highly absorbable form and become less dependent on supplements.

Bottom line, the ideal way is to get your essential nutrients by adopting a natural whole foods diet. In situations where you need to supplement your diet to provide timely support to your body, it is advisable to use natural, food based and high quality supplements.

For best results use supplements under supervision of a qualified holistic  nutritionist who can assess your exact needs and health condition. Just remember one thing: no supplement should be taken for life.

If you need help with your health and nutrition, CALL Healthy U Turn at 416 876 4634 to book an appointment OR Sign up for a FREE Clarity Session with Oakville-based holistic nutritionist, Dr Maha Nasr to discuss your health concerns and learn more about how we can help.


The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Sherry Torkos, BSc Phm

Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Elson M. Haas, MD

Supplements Exposed, Brian R. Clement, PhD

Maha Nasr

About Maha Nasr

Maha Nasr, MD (Egy.), PhD, R.H.N., CPCC-founder and owner of Healthy U Turn-is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a strong medical background. In 2016, she was nominated for the first annual holistic nutrition award – “Trail Blazer Award” – for exceptional work in the holistic nutrition industry within Canada. Maha is passionate about empowering highly-driven and successful women who struggle with resistant weight loss and underlying hormonal or digestive imbalances . She helps them to eat the right way for their specific needs, so that they can finally overcome their challenges and effortlessly maintain a healthy and fit body for life, without deprivation or struggle. Find out more about her approach and how she can help at

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