I have been using over the counter health supplements of reputable companies worldwide for many years. Often during my travel or trips to stores and pharmacies, I would venture into the health supplements section and spend time reading the labels, researching on the companies and the products. Multi or specific vitamins, special supplements like omega-3 or fish oil, botanicals or herbals, each are being so attractively packaged and intelligently marketed that almost all of us may have tried them (or use it continuously) in our lives.
The basic purpose why we start using them is that we have been told, or we discovered, that our diet is incomplete. Doctors would prescribe us few during our visits for routine check-ups or when we are sick. This is especially upon outbreak of viral infections, suggesting we need to strengthen our immune system. There upon, these supplements enter our life and routine.
But are supplements really necessary?
Besides the wide debate on the correct answer, if we look at our diet, environment, daily routine, fitness, internal and external imbalances, the mind would usually say yes. Our innate human traits of survival and defense keep telling us that we have to “fortify” our bodies and build strong shields around us. No wonder many consumer products have icons of a “shield” or stamps of “safe” to trigger us subconsciously.
Bottom line is that such supplements are not called “drugs” but categorized as “nutraceuticals”. This means it goes in the category of food as it’s intended to supplement our diet. If we keep this basic definition in mind, it will help us in differentiation of the products and selecting the best and most relevant ones for us. Professional advice greatly helps in selecting the right supplements for ourselves. However, with scores of companies popping up every now and then, we should run our own research and validation.
The health supplements market is valued at USD 132.8 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach USD 220.3 billion by 2022. With so much money in it, it may be lucrative at times for the experts as well to put up recommendations for us. Therefore, I will not go into that. The primary reason for the growth as I see is rising consumer awareness for preventive health care along with ageing population and a variety of health issues we come across. Also, media, experts, and marketing strategies ensure we are convinced into buying them.
Looking at the positive side, food is supposed to give us nutrition. Accordingly, supplements have to do the same. If we use the right ones, it benefits us and we have numerous testimonials or examples around us to prove the same. The key to the spending on supplements is “right selection” after recommendations, research and practical use.
I have often discontinued a particular brand or type of supplement to evaluate the difference it has had on me. The body is the best judge and you get to know whether something worked or not. If I go by the logic that food is necessary for our survival, are food supplements necessary till we live? In a perfect world, a wholesome diet is sufficient and our body has enough resilience to fight off the invasions. Else, if we fall sick, there are drugs to fight off our diseases and restore us back to normalcy. Generally we would like to continue supplementing our diet in some form or other. This is through supplements marketed by companies or adding on extra nutritious herbs or foods with our meals. I actually follow and recommend a combination of both, provided you know what you are eating.
So if you choose to consume health supplements, learn enough to differentiate and validate. After using supplements marketed by numerous green, blue and orange companies for decades, some of which may be synthetic, I am personally more tilted towards organic, naturally derived from food sources. This is because I am a true believer of Allah’s miracles and blessings of nature on us. The world has been made for us and in it are plants, herbs, shrubs, algae. These are rich in nutrients, phytochemicals along with therapeutic properties. Though natural products work slow and steady, but that’s how nature has meant it to be. And I am perfectly okay with that.
The company whose products we have been using steadily over a few years has rich literature, and strong testimonials. It also has continuous connection with its users, interesting cultivation to production strategy. And it is sold in a unique way of direct selling.
Let’s keep that more for the next part.
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