Natural VS Synthetic Supplements

Health supplements often get a bad name. They are named ‘health’ supplements of course as they are designed to help you improve your health and your various bodily functions, but despite this people are still weary of them precisely because they know that they’re not ‘natural’. If they don’t occur naturally in your diet, then surely you’re just putting drugs into your body, right?

One way that the health conscious try to get around this is by choosing only ‘natural’ products and health supplements – in other words by choosing the supplements that have had the least done to them and that are the most similar to the condition they would be found in. This tends to mean eating herbs and oils which are simply crushed or syphoned off of things we could find in the wild in order to be consumed. This way then there’s no ‘synthetic’ element, and you’re not eating any chemicals that wouldn’t already exist in your body.

So is this the answer? Is it wise to stick entirely to natural health supplements? Are natural supplements always going to be better than synthetic ones?

Understanding the Difference

Well no, not really – and first of all it’s important to remember that there is very little that’s really ‘natural’ about our diet these days. You think we ate chocolate cake when we were in the wild? You think that pate you’re eating isn’t somewhat synthetic? Are you going to avoid eating that too? There’s a lot of hysteria about drugs and supplements because they come in pill form, but actually even these synthetic products are often a lot more natural than the things you eat anyway.

At the same time you need to bear in mind that this isn’t always a bad thing. There are plenty of things that you can eat in the wild that are completely ‘natural’ and these aren’t necessarily going to be good for you. I wouldn’t recommend heading down the forest and eating mushrooms for instance unless you have a guide book and a lot of experience on foraging – just because something is natural doesn’t mean you can’t overdose, and it doesn’t mean it won’t have side effects. Heck even water can make you go to the toilet and can kill you if you drink too much…

Benefits of Synthetic Supplements

There are often a lot of benefits of synthetic supplements. In the vast majority of cases these supplements will have been creating simply by extracting the good elements of something and putting it together so that you can get it in greater quantities and without the bad stuff. You can eat a whey protein shake for instance, or you can just drink milk (which is where whey comes from). You drink milk you’re going to be taking in more fat than protein and you’d have to drink ridiculous quantities for it to add to your muscle growth – in other words the synthetic aspect has simply made the protein higher quality and more practical. Which is good.

Meanwhile these synthetic products allow people to get around a lot of problems. For instance vitamin B complex is a highly popular supplement for increasing energy and nerve function, which can be found in wheat and yeast. Now if you suffer from candida – then you’re not going to want to be eating yeast and you’ll need a synthetic product.

And finally it’s also worth bearing in mind that these synthetic products have been rigorously tested and are often subject to much more scrutiny than natural products. Unless you bought your synthetic vitamin tablets from a shady looking guy down an alley way (in which case my sympathy for you is limited) then you’re not going to suffer any major side effects unless you overdose or allergic (which equally could happen with natural products) and you know the supplement is going to do its job.

This isn’t true of all the natural herbs and remedies though – many of which are completely unfounded in science and not strong enough to do something. Anything that says ‘homeopathic’ on it for instance doesn’t include any active ingredients and quite simply won’t do anything.

The Advantages of Natural Supplements

That said, natural supplements still have a lot of advantages and it’s important not to get carried away. For instance they will contain usually a much more healthy balance of bioavailable active ingredients making it easier for the body to use them. These supplements are in a form that the body is designed to use, and are already a part often of living tissue. Likewise they will contain other benefits and will be balanced with other nutrients which can help you to use them more. In some cases the synthetic supplements we take go somewhat to waste as the body can’t deal with that much of a good thing at once and simply flushes it away as waste.

Best of all of course is to eat not natural supplements – but natural foods, and in other words make sure that you get your minerals and nutrients from the food you’re eating normally. This way you will also benefit from the fiber and the sustenance, and there many nutrients that are only any use to the body when you are eating anyway (while others need to be consumed on an empty stomach… it’s all very confusing).


So what’s the answer? Which is better? Should you give up on your supplements altogether? Of course not. Instead what you need to do is to consider each case independently – review the precise product you want to use, consider what the benefits are that you’re trying to get from it, and be sure to read up on the best directions for taking it. Synthetic products are not ‘evil’ but likewise not all natural supplements are useless – just use your brain and read as much as you can before taking either of them (and get the nutrient from your diet whenever possible).

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

Follow Adam on Linkedin: adam-sinicki, twitter: thebioneer, facebook: adam.sinicki and youtube: treehousefrog

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