In Summary
  • If you are choosing from a couple of products that look the same, take a look at what form the mineral comes in. For example, calcium citrate is much more easily absorbed than its carbonate counterpart (calcium carbonate is actually chalk!).
  • Steer clear of the ones that don’t even have the EPA and DHA levels written anywhere on them – they’re probably so low that the manufacturer hasn’t bothered listing them. This is one supplement where paying a little extra is probably justified.

Last week I talked about the importance of choosing good quality herbs – ideally something pre-packaged from a reputable company and in tincture form (essentially a concentrated form of the herb, preserved in alcohol). I also outlined the importance of ensuring that vitamins came in a high enough dose (say, 50mg of each of the B-vitamins) and to take care when supplementing when pregnant.

Today, I’d like to talk about minerals. The most common mineral combination that’s bought, is for healthy bones. In this case, you want a supplement that contains magnesium as well as calcium (normally half magnesium to calcium), as well as bone-building nutrients like boron, zinc and vitamin K.

If you are choosing from a couple of products that look the same, take a look at what form the mineral comes in. For example, calcium citrate is much more easily absorbed than its carbonate counterpart (calcium carbonate is actually chalk!).

IMPORTANT COMPONENTS

The same rule applies for other minerals. For example, when buying zinc, choose a zinc citrate. If you’re not sure, it really is worth talking to a qualified health professional before buying.

The husband of a patient of mine recently came to me with a bottle of calcium supplements he had been given for his arthritis. He couldn’t understand why his arthritis was now worse. In the case of calcium, if it is not absorbed properly by the stomach, it can be dumped in the joints (instead of being used in bone formation) and this was why his knee pain was worse.

Next, a special mention to omega-3 fats which don’t really fall into the vitamin, mineral or herb category. When choosing a supplement, look for one that contains at least 200 mg each of EPA and DHA – these are the important components.

Steer clear of the ones that don’t even have the EPA and DHA levels written anywhere on them – they’re probably so low that the manufacturer hasn’t bothered listing them. This is one supplement where paying a little extra is probably justified.

Last of all, I’d like to talk about the length of time a supplement is taken. While many work quite quickly (just a few days for blood-sugar-controlling chromium or relaxing magnesium), other ones can take longer to work.

This is especially true of adaptogenic herbs, namely ones that recalibrate the body. For example agnus castus, the hormone balancing herb, should be taken for three menstrual cycles to see results, while gingko biloba, the famed herb for memory is routinely taken for between three and six months.