How to Choose Supplements?

The consequences of a Vitamin C deficiency were already known as far back as in ancient Egypt. Most of us heard about scurvy in history class reading about sailors suffering from the disease on long sea voyages. Once they had found out that citrus fruits alleviated this disease, lemons and oranges became a staple on ships preparing for their long journeys.

Ideally, we ought to get most of our vitamins and minerals from food. However, modern farming practices have depleted the soil of minerals so much that even a healthy diet can’t ensure sufficient minerals and vitamins in our food.

Supplementation becomes more important because our body hasn’t adapted enough and finds it difficult to cope with the internal and external stressors.

Every one of us has a unique physiology and thus different needs. Whether we were breast or bottle-fed, the type of diet we grew up with, the kind of environment we live in, and the stress we face are only a few factors that influence our gene expression, metabolism, and microbiome, etc. On top of that, certain health conditions require an increase of certain nutrients.

Thus, standard products and dosages may not be the best choice. How can two individuals with different physiques, activity and stress levels, or dietary requirements have the same needs?

The 3 B’s of supplements

The most apparent factors are the source and quality of ingredients, manufacturing standards, additives, dosage, possible interactions, pharmaceutical form, and therapeutical potency.

Some other aspects to consider are:

• Bio-individuality

• Bio-compatibility

• Bio-availability


Coined by Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, bio-individuality considers an individual’s needs.

Some people lack the enzyme to digest dairy, and others have a sensitivity to gluten or other substances; one person has a sedentary lifestyle, while another is working out six days a week – individual needs require individual recommendations. It is relevant not only for the different types of diets out there; it also applies to the intake of supplements.

Standard recommendations can only be a guideline; life circumstances, health, and lifestyles require an individual to adapt these standardized recommendations to their own needs.

A variety of diagnostic tools will help a nutritionist or complementary healthcare professional assess individual needs and avoid guesswork.


The body has an inner radar as to which substances and materials are compatible with its highly orchestrated system.

Take materials for implants for example. It is vital that the properties of those materials elicit neither inflammation nor allergic reactions when introduced to the body.

Such a disturbance is also possible with something less intrusive, for example, supplements.

When a supplement is bio-compatible, unpleasant side-effects can be avoided because assimilation happens in the body without creating a disturbance somewhere else.


It determines the extent and rate by which a supplement’s active ingredients are absorbed and then made available at the intended site of action.

A Vitamin B complex in liquid form will have a higher absorption rate compared to its tablet form.

Turmeric, for example, is difficult for the body to absorb in its natural form. However, if prepared using a specific extraction process, it becomes more readily available to the body and easier to digest and absorb. Sticking with nature, adding a small amount of crushed pepper also helps.

Depending on the health of the person, his metabolism, diet, and other supplements taken, the bio-availability of a substance may get enhanced or reduced.

There is much more to supplements than meets the eye, and while they tend to be small enough to be swallowed, their effectiveness depends on many factors. Due diligence in choosing the supplement that fits best ensures health and well-being.



  1. Definition of bioavailability from the viewpoint of human nutrition
  2. Drug Bioavailability