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Nutritional Supplements 101 – Why & How Long

The latest craze over new, nutritional supplements seems to be on the News every week — Take Vitamin D.  Make sure you take a probiotic.  Consume Omega 3 supplements. X supplement can help you avoid Alzheimer’s Disease — It goes on and on. It can get very confusing and frustrating.  The first thing to remember is that the News is searching for viewership.  Most news stories are written to get you to watch more News. The second thing to remember is that the supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry.  This means there are huge advertising dollars spent on marketing the supplements to you.

Why and How Long to Take Nutritional Supplements | Inner Savvy WellnssWith all the conflicting information on supplements, how do you know what to take, what your body needs, and for how long? As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner here is what I do personally and suggest to my clients.

3 Reasons to Take Supplements | Inner Savvy Wellness

3 Reasons to Take Supplements | Inner Savvy Wellness

3 Reasons to Consume a Supplement

If you are considering taking a supplement only take it if it falls into at least one of these categories.  If you are taking it because a news story or a friend said you should, you may want to reconsider.

1. Relief Care: Take a supplement to provide relief or to feel better and avoid taking drugs.

2. Therapeutic or Corrective Care: When there is a nutrient imbalance in the body, supplements can help to correct this imbalance as lifestyle changes in diet, movement, sleep and self-care are made.

3. Maintenance Care: As balance is being restored, some supplements might need to be taken for a long period of time to maintain your health. For example, Vitamin D is almost impossible to get in the correct amounts in North Dakota where I live.  The sun is just not high enough and most of us aren’t in the sun without sun protection.  Vitamin D may be one that you need to take to maintain your health.

3 Purposes of Supplements | Inner Savvy Wellness

3 Purposes of Supplements | Inner Savvy Wellness

3 Purposes of a Supplement

1. Substitute: If your body is not producing enough for what you need, you might need to supplement. An example would be a digestive enzyme if your stomach is not producing enough enzymes to break down your food.

2. Stimulate: If you need to get an organ or system working harder you may want to stimulate it. An example could be oil of oregano or Echinacea to stimulate your immune system if you are at risk of getting a cold.

3. Support: If one of your organs is not producing enough of a vital nutrient you might need to help support it.  An example would be adrenal support because the adrenal system can’t keep up with the amount of stress you are under.

Natural vitamins, minerals, and herbals are not intended to treat any specific disease. I personally only take supplements that are necessary to substitute, support, and stimulate in order to achieve and maintain the optimal health of my body.

How Long Do You Take Supplements?

It depends on which of the three reasons you are taking the supplement and for what purpose.  Relief care should be the shortest amount of time with maintenance care the longest, if not indefinitely.  There should only be a few in this category. Always know the reason and the purpose of the supplement, and it will help you determine when you no longer need it.

Do You Really Need to Take Supplements

If you are having symptoms or imbalance in your body, supplements can help you avoid medications while you make lifestyle changes to support your body function properly.  You might think they can get all you need from food.  If you are eating a plant-based diet that is organic along with other organic or natural foods, you may need very few.  However, please remember that our food no longer has the same amount of nutrients it had in it fifty or more years ago.  Due to the depletion of minerals in the soil, as well as our farming practices of producing larger amounts in a shorter period of time, our food just doesn’t contain minerals that it once did.

Another issue may be that your body is unable to breakdown and assimilate the nutrients in foods. This can also happen with the nutritional supplements you take.  Any digestive issue can cause issues with breakdown and absorption.  Sometimes symptoms you have such as skin issues, headaches, brain fog may not make you think that you have digestive problems, but those symptoms can be tied to improper digestion, and nutrients aren’t being absorbed to it fullest extent.

A Note on How to Take Supplements

You may have purchased a few different nutritional supplements in the past, brought them home and started taking them all at once at the recommended dosage.  How do you know which one is helping or not helping your body?  It is best to add in one supplement at a time at a slow rate in order to read your body signals. As an FDN-P I can help you determine what you may need to take, for what reasons and purpose, as well as how to take them so you can read your body. That way you should know your particular correct dosage.


An important thing for you to consider is where you purchase your nutritional supplements from. Did you know that supplements are under the umbrella of food so the “FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.” Source. The FDA looks at supplements when there is a complaint, not before.  The company is responsible for the safety of its own supplement.  Fraud is rampant in the industry.  For me, that means I only purchase my supplements from pharmacies, reputable companies and directly from pharmaceutical grade manufacturers.  I strongly recommend you stay away from purchasing your supplements from box stores and the largest online retailer, Amazon.

Supplements can fit into an overall healthy lifestyle, but should never be the first step. Buying them can simply be a waste of money if you haven’t taken the time and effort to identify which supplements your body needs. You also need to be making lifestyle changes in your food, movement, self-care and sleep to make the most of the supplements you take.

Find Out More

When you work with me to help you tackle your health concerns by making lifestyle changes, we will, together, figure out what nutritional supplements you need, based on your lab work and symptoms. Your body is meant to be in homeostasis and supplements can be a part of helping you achieve balance. Schedule a free, short phone chat with me.

Grab Your Spreadsheet

When you take more than a couple of supplements, it can be hard to remember which ones and when to take them.  Grab this easy to use spreadsheet to keep track of the supplements you take.  Previously this was only available to my paying clients, but I am making it available to everyone for your convenience.

Free Printable - Supplement Tracker | Inner Savvy Wellness
Grab Your Copy Today!

Why and How Long You Should Take Nutritional Supplements | Inner Savvy Wellness
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Supplement Tracker | Free Printable | Inner Savvy Wellness
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  1. It took me a long time to find the right supplement. I had issues with b complex and all the vitamins I found had a lot of it. But about a year or so ago I found one that I could handle through Isagenix. And it really is helping. It’s specially designed for women.

  2. Tamuria says:

    I never really felt the need to take a supplement until a few years ago when my doctor told me I was vitamin D deficient. This came as a shock as here in Australia we have plenty of strong sunshine and I enjoy being in it as much as possible. Anyway, I take that and calcium now.

    • Karen says:

      Most people are Vitamin D deficient because most of the time in the sun you are covered with sunscreen. Glad you are taking what your body needs.

  3. What a great explanation, Karen. I’m a big believer in supplements, and take them according to your reasons here. You really do have to know what you need, what will address that need, and how to take them.
    Living in the South, I always thought I received enough Vit D. But as you mentioned, one word, sunscreen. Lol. And now studies have shown that no matter where you live, you’re probably not getting enough Vit D just by being outside.
    Great post!

    • Karen says:

      So glad you know what you are taking your supplements. And yes, Vit D is low on most people because of sunscreen. It is an easy Vitamin to take to make sure your body is functioning properly.

  4. Great explanation. Years ago these were called vitamins. Now they are supplements. The ones I now take were based on blood tests and recommended by my Dr. I don’t take the amount the manufacturing company recommends and find I get good results.

    • Karen says:

      Ros, The reason is there are so many more that are herbal based, not just vitamins, so they are considered supplements. And that is what they should do, supplement your otherwise healthy lifestyle. Glad you were proactive and got testing done to see what you need. Each person needs to figure out what the right amount it based on how they are reacting to what they take. Glad you figured out what works for your body. Some people need more than recommended. We are all different.

    • Karen says:

      It really is best to get lab work done to see what you need or work with someone that understands the body well enough to help with determining what you might need for the short term.

  5. There is indeed a lot of misinformation and hype about so many of the supplements on the market now, Karen. It is a challenge to sort through the quality and integrity of each company, which is why independent reports like the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements is a good resource to check out before you buy products. Many companies are based on marketing, not science, and often people fall into the trap of believing it must be good for them when they see all the marketing behind a product. I’m so happy you linked so many of the common symptoms people experience to a faulty or weak digestive system. People seem to be surprised to find that headaches might be a sign that their digestive system could use support. I know that we cannot get all the nutrition we need from food any more, so I am a strong advocate of supplements if you want to optimize your health. And, research reveals new information, so vitamins like D are now considered more necessary to supplement than they were in the past.

    • Karen Grosz says:

      Usually, if there is a lot of money on the line, you will find hype and fraud. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is a large industry, ripe for less than honorables to take advantage. However, there is a lot of good and great reasons to take supplements, so we can’t throw it all out. Some supplements are needed for different reasons for different people.

  6. I take supplements to…well, supplement. My diet is not as good as it could be and I know I am deficient in some areas. Supplements help me maintain a modicum of good health.

    • Karen says:

      Sounds like you are using some to substitute what you aren’t getting. They can help as you work toward health, which I know you are doing. 🙂

  7. It’s just plain simple.. we do not get the wholeness of foods anymore these days… we have so much genetic enhancements in everything and are missing out on so much we HAVE to supplement, for sure

  8. Joyce Hansen says:

    I like the way you broke down the use of supplements into three categories. I think a lot of people get confused. It all sounds good and they’re not sure what they actually need. I’ve been taking a supplement combo for years as maintenance and have remained pretty healthy. So, I can recommend them in general, but agree people should see a professional to determine their actual needs. Unfortunately, we see a lot of younger people having problems because of poor eating habits.

    • Karen says:

      Food is critical to overall health. If we put poor gas in a car, it won’t run well. Same thing with our bodies, over time they can’t run well without proper nourishment.

  9. Hi Karen 🙂
    Really enjoyed your post on the importance of taking nutritional supplements and why you should 🙂 I have always taken some kind of vitamin since I can remember: when I was pregnant with both of my kids, of course, took pre-natal and before and AFTER I have been taking a daily vitamin…I have only taken one kind and that is Shaklee 🙂 Now that I am over 50, it is so important to get the daily intake of vitamins that post menopausal women, like me, need to ensure I am getting to stay as healthy as I can!

    Fantastic share and thank you for all of the valuable info on why we should be taking nutritional supplements for whatever reason 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. It is important for women to know that what you might have needed when you are younger can change as your body changes.

  10. I take a handful of supplements. It’s great how you outline the whys and hows to take them. I think a lot of people just look at the bottle, think they need it, and take it without seeking any expertise. This is quite helpful.

  11. Kimberly says:

    My diet is really pretty good – if anything, I overdo it in the fruit and veggie area! I do take supplements, tho – probiotics, magnesium and D. Good article! It’s helpful to review!

  12. Joan Potter says:

    Karen – good review. The Vitamin D shortage is a real issue for many of us – and I think it plays a huge role in our homeostasis. The thing is – lots of us are deficient, despite spending lots of time in the sun and no-one seems to be able to consistently put a finger on what’s happening!

    • Karen says:

      Joan, from everything I have read the shortage on Vitamin D relates to mostly two things: Sunscreen so when we are in the we can get what we need to make Vitamin D and 2) we just don’t spend enough time in the sun like we used to and at the low altitude of the sun, we need to be out there most of the day to get it. I also personally have an opinion that on top of this because we have so many gut issues or bodies are not able to utilize what we do make or consume.

  13. This is a great post. The information out there outweighs the practical advice. When, how, where, with what questions seem to get buried in the process. Your points are very important to consider when taking supplements, and I’m sure that your service is a huge help to many!

  14. It surprises me how many people take supplements with no real idea of what they are for or why they are taking them. Those same people aren’t the ones who could be conned by any other form of advertising, but for some reason, they are suckered into this one.
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂

    • Karen says:

      I think we all just want to feel better and hope we can find the “magic key” to feel better and be rid of what is bothering us. Thanks for hosting #AnythingGoes

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