IPM Vitamin and Supplement Glossary


In nutrition, the process of moving protein, carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients from the digestive system into the bloodstream. Most absorption occurs in the small intestine.

Adaptogens are herbs, roots and other plant-like substances (like mushrooms) that help our bodies manage stress and restore balance after a stressful situation. People take adaptogens as herbal supplements in capsule form, drink them in teas or in a powder added to soups, smoothies and other foods.

The process of giving a person a medicine or dietary supplement by mouth, by vein, on the skin, or by another route. For example, a 14-day administration of valerian extract.

Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is a symptom-based syndrome tightly linked to chronic stress — both physical and emotional. Being under stress day after day, week after week, forces the adrenal glands to work overtime pumping out the hormone cortisol at emergency levels. Adaptogenic herbs, diet, exercise, improved sleep habits, reduction in daily stress and hormone replacement therapy may all help. Symptoms and signs of adrenal fatigue in include: 

  • Fatigue/Exhaustion (often feeling tired in the morning) 
  • Insomnia 
  • Weight gain (especially midsection weight gain)
  • Cravings for salty or sugary foods
  • Brain fog
  • Light headedness
  • Anxiety
  • Intense irritability
  • Depression
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Reliance on caffeine to “get through the day”
  • Afternoon energy crash
  • Feeling suddenly alert later in the evening

Adverse Effect
An unwanted side effect.

Amino Acid
A chemical building block of protein. Examples include lysine, arginine, glutamine, etc.

A type of protein made by white blood cells in response to an antigen (a foreign substance in the body). Each antibody binds to only one specific antigen and helps to destroy it. An antibody can work in several ways, depending on the nature of the antigen. Some antibodies destroy antigens directly. Others make it easier for white blood cells to destroy the antigens.

A substance that protects cells from damage caused by free radicals (compounds formed during the metabolism of oxygen). It may help prevent the development of some chronic diseases such as cancer. Antioxidants include beta-carotene; lutein; lycopene; vitamins A, C, and E; selenium; and zinc.


B vitamin    
A nutrient that is important for cell function. The B vitamins are biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. The B vitamins make up the vitamin B complex.

An inactive ingredient (one that has no medicinal effect on the body, such as starch, salt, or sugar) used to hold together the contents of a pill or tablet.

The amount of a nutrient that reaches the body’s tissues after it is eaten.

Having to do with plants or plant parts, or dietary supplement products made from plants.

Buffered (vitamin C)
Buffered vitamin C is created when a mineral salt is added to ascorbic acid. This results in a substance that resists changes in pH, providing a better formulation choice for those with sensitive stomachs.


A unit of energy in food. Carbohydrates, fats, protein, and alcohol in the foods and drinks we eat provide food energy or “calories.”

Capsules include medication that’s enclosed in an outer shell. This outer shell is broken down in the digestive tract and the medication is absorbed into the bloodstream and then distributed and metabolized in much the same way as medication from a tablet. Capsules can be vegetarian (often from pine fiber) or animal sourced (bovine or marine gelatin).

A group of pigments that naturally occur in some plants, algae, and bacteria. They are responsible for the yellow, orange, and red colors in plant foods, such as carrots, red peppers, pumpkin, beets, and sweet potatoes. Carotenoids are also found in spinach, collards, kale, mustard greens, and other dark green leafy vegetables. Common carotenoids include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin..

The individual unit that makes up the tissues of the body. All living things are made up of one or more cells, which are the smallest units of living structure capable of independent existence.

Cell Membrane
An envelope that contains the contents of a cell and controls what passes into and out of the cell.

CFU (Colony Forming Unit)
Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFU), which indicate the number of viable cells in a specific sample, dose, capsule, etc. High CFU counts are sometimes seen as a quality indicator, but it is one part of a high-quality supplement. Bacterial strain combination, the delivery mechanism, and clinical studies should also be taken into consideration.

Chelated (Reacted)
Chelated minerals are meant to boost absorption. They’re bound to a chelating agent, which are typically organic compounds or amino acids that help prevent the minerals from interacting with other compounds. Reacted is another word for chelated.

Colloid (colloidal)
A colloid is a mixture is two or more substances mixed together but not chemically combined (they can be separated). They are a special type of mixture where tiny particles of one substance are scattered through another substance. Cream is a colloid as it’s made up of tiny particles of fat dispersed in water. Colloidal silver is an example of a colloidal preparation with silver particles in water.

In pharmacy, a substance that contains more than one ingredient.

Connective Tissue 
Cells that work together to protect and support the body’s muscles, joints, organs, skin, and other tissues. Examples of connective tissue include cartilage, fat, blood, and bone.

Controlled Release (Sustained Release)
Some tablets have a special coating that prevents them from breaking down in the stomach. This coating helps ensure that the tablet will only dissolve after entering the small intestine.


Daily Value (DV)
A term used on a food or dietary supplement label that tells you how much of a particular nutrient (such as calcium) one serving of the food or supplement provides. DVs are given as percentages and help you compare one product with another. For example, a food that lists 40% DV for calcium would provide much more calcium than another food that lists 10% DV for calcium. For each nutrient, there is one DV for all people aged 4 years and older. DVs are established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some therapeutic formulas include ingredients far in excess of the typical recommended DV. It is important to know if the amount of an ingredient you are taking is safe, consult a doctor when you are uncertain.

An amount that is not enough; a shortage.

Dietary Fiber  
A substance in plants that you cannot digest. It adds bulk to your diet to make you feel full, helps prevent constipation, and may help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Good sources of dietary fiber include whole grains (such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, bulgur, and popcorn), legumes (such as black beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, and lentils), nuts, seeds, fruit, and vegetables.

Dietary Supplement 
A product that is intended to supplement the diet. A dietary supplement contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and other substances) or their components; is intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid; and is identified on the front label of the product as being a dietary supplement.


In the body, a dissolved mineral (such as sodium, potassium, chloride, or calcium) that helps control the amount of water in the blood, inside the cells, and in the spaces between the cells, and helps control the way cells work (such as moving nutrients into cells and moving wastes out of cells). Electrolytes help prevent dehydration and many people involved in sports take them with water.

Endocrine (system)
The endocrine system consists of glands located throughout the body, hormones made by the glands and released into the bloodstream or the fluid surrounding cells and receptors in various organs and tissues that recognize and respond to the hormones.

A protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body.

In nutrition, essential nutrients are ones that we must consume for good health because our bodies cannot make them. Essential nutrients include vitamins and minerals.

A substance made by soaking an herb in a liquid that removes specific types of chemicals. The liquid can be used as is or evaporated to make a concentrate or a dry extract for use in capsules or tablets.


Fat Soluble
Something that is fat-soluble is capable of being dissolved in fats or oils. What’s important to know is that fat-soluble vitamins can be retained in body fat and your liver, and will be used as needed by your body. The potential disadvantages of excesses can include heart problems, nausea (including vomiting) and liver issues. Vitamin D is an example of a fat-soluble vitamin.

Fatty Acid
Fatty acid is a major component of fats that is used by the body for energy and tissue development.

Food and Drug Administration. FDA, Department of Health and Human Services. FDA is the Federal government agency responsible for ensuring that foods and dietary supplements are safe, wholesome and sanitary, and that drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and food are honestly, accurately and informatively represented to the public. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering conventional foods and drug products (prescription and over-the-counter). The dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.

An inactive ingredient (one that has no medicinal effect on the body, such as lactose or starch) that is used to provide consistency and uniformity in the size and weight of a pill or tablet.

Substances that naturally occur in many plants. Green tea, cocoa, coffee, red wine, berries, apples, citrus fruit, and cruciferous and colorful vegetables contain significant amounts of flavonoids. Plant foods contain more than 6,000 flavonoids, including flavanols, flavones, flavonols, flavanones, anthocyanidins, flavan-3-ols, and isoflavones.

Free Radical
An atom or molecule made in the body that can damage cells. A free radical has at least one unpaired electron, which makes it unstable. To become stable, the free radical takes an electron away from another atom, which makes that atom unstable, and starts a chain reaction that can injure cells. Free radicals are made during chemical changes that take place in a cell or an organism to produce energy and basic materials needed for important life processes (metabolism). They also come from tobacco smoke, pollution, radiation from the sun and x-rays, and other sources outside the body. Free radicals damage cells, cause genetic alterations (mutations), and may play a role in cancer, heart disease, and age-related diseases (such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s diseases). Free radicals are also beneficial; they are involved in killing germs (microorganisms) and they help hormones and chemical messengers communicate with cells. Proteins (enzymes) made by the body, and vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene in the diet help prevent free radical damage.


Gel Cap (Softgel)
Soft-gel capsules, also known as liquid gels, have a slightly different appearance than hard-shelled capsules. They’re typically wider and are usually semi-transparent as opposed to opaque. They are generally made of gelatin and are the usual choice for encapsulating oils. They contain medication suspended in gelatin or a similar substance. This substance is easily digested, at which point active ingredients are released and absorbed.

Gelatin or gelatine is a translucent, colorless, flavorless food ingredient, commonly derived from collagen taken from animal sources.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)
A GMO is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

A protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Eating gluten damages the small intestine in people who have celiac disease (also called gluten intolerance, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, and sprue) and can cause abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and other symptoms.

Gram (g, mg, ug)
A measure of weight. It is a metric unit of mass equal to 0.001 kilogram (it weighs 0.035 ounce). For conversion, 1000 micrograms = 1 milligram and 1000 milligrams = 1 gram.


Health Claim
A statement on a food or dietary supplement product label that describes a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient and the reduction in risk of developing a disease or health-related condition. For example: “Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord birth defect.”

Having to do with or made from medicinal or edible plants.

High Potency
This term typically is reserved for vitamin supplements containing more than the established daily value of a specific vitamin or mineral. High potency products may also be referred to as “megadose” supplements.

An alternative medical system based on the ideas that “like cures like” (a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people) and the “law of minimum dose” (the lower the dose of medication, the greater its effectiveness). Homeopathic remedies are made from plant, mineral, or animal substances and are available as pills placed under the tongue, ointments, gels, drops, and creams.

A group of chemicals made by glands in the body. Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of certain cells or organs. Some hormones can also be manufactured.


Immune System
A group of organs and cells that defends the body against infection, disease, and altered (mutated) cells. It includes the thymus, spleen, lymphatic system (lymph nodes and lymph vessels), bone marrow, tonsils, and white blood cells.

Inactive Ingredient
A substance that has no medicinal effect on the body. Uses of small amounts of inactive ingredients in dietary supplements include holding the tablet together, improving the taste or smell, and increasing the stability of the key ingredient.

The invasion and spread of germs in the body. The germs may be bacteria, viruses, yeast, or fungi.

Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. It is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of tissues.

In a dietary supplement, an ingredient is a component of the product, such as the main nutrient (vitamin, mineral, herb, amino acid, or enzyme) or any binder, color, filler flavor, or sweetener. In herbal supplements, the common name and Latin name (the genus and species) of the plant is given in the ingredient list. On a dietary supplement label, the ingredients are listed by weight, with the ingredient used in the largest amount first on the list and the ingredient used in the least amount at the end of the list.

Describes a substance that is not of plant or animal origin. For example, minerals are inorganic.

IU (International Unit)
IU stands for international unit and tells you about the biological effectiveness of a fat-soluble or water-soluble vitamin. IU is a less tangible way of measuring the amount of a vitamin or mineral, compared to a volume or weight measurement like mg or mL. It tells you what the biological effectiveness of that substance is, instead of a weight or volume. On the other hand, measurements like mg and mcg tell you the physical weight of the vitamin or mineral that you’re looking at.




When referring to dietary supplements, information that appears on the product container, including a descriptive name of the product stating that it is a “supplement”; the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor; a complete list of ingredients; and each dietary ingredient contained in the product. Supplements must also include directions for use, nutrition labeling in the form of a Supplement Facts panel that identifies each dietary ingredient contained in the product and the serving size, amount, and active ingredients.

A small, hard candy containing medicine that is dissolved in the mouth.


The carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in food that give you energy and maintain your body.

Medical Food (Functional Food)
A conventional or modified food or ingredient that provides a health benefit (such as a lowered risk of osteoporosis) in addition to the basic nutritional functions of the food. Examples include whole, fortified, enriched, and enhanced foods.

Having to do with metabolism (all chemical changes that take place in a cell or organism to produce energy and basic materials needed for important life processes).

Methylated (methyl-)
A methylated nutrient is a compound attached to a molecule made up of one carbon and three hydrogens, known as a “methyl group” (CH3). Some people react poorly to methylated nutrients. If you have had adverse side effects after taking anything with B vitamins in it, you may be sensitive to methylated nutrients.

The vitamins and minerals in your diet that your body needs in small amounts.

In nutrition, an inorganic substance found in the earth that is required to maintain health. As your body cannot produce minerals, you must obtain them through your diet.

A product that is meant to supplement the diet. Multivitamins contain a variety of vitamins. The number and amounts of these nutrients can vary substantially by product.


A chemical compound in food that is used by the body to function and maintain health. Examples of nutrients include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

The process of eating, digesting, and absorbing nutrients (such as protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water) from food to maintain the body, grow new cells, repair tissues, and supply energy. Nutrition is also the science of food, diet, and health.


Omega-3 Fatty Acid
A main component of fats used by the body for energy and tissue growth. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids in the human diet; they are found in fish oil and certain plant and nut oils. Other types of fatty acids, such as Omega-6 and Omega-9 are also found in food sources and have different effects on the body.

Organic Food
Food made from plants or animals that have been grown or raised according to the standards of the National Organic Program. The standards relate to the methods, practices, and substances used to produce and process agricultural products. Use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge is prohibited. Cereals, fruits, and vegetables must be grown using natural fertilizers and natural pest control methods. Animals raised for meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products must be fed organic feed and not given antibiotics or hormones to promote growth. Food produced this way can be certified and labeled as organic.

Oxidative Damage
Changes that take place in the body¹s cells as a normal result of living (such as from eating food or being exposed to sunlight). Too many of these chemical changes may increase the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and age-related eye disease. Antioxidants help to protect the body from excess oxidative damage.


A molecule that contains two or more amino acids (the molecules that join together to form proteins). A peptide is simply a larger building block made up of amino acids. Peptides that contain many amino acids are called polypeptides or proteins.

Compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and other plants that can be health-protecting. Phytochemicals (sometimes called phytonutrients) include beta-carotene, lycopene, and resveratrol.

An inactive substance or treatment that has no effect on the body and that ideally looks, smells, and tastes the same as, and is given the same way as, the active drug or treatment being tested. The effects of the active substance or treatment are compared to the effects of the placebo.

Refers to a method of studying a drug or dietary supplement in which a placebo (an inactive ingredient) is given to one group of participants, and the drug or dietary supplement being tested is given to a second group of participants. Results from the two groups are compared to see if the drug or dietary supplement being tested works better than the placebo.

Fine, dry particles produced by the grinding, crushing, or disintegration of a solid substance. Proteins shakes, green drinks and other supplements may be offered in powdered form. Powders can be a good choice as a delivery method when larger quantities need to be taken, or when a patient has trouble swallowing capsules or tablets.

Nondigestible food ingredient that promote the growth of beneficial probiotics in the intestines. Common prebiotics include Fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS) or fructans and Galacto-oligosaccardes (GOS). Inulin is one of the most commonly used types of FOS in supplements. Sometimes prebiotics are in supplements with probiotics together.

Before birth; during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are formulated to properly benefit a mother and baby before and after birth.

A written order from a health care provider for medicine, therapy, or tests.

Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms (usually bacteria or yeast) that are intended to have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body. They can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements and beauty products. Probiotics can improve digestion, bolster the immune system and provide other beneficial effects. Different types of probiotics may have different effects.

A molecule made up of amino acids that the body needs for good health. Proteins are the basis of body structures such as skin and muscle, and substances such as enzymes and antibodies.




A liquid in which another substance has been dissolved or mixed.

Beneath the skin.

Sublingual from the Latin for “under the tongue”, refers to the pharmacological route of administration by which substances diffuse into the blood through tissues under the tongue. Common for DHEA, pregnenolone and homeopathic pellets.

Sugars are a type of simple carbohydrate. They have a sweet taste. Sugars can be found naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products. They are also added to many foods and drinks during preparation or processing. Types of sugar include glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Your digestive system breaks down sugar into glucose. Your cells use the glucose for energy. Other examples of sugars include ribose and mannose.

A feeling of sickness that an individual can sense, but that cannot be measured by a healthcare professional. Examples include headache, tiredness, stomach ache, depression, and pain.


Tablets are the most common type of pill. They’re an inexpensive, safe, and effective way to deliver oral medication. These units of medication are made by compressing one or more powdered ingredients to form a hard, solid, smooth-coated pill that breaks down in the digestive tract. In addition to active ingredients, most tablets contain additives that hold the pill together and improve the taste, texture, or appearance.

A liquid made by soaking an herb in a solution of alcohol and water. It is used for concentrating and preserving an herb and may be made in different strengths that are expressed as ratios of the weight of the dried herb to the volume or weight of the finished product.

A group or layer of cells in a living organism that work together to perform a specific function.

Relating or applied directly to a part of the body. Generally creams are topical and are applied to the skin.

Having to do with poison or something harmful to the body. Toxic substances usually cause unwanted health effects.

Trans Fat
Trans fat is a type of fat that is created when liquid oils are changed into solid fats, like shortening and some margarines. It makes them last longer without going bad. It may also be found in crackers, cookies, and snack foods. Trans fat raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol.

A type of fat found in your blood. When you eat more than you need, your body turns the excess calories into triglycerides. High blood levels of triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.



Eating, using, or containing no food or other products derived from animals.

Relating to the exclusion of meat or other animal products from the diet.

An organism that can grow and multiply only inside the cells of living humans, plants, or animals. It is able to change (mutate) as it multiplies, which makes viral illnesses difficult to treat. Viruses cause many infections and diseases such as the common cold, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), herpes, and hepatitis.

A nutrient that the body needs in small amounts to function and maintain health. Any of a group of organic compounds which are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body. All vitamins are organic substances, while minerals are inorganic. Examples are vitamins A, B, C, D,  E, and K.

The amount of space taken up by a substance; the amount of space a container can hold.


Water Soluble
A substance that dissolves in water and is excreted in the urine. Foods that supply water-soluble vitamins need to be eaten regularly because they cannot be stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C, biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin, and vitamin B6.

Whey (Whey Protein)
Whey is the liquid left over when cheese is made from cow’s milk. Whey protein powder is used to increase protein in the diet. Many dairy allergies are from the common milk protein called casein, and not caused by the whey portion of milk.

Whole Grain
Unprocessed seeds of edible grasses, including brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, popcorn, oats, quinoa, whole-grain barley, whole rye, whole wheat, and wild rice. Grains that are ground, cracked, or flaked can be labeled whole grain if they have the same amount of bran, germ, and endosperm (the inner part of the seed kernel) as the intact grain. Whole grains are sources of iron, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber. Eating whole grains may help lower the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.