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Question: Which supplements are important after bariatric surgery (i.e., weight loss or stomach-reducing surgery)? Are there any I should avoid?
Answer: Weight loss surgeries such as gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and gastric band procedures, reduce the amount of food and liquid a person comfortably digest in one sitting, leading to smaller meals and potentially, inadequate nutrient intake. Gastric bypass (re-routing around the stomach) and gastric sleeve surgery (removing a portion of the stomach) also reduce stomach acid and normal digestive action, leading to reduced absorption of various vitamins and minerals. The use of supplemental vitamins and minerals is recommended for gastric bypass and gastric sleeve patients, and sometimes for gastric band patients. However, for bypass and sleeve patients, the changes in digestion and nutrient absorption also mean that some supplements may not be tolerated or absorbed as well as others. For details about supplements to take or avoid, see the full answer >>
Question: Are supplements with amino acid chelated minerals better than those with other forms of minerals?
Minerals, like magnesium and iron, are metal ions which like to attach to other compounds. The compounds to which they attach can affect how well they are absorbed and how available they are for use in the body. An amino acid chelated mineral is one in which a mineral has been chemically attached to an amino acid, and there is evidence that some, but not necessarily all, of these types of compounds may improve mineral absorption. For information about specific chelated amino acids, such as iron bis-glycine, magnesium diglycinate, zinc bis-glycinate, and selenomethionine (a chelate of selenium), see the full answer >>
Question: Are enterically coated supplements better than non-enterically coated ones?
Answer: Enteric coatings help protect supplement ingredients from being released in the stomach and keep them away from stomach acid and enzymes. This allows the supplement to stay intact until it reaches the less acidic small intestine (where most nutrient absorption takes place). An enteric coating may also be desirable for ingredients which, for some people, otherwise cause an unpleasant aftertaste. Consequently, with ingredients that need protection it is sometimes worthwhile to purchase an enterically coated supplement. However, enteric coatings are not always necessary or beneficial, and, in some case, may just be an expensive gimmick. There are also some concerns about enteric coatings of which you should be aware. See the full answer (with information about enteric coatings for fish oil, marine oils, probiotics, garlic, and SAMe)>>
Question: Do any supplements help relieve stress?
Answer: Fish oil may blunt some of the effects of mental stress, such as increased heart rate and nervous activity. Several clinical studies show ashwagandha may help to relieve symptoms in people with anxiety. And, interestingly, a particular probiotic has been shown to lower levels of the "stress" hormone cortisol, and measures of psychological distress such as depression and anger.
L-theanine, an amino acid found in black and green tea, has been shown to reduce stress responses without causing drowsiness, and there is some evidence that the herbs passionflower and lemon balm may be helpful for anxiety.
One clinical trial found 500 mg of holy basil leaf extract taken twice daily significantly reduced measures of anxiety in men and women (Bhattacharyya, Nepal Med Coll J 2008). See the Encyclopedia article about Ayurvedic medicine for other uses for this herb - which is listed by its scientific name, Ocimum sanctum.
Ginseng is sometimes promoted for reducing stress, although one clinical study found it did not have an effect on cortisol levels. There is weak evidence that valerian supplements may produce a calming effect in stressful situations.
Be aware that low blood levels of iron and vitamin B6 have been associated with stress responses such as hyperventilation and panic attacks in women (Mikawa, Acta Med Okayama 2013), so be sure you're getting sufficient intake of these nutrients. There is some evidence that daily supplementation with a multivitamin-multimineral supplement may help people to cope with stressful situations.
For more information, use the links above, and see the Encyclopedia article about Stress.
Question: Are the "% DV" numbers on vitamin supplement labels really based on what I need?
Answer: Unfortunately, the % DV (percent of Daily Value) numbers are not nearly as useful as they could be. One reason is that they are woefully out of date. The DVs are based on calculations done in 1968 (with some additions in 1989) and do not reflect the latest intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine which show that some DVs are too high and others are too low. In addition, the DVs do not distinguish nutritional needs by age and gender since the DVs are intended to cover healthy adults and children over 4 years of age (except pregnant and lactating women), while the needs of people vary significantly within this expansive group — even between men and women of the same age.
In some situations, the DVs actually exceed the upper tolerable intake levels for adults and/or children. In these cases, when you get 100% or more of the DV from a supplement, you are actually putting yourself at risk of toxicity.
In other situations, 100% of the DV or more is simply much higher than the current recommendations. What appears be 100% of the DV could actually be as much as 1,000% of what you need.
For several popular vitamins and minerals, if you get 100% of the DV, you are actually getting much less than the current recommendations.
The DVs do not include the special needs of women or are pregnant or lactating, whose needs are often much greater than 100% of the DV.
The nutrients for which the DVs can be particularly misleading are vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, biotin, calcium, chromium, copper, folate, iron, iodine, magnesium, molybdenum, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, and zinc.
Question: Which supplements can help treat constipation?
Answer: A number of supplements may be helpful in treating or preventing constipation. Fiber supplements, such as psyllium and glucomannan (a water-soluble fiber) may help to relieve constipation (Note: there is a safety concernwhen using glucomannan). Ground flaxseed, another source of fiber, may also be helpful. (See ConsumerLab.com's Fiber Supplements Webinar for more information about these supplements for constipation as well as for other uses.)
A specific probiotic product was found to significantly increase the number of bowel movements per week in people with chronic constipation. (Other strains have been found to be helpful for constipation associated with IBS).
Magnesium and aloe vera juice (with latex) can help to relieve constipation due to their laxative effects (Note: There are safety concerns with aloe latex -- see the "Concerns and Cautions" section of the Aloe Vera Review before using).
See the Encyclopedia article about Constipation for information about other proposed treatments.
Be aware that constipation may be a side-effect of certain supplements, especially iron, and to a lesser degree, calcium (see the "ConsumerTips" sections of the respective ConsumerLab.com Reviews for more about forms of these minerals which may be less likely to have this effect). Other supplements reported to cause constipation, although less frequently, include nattokinase, chlorella, NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) and beta-sitosterol.
Excessive intake of vitamin D as a supplement can cause hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood) with symptoms including constipation.
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Product Review:Iron Supplements
Initial Posting: 10/17/14 Last Update: 2/11/15
100-Fold Difference Found in Cost of Iron Supplements
Find Out Now If Yours Passed and If You're Getting the Best Value!
Learn How Iron May Help with Fatigue
Alphabetical list of iron supplement brands in report
Country Life Easy Iron
GNC Gentlesorb Iron
CVS Pharmacy Iron
GNC Ultra Iron
Solgar Gentle Iron
Feosol Bifera HIP & PIC Iron
Life Extension Iron Protein Plus
Spring Valley (WalMart) Iron
Nature Made Iron
Thorne Research Iron Bisglycinate
Nature's Bounty Iron
TwinLab Chewable Iron - Blackberry Flavor
Finest Nutrition Iron Supplement
Nutrilite Tri-Iron Folic
Floradix Iron + Herbs
Ortho Molecular Products Reacted Iron
Vitamin World Iron
Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Iron
Puritan Pride Iron
Make sure the iron supplement you take passed our tests and is right for you! Isn't your health worth it?
Although only one iron supplement failed to pass our recent tests (due to lead contamination), we identified major differences among popular iron products. For example, among those that passed testing and offer the best quality iron, the cost to get 25 mg of iron ranged from just two cents to over two dollars -- over 100 times the lowest cost! Differences were also found in the dosage and forms of iron products provided.
Iron is required to prevent and treat anemia. Iron deficiency is most common in menstruating women but also is commonly seen in children, pregnant women, and among people taking drugs that reduce stomach acid. Even mild iron deficiency may cause fatigue and impair learning, memory, and sports performance. Individual needs for supplemental iron vary and some forms may be better-tolerated than others.
You must jointo get the full test results to help you choose the best iron supplement. You will get results for 12 supplements selected by ConsumerLab.com and for 8 others that passed voluntary certification testing, as well as information about three supplements similar to one that passed testing.
In this comprehensive report on iron supplements, you'll discover:
Which iron supplements failed our review and which passed
Which iron supplements provide the best value
Direct comparisons and quality ratings of iron supplements
The pros and cons of different forms of iron (such as carbonyl iron, ferrous bisglycinate chelate, ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous sulfate, as well as heme iron polypeptide, iron protein succinylate, polysaccharide iron complex, and plant-based iron) and which may be the best iron supplement for you
Iron dosage for specific applications, including anemia and unexplained fatigue
How to take iron to avoid stomach upset and increase absorption
Concerns, cautions, and potential drug interactions with iron supplements