Seniors experience vitamin and mineral deficiency more frequently than younger people. These deficiencies can contribute to poor bone health, loss of focus, susceptibility to dementia, and problems with overall wellbeing. Also, a notable part of the senior population experiences appetite loss, which makes it difficult to get all you need from a regular diet. That’s why many seniors use dietary supplements to achieve nutritional balance. However, combining large amounts of different capsules can even be dangerous. So, where is the line between sufficient and excess supplementation, and which pills should never be combined? Read on to find out.
Diet always comes first
Supplementation, as its name suggests, means an addition to the regular diet. It’s meant to fill nutritional gaps in your meals, not replace them. Make sure you eat as much of real food as you can (fatty fish, beans, legumes, leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy) and get some sunlight for vitamin D. Turn to supplements only when certain foods are restricted to you or when you don’t have access to some of these nutritional powerhouses.
Nutrient needs of seniors
Older adults often need more of some nutrients to fulfill their needs and stay healthy. Here are some vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need in your senior years:
- Calcium and vitamin D are crucial for bone health, and you need at least three servings of calcium-rich foods a day. Some of the examples of good sources of these nutrients are dark leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals, fish, etc. If you’re taking a calcium supplement, choose one with vitamin D.
- Vitamin B12 comes from lean meat and some fish. If you can’t have these foods, consult your physician before taking supplements.
- Fiber prevents type 2 diabetes and lowers the risk of heart disease. Beans and peas are fantastic sources of fiber, but so are some fruits and veggies.
- Potassium lowers the risk of high blood pressure, a common problem among elderly people. Fruits, veggies, and beans are packed with potassium.
- Polyunsaturated fats are the healthy ones, and they’re found in nuts, seeds, olive oils, avocado, and fish. Avoid saturated and trans fats because of the increased risk of heart disease.
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish help make your heart stronger. They can be difficult to obtain, but there are plenty of supplementation options.
It’s essential to follow the dosage recommendations on the label or, even better, suggested by your doctor. If you already consume some nutrients through your diet, you may just get too much of them. And there is no benefit to taking more of a nutrient than you need. Getting too much of some vitamins and minerals may cause various side effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and even liver damage. Here are some basic tips to follow:
- Some supplements should be taken on an empty stomach, while others need to be taken with food – be sure to check the instructions.
- Iron overload causes various side-effects, including joint pain and organ damage. The upper dose, depending on your age, is 45 milligrams.
- Vitamin D, according to The American Geriatrics Society, shouldn’t be taken in amounts larger than 4.000 IU (supplements and food included).
- The recommended dose of vitamin B12 for adults over the age of 50 is up to up to 1,000 mcg (1 mg).
- Also, it is crucial to understand different capsule dosage forms depending on their shapes, sizes, and materials. This needs to be taken into account when considering the dosage.
More can be too much when it comes to combining supplements
It’s also important to know that using more supplements at once can sabotage their efficiency and even endanger your health. Here are a few notable examples:
- Zinc interferes with the absorption of copper, so you need to take at least a two-hour break between the two.
- Cholesterol-lowering capsules combined with niacin can lead to liver damage.
- Garlic-based supplements with Omega-3 pills can cause uncontrolled bleeding.
Additionally, taking supplements with prescription medications without consulting your doctor, also isn’t wise, particularly if you are using meds for heart disease, an organ transplant, etc.
There’s no doubt that, as we age, our bodies require that extra push to remain healthy. Supplements are often the right tools to maintain the body’s ability to produce, store, and use essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to support healthy living. But, you need to have all the facts first and a green light from your doctor before heading for the supplementation shelves.