Finding the right supplement to help alleviate an ache or pain can be a minefield. Naturopath and clinical nutritionist Tej BG, of the Integrated Medicine Institute in Hong Kong, says most people are unaware of possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies. He advises to watch for unexplained symptoms of tiredness, poor mental functions, generally feeling unwell or other indications. 'People with prolonged symptoms should consult their doctor or a health professional who can test and treat nutritional deficiencies,' BG says. 'A severe [vitamin] deficiency disease, such as scurvy [caused by lack of vitamin C], is extremely rare nowadays, but minor nutritional insufficiencies may be common due to improper farming practices that result in produce containing inadequate nutrients. This is often exacerbated by poor digestion of an individual, and demands on our bodies due to lifestyle pressures.' A good quality, non-synthetic supplement, which provides all the known vitamins and minerals, is a good place to start. And, for Hongkongers exposed to added pollution and lifestyle challenges, BG recommends an antioxidant formula that has a combination of nutrients. 'Antioxidants are compounds that help protect against free-radical damage, a highly reactive molecule that can bind to and destroy body compounds. 'Free radicals have also been shown to be responsible for the initiation of many diseases [including cancer],' he says. The third important supplement is probiotics, or good bacteria, for the gastrointestinal tract. These help with digestion and boosts the immune system, BG says. Kanne brottrunk, or bread drink, is a probiotic beverage made from fermented grains. It is made in Germany from bread baked from biodynamically grown grains. The drink contains live cultures (lactobacillus reuteri), grain lactic acid, trace elements, minerals and vitamins. It is also said to strengthen the immune system and relieve eczema and psoriasis. These conditions can also be exacerbated by cooler weather. With the flu season now upon us, COLD-FX is said to help prevent colds and relieve and decrease the duration of symptoms. Each capsule contains 200 milligrams of an extract of the panax quinquefolius root (North American ginseng) that has been shown to help boost the immune system. The polysaccharides in the ginseng have been scientifically proven to produce the strongest effect in assisting immunity, according to a study by scientists from the University of Alberta, Canada. The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have been widely publicised and are now commonly prescribed. Research shows omega-3 fatty acids are vital for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system, and the brain, joints and nervous system. Doctor's Choice Omega 3 boosts concentration, brain functions and helps keep blood pressure and blood fat at safe levels. It is particularly recommended for people concerned about heart problems and can also relieve joint pain caused by conditions such as arthritis. For vegetarians, the omega-3 in the brand's Veggi Omega 3 comes from a plant source, flax seed. It helps promote heart health and brain function, and keeps the circulatory system in shape, in addition to containing a powerful dose of antioxidants. Doctor's Choice Vita Stress includes a combination of nutrients including B vitamins and folic acid, which are important for healthy functioning of the adrenal glands where stress hormones are produced. Together with niacinamide and vitamin H, it can help the body overcome anxiety and insomnia. Diagnosis of nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies can be done by a health professional trained in nutrition and may involve detailed dietary or laboratory analysis. 'Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are present in grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, so [people] who do not consume these in sufficient quantity [may want to consider taking] supplements,' BG says. 'With the growing popularity of natural and organic food, supplements made from organic or whole food are also increasingly sought because they have been shown to be close to a natural state and hence may be more readily absorbed and used by the body.' The term 'health supplement' refers primarily to the use of vitamins and minerals to support good health and to prevent or treat illnesses. 'The first thing to remember is that they are just supplementary to the body,' BG says. 'A person cannot try to make up for poor dietary habits, [a risky] lifestyle and a lack of physical activity by taking pills alone - whether the pills are drugs or health supplements.' Given the enormous differences from person to person, and the different functions of vitamins, minerals and other compounds, supplements may have a varied impact on the body. BG warns of the long-term use vitamins A, D, E, K. He says they can be toxic if taken in high doses. Also, be wary of supplements that come from dubious sources.