So what are supplements?

So what are supplements? 

By Daniel Rocha LMT CPT CNS 

We all consume vitamins and supplements; you’re here on this site getting ready to order your favorite products. So I was hoping you could give me a few minutes of your time, and let’s go over nutritional and dietary supplements. 

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbals, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and animal extracts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) characterizes them as food used as supplements and not as drugs. Nutritional supplements are packaged as pills, capsules, powders, gel tabs, extracts, or liquids and added to energy drinks or energy bars. Supplements provide nutritional support when people cannot get sufficient nourishment through eating or drinking.

Healthy nutritional food usually provides a sufficient daily supply of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Some individuals, particularly senior adults, have dietary limitations, health problems, mental health issues, and other elements that keep a patient from enough necessary nutrients. Even with proper diets, nutritional supplements are essential for patients over 50 due to their aging bodies and inability to absorb essential nutrients, such as vitamin B 12, calcium, vitamin D, iron, and vitamin B 6.

Sustaining a well-balanced diet for a senior adult is challenging due to decreased appetite from medications, depression, or other health concerns. Therefore a sufficient diet is necessary for optimum health. Full-time caregivers' control over the situation can be sustained through productive grocery shopping, preparing healthy meals, and companionship encourages the appetite of individuals who live alone. Supplemental energy drinks and liquid dietary supplements are prescribed by a primary care physician or dietitian when eating regular meals is difficult due to food allergies, dietary restrictions, or physical challenges caused by medical conditions or prescribed medications.

(Spehar, 2021)


Dietary Supplements


Dietary supplements are products formulated to provide adequate amounts of essential nutrients or to help promote optimal health and performance, especially when not consumed in a variety of foods. Dietary supplements do not treat, mitigate, prevent, or cure disease. Dietary supplements include not vitamins, minerals, herbals, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and animal extracts. Dietary supplements are purchased without a prescription at grocery stores, drugstores, general merchandise retailers, natural food and specialty health and nutrition stores, and online. Supplements display a “supplement facts” label to differentiate supplements from food products or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

Vitamin supplements deliver micronutrients required by the body for growth, digestion, and nerve function; for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; and cellular repair. Vitamins are recommended for patients who do not receive sufficient amounts from their diet. Mineral supplements provide micronutrients that aid in creating new cells and enzymes, distributing fluids, controlling nerve impulses, and carrying oxygen to cells and carbon dioxide from cells. Mineral supplements include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Senior citizens require extra calcium to maintain strong bones and reduce bone loss.

Herbs, or botanicals, are used as healing therapies and are considered medicinal. Herbal supplements are purchased as extracts of fresh or dried products, tablets, capsules, powders, teas, roots, or leaves. They consist of a group of or a single chemical isolated from a plant used to maintain or improve health in a specific part or organ of the body. The best supplements will contain standardized extracts, ensuring the use of a single herb rather than a combination of herbs. Examples of herbal supplements include black cohosh, suggested for malaise, gynecological conditions, kidney disorders, rheumatism, and hives; echinacea, suggested for upper respiratory illnesses; ginger suggested for nausea, arthritis, osteoarthritis, and joint and muscle pain; and saw palmetto, suggested for bladder and kidney functioning. 

(Sims, 2021)


Before using herbal supplements, or dietary or nutritional supplements, the patient's physician should be consulted, especially if a patient takes other medications. A Naprapath or manual therapist can palpate a body, recognizing the texture of a patient's skin, muscle tone, and other visual signs of nutritional deficiency. It is within the scope of practice to provide nutritional guidance, including nutritional and dietary supplements. This area can give a patient or athlete the ability to recover and health faster from the manual therapy provided. So get some bodywork done. You train hard and deserve a little self-care. Your therapist may suggest extra supplements for you that will help your training. 


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Sims, J. L. (2021). Dietary Supplements. In B. Narins (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health: A Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 840-844). Gale.


Spehar, J. E. (2021). Nutritional Supplements. In B. Narins (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health: A Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers (3rd ed., Vol. 4, pp. 1710-1714). Gale.

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