A Beginners Guide To Health Supplements

Good health is a result of a continuous lifelong process of taking care of your mind and body. No matter your age, gender, weight or current health, it is never too late to start learning about what your body requires to function optimally and how best to supply your body with the fuel it needs. Health supplements are not designed to treat illness and disease but they are a compliment to your diet which promotes health and well-being.

From the very specific to the combined supplements, the following article will give you an insight into health supplements and provide you with the platform to get started!

Joint Support

Joint support supplements generally come in the form of capsules, tablets, powders or oils. Joint supplements are ideal for the following individuals:

-       Those suffering from injury

-       The elderly

-       Those susceptible to bone disease

-       Those increasing demands on joints/bodybuilding

-       Maintenance of bone health

There are various ingredients that you will find present in joint supplements. Below is a brief description of the nutrients to expect and why each one is important to bone, joint and surrounding soft tissue health.

Glucosamine – Glucosamine is an integral component of joints, cartilage, ligaments and tendons where it aids the smooth working of these tissues.

Chondroitin – This can speed up the rate of the healing process by stimulating cartilage regeneration and slowing deterioration in bone wasting diseases. It is found naturally in joint cartilage where it helps to maintain elasticity.

Calcium – This is the most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to bone and teeth health as well as playing important roles elsewhere in the body. It is a vital nutrient to maintain bone health and prevent low bone density.

Ester C – Ester C ascorbate is a vitamin C complex which is non-acidic and gentle on the stomach. Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of collagen, proteoglycans and other organic components of the intracellular matrix. It is also a powerful tissue antioxidant and immune booster which aids the healing process.

Bromelain – Bromelain contains important enzymes which work to block the inflammatory process. This is useful for those suffering from injury, arthritic pain and joint pain. It also helps aid the absorption of glucosamine.

Methylsulphonylmethane (MSM) – MSM is a naturally occurring organic compound found in all living organisms. It is an essential component of joint structures and supports many vital biochemical processes in the body. It is the perfect supplement for maintaining a healthy bone structure and relieving pain and swelling of joints and surrounding soft tissue.

Rosehip – Rosehip has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which help boost immunity, alleviate joint pain and maintain joint health.

Cod Liver Oil – Is a natural source of vitamins A and D and the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. Vitamin D is required for the formation, development and maintenance of bones and may be beneficial to those suffering from inflammatory bone disorders.

Immune Support

A healthy immune system is vital for maintaining health and well-being. The immune system is essential for battling foreign bodies to protect your body from illness and disease. If your immune system becomes overworked or cannot function optimally, the function of other organs and tissues in the body is compromised leaving you feeling drained. There are a variety of specific nutrients and combined supplements available to ensure total immune health. A few examples are below:

Vitamin C – The super immunity boosting power house vitamin is a necessary nutrient for the maintenance of immune health. Sufficient vitamin C intake can be achieved through diet alone as it is abundant in many fruits and vegetables. However, if you are concerned or feel your immune system may be lacking, vitamin C supplementation is a great place to start!

Echinacea – This is a wild herb which has been extensively cited in scientific journals for its immunological effects. It is proven to help fight viral infections, protect against them and reduce both severity and duration of a virus if caught.

Folic Acid – Folic acid is associated mostly with pregnancy. However, the immunity of humans (pregnant or not) is negatively affected by folate deficiency. Folic acid aids in the proper production and function of white blood cells which are the protectors of the body against disease and foreign bodies.

Shark Cartilage – This supplement is made up of protein, collagen and cartilage. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties aid immune system function, assisting in the promotion of healthy white blood cells which are essential to the body’s defence against infection and disease.

Methionine – Methionine is an amino acid which helps breakdown fat, support immune health, remove toxins and eradicate free radicals which would cause oxidative damage if left in the body. It also assists in the removal of toxic waste from the liver and supports the maintenance of cells, tissues and organs to ensure the body is functioning optimally.

Sexual Health

A healthy sex life is an important part of well-being and happiness. Issues in this area can have a negative impact on other health aspects, particularly mental health. Whether you suffer from a lack of sex drive or you want to optimise your nutrient intake to give you the best chance of conceiving possible, there are health supplements available to support sexual health.

ZMA - Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) is a combination vitamin and mineral containing zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. Each of these micronutrients is essential for the human body, particularly in the maintenance of optimum energy levels and physical performance. Zinc is involved in energy metabolism during intense physical exertion. It is also important to the production of testosterone. Magnesium is necessary for glycogen breakdown, protein synthesis, lipolysis (fat breakdown) and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) replenishment (ATP is the energy ‘currency’ of the body).  Vitamin B6 is important in protein metabolism and necessary for maximum muscle and liver glycogen storage. ZMA is associated with improving sleep quality, physical performance and libido (due to the increase in levels of free testosterone).

Folic Acid – Folic acid is essential to the development of the foetal neural tube and is highly recommended for conception. It is also of benefit to men as it supports healthy sperm development.

Vitamin B12 – This vitamin is associated with promoting optimal ovarian function and enhancing total reproductive health in both men and women.

Co-enzyme Q10 – This is most known for its energy releasing and anti-oxidant properties. As well as promoting energy levels (necessary for a healthy sex life) it also helps to stabilise sperm tail movement, making it a great supplement to take when trying to conceive.

Fenugreek Extract (Testofen) – This supplement helps to increase testosterone production aiding both the development of lean muscle mass and improving libido.

Amino Acids ( Methionine, Phenylalanine) – Amino acids act as a precursor to nitric oxide which is well known for its vasodilating effect, helping to improve blood flow.

Primrose Oil – Primrose oil contains a good level of gammo-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is key in the production of prostaglandins which are involved in a number of biochemical processes including hormonal balance. Primrose oil is used to ease the symptoms of PMS, breast pain and menopause.


Multi-vitamins vary from those aimed at promoting general health and those which contain increased quantities of vitamins and minerals alongside amino acids, antioxidants and enzymes which are focused towards athletes, bodybuilders and regular participants in demanding physical activity.

Omega Oils

Fat is also a vital part of the membranes surrounding every cell in your body, which means that without it your cells would not be able to function properly. When levels of fat are too low, brain and nervous function is compromised which is why you hear people talking of fish being ‘brain food’.

Without fat, we would also not be able to absorb many of the vitamins we rely on to maintain health. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble. We could also find ourselves in a hormonal mess should fat levels fall below the recommended requirements. Fats are structural components of prostaglandins which regulate many of the body’s functions. They also regulate the production of sex hormones, which is why females who are dangerously underweight/too lean experience problems with menstruation.

If you want to avoid fluctuating moods, stay mentally alert, fight fatigue, control weight and take care of every cell and organ in your body, you need to be consuming those healthy fats!

Western diets typically contain adequate amounts of omega 6 although the oils can be damaged during the heavy processing that much of our food is subjected to! Omega 3 has been cited to be highly important but it is important not to overlook omega 6 and 9. None of these essential fatty acids can be manufactured by our body and so they have to be ingested.

Fat Loss

Fat burners are a very popular supplement choice and the aim of these supplements is to promote fat loss and the development of a lean physique. The ingredients and dosage present in fat burners does vary between brands and in order to find the one most suitable for you it is important to know the key ingredients to look out for. Below are a few of the key ingredients in a fat burning supplement.

Conjucated Linoleic Acid (CLA) -  Conjugated – Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a mixture of isomers derived from linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid which helps to support general health and reduce serum lipids. By aiding the reduction of body fat and helping to promote muscle development, you can expect this ingredient to have a positive effect on your body composition.

Caffeine - Caffeine is a methylated alkaloid which has mild central nervous system (CNS) stimulating properties.  This stimulant is absorbed from the digestive tract and helps to increase energy, mental alertness and excitability by antagonising adenosine. By blocking adenosine, caffeine facilitates dopamine and acetyl-choline transmission which leads to increases in focus, energy and metabolism. Caffeine reaches peak effect 15-60 minutes post ingestion and continues to work for between 2.5-4.5 hours. It also has a mild diuretic effect.

Carnitine - Carnitine is derived from amino acids lysine and methionine in the body. It plays an important role in the muscle cell energy cycle where it aids fatty acid metabolism. Carnitine helps to remove short-chain fatty acids from the mitochondria which inhibit energy metabolism as they accumulate and has antioxidant properties which protect the body from free radical damage particularly during exercise. You will often see Carnitine paired with Tartrate which promotes hormonal balance. It is essential for good cardiovascular health and guards against fat build up around the heart and liver. Collectively they work to improve energy metabolism which aids healthy weight loss.

Green Tea Extract - Green tea extract is well known for its antioxidant properties, but there are many other benefits to gain from this ingredient. It is affiliated with boosting the metabolism and helping to promote healthy weight loss and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Green tea extract contains L-theanine, which is believed to reduce stress and improve the quality of your sleep too. Not only will you be reaching your weight loss goals, you will feel revitalised from all the great sleep you will be having!

Cayenne Pepper - Cayenne pepper is an antioxidant rich and delicious spice which helps to boost immunity and prevent degeneration in those suffering from diseases of that nature. Ingestion of spices has a thermogenic effect on the body which causes the body to increase metabolism in order to regain homeostasis (normal internal environment of the body). Capsaicin found in cayenne pepper is associated with suppressing appetite which makes this spice a great addition to any fat loss supplement.

Vitamin B6 - While other vitamins are often included in fat burning, vitamin B6 is one of the more popular choices. This water-soluble vitamin is involved in amino acid, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, aids the regulation of blood glucose and increases thyroid activity which enhances the rate of resting metabolism. Vitamin B6 also helps to support immune function and improve memory.

Digestive Health

The digestive system relies on an intricate balance of hydration, nutrient intake, digestive enzymes, organ function and gut bacteria in order to function optimally. When the system is thrown off we suffer from numerous ailments from bloating and indigestion to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Digestive upset is not only uncomfortable but it has a significant impact on energy levels, mental well-being and lifestyle. Below are some of the supplements which are capable of alleviating painful symptoms, restoring the balance and improving overall health.

Charcoal - The ingestion of activated charcoal is excellent at reducing the painful symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea and flatulence. This supplement is wheat and lactose free making it suitable for the majority of people who suffer from digestive upset.

Digestive Enzymes - To ensure you have optimum digestive enzymes to help you absorb maximum nutrients and avoid digestive upset and associated symptoms, ingestion of the enzymes not generated within the body is essential.

Internal digestive enzymes are secreted in the mouth, stomach, pancreas and small intestine. External digestive enzymes are those within food which help our body breakdown the food and extract the nutrients within. Active digestive enzymes are found in raw foods (as well as fungai and plants) so it is no surprise that food preparation and cooking methods are limiting the amount ingested by the majority of people.

The immune system will defend the body against partially digested foods which make it into the bloodstream because it recognises them as a toxic foreign body. Not only does a lack of digestive enzymes decrease the benefit of the nutrition you ingest, it also weakens the immune system making you feel very lethargic.

Probiotics - The human gut is home to hundreds of bacterial species that contribute to food digestion, a healthy flora balance and in some unfortunate cases, inflammatory gut diseases. Probiotics are beneficial ‘friendly’ bacteria that enhance digestive health by keeping the resident bacteria in check.

When the ratio of good bacteria to bad is lowered, problems begin to arise such as excessive gas, bloating, intestinal toxicity, constipation and poor absorption of nutrients. Whilst it is true that non-beneficial bacteria are naturally occurring in the intestinal tract problems begin when their growth goes unchecked. Probiotics play an especially important role in keeping in check the pathogenic bacteria that cause disease. A healthy lower intestine should contain at least 85% friendly bacteria to prevent the over colonisation of disease causing micro organisms like E.coli.

Probiotics are linked with:

-          Lowering bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

-          Lowering total cholesterol

-          Helping to remove excessive amounts of ‘bad’ bacteria to restore a healthy balance

-          Helping to make vitamin K

-          Increasing immunity

-          Reduce digestive related infections

-          Reduce the risk of developing/relapsing chronic gut problems such as ulcers

-          Helping to fight the symptoms of the common cold

-          Effectively treating IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

-          Increasing lifespan

There is an array of health supplements which are designed to promote digestive health including ever popular aloe vera, as well as peppermint oil and ginger supplements which help to settle the stomach during bouts of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Blue green algae is another great addition to a healthy diet in order to promote digestive health as it is a rich source of enzymes as well as vegetable protein, vitamins and minerals.

Cardiovascular Support

Cardiovascular function is imperative to the functioning of our entire body and fundamentally, our survival. Taking extra care of this system is important if you suffer from stress, a genetic condition, you are overweight or you place your body under intense physical exertion regularly. Beneficial supplemental nutrients include:

Garlic – Garlic contains high levels of allicin which studies indicate helps to reduce atherosclerosis and blood pressure. It also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which are integral to immune system function, lowering LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and preventing the build up of plaque (which can lead on to blood clots, thrombosis and in the worst case scenario myocardial infarction (heart attack)).

Trimethylglycine (TMG) – TMG helps to breakdown homocysteine in the body. Elevated levels caused by stress and exercise increase the risk of developing serious and chronic cardiovascular problems.

Omega 3 – This omega fatty acid helps to maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Resveratrol – Resveratrol is a phytochemical found in red grape skin which may be partly responsible for the health benefits attributed to red wine. It is a powerful antioxidant which supports vascular health.

Ginkgo Biloba Extract – This herb is used to improve blood circulation for those who suffer from limited blood flow to their extremities (hands and feet).

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.


  • Ruth

    Hi Tom, Well written on this particular topic. Just wanted add that if you could have used few pictures like Shark Cartilage, Echinacea etc. that would be more interesting but still it is very good information.


    • Tom

      Thanks for the kind feedback. We will do something on these supplements in the coming weeks :)

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