Fear of Supplements

For our last installment of the “Fear” series, we are finishing with what is for many people a huge source of concern if not outright fear - supplements.  Recent media coverage of supplements filled with suboptimal ingredients, void of active ingredients and worse has heightened awareness that, for the most part the supplement industry is largely unregulated and leaves much to the discretion of individual manufacturers in terms of quality control and potency. Add to that the plethora of internet articles claiming that , supplements “don’t work”, they just make for expensive pee, and, that all you have to do is eat a “balanced diet” and you end up with a lot of very confused people.

As a Holistic Nutritionist trained in orthomolecular supplementation I spend a lot of time fielding questions from concerned clients on this subject.  Here is my opinion based on what I have learned:

1.    Stick to reputable/professional brands.  There are some great supplement manufacturers like Genestra, Metagenics, AOR, Douglas Labs and Thorne to name a few. These companies (and others) invest an incredible amount of money in research and clinical studies that ensure potency, efficacy and safety of their supplements. 

2.    Use the supplements you need when you need them.  Resist the temptation to just buy a supplement because you heard from a buddy that it is the one thing that cured his lifelong case of psoriasis.  With the exception of omega 3’s and Vitamin D3 (and possibly probiotics) almost any other supplement is entirely dependant on personal health status, lifestyle, activity levels, age, any underlying health issues.  If you are trying to address a health issue you may want to sit with a health professional like a naturopath or even a nutritionist and develop a personalized plan.

3.    Therapeutic Dose - is a term that we use to describe the dosage required to provide the body with what is needed to support whatever process is required. Just like medication too much of a good thing is no good just as insufficient quantity will do absolutely nothing for you. When you get or develop a plan - commit to following it through.

4.    Just because it’s natural doesn’t necessarily make it safe for you - remember that herbs and chemical compounds that act on your body regardless of how “natural” they may be will interact with your personal physiology and with any medications you may be taking.  Be honest and forthcoming with your health pro about what you are taking and any pre existing health conditions you may be have been diagnosed with.  It ALL matters and may come into play.

5.    You get what you pay for - if you buy the cheapest brand out there don’t expect optimal results.  Not to say that buying the most expensive product will necessarily get you a better product but just saying that run of the mill drugstore brands in many cases use cheap synthetic ingredients that the body neither recognizes nor can use.

6.    You can get everything you need from a good diet - or can you? Let’s start by saying that a “good diet” is a bit of a moving target.  To be exact, it would have to be the right diet for you.  Secondly, the state of agriculture is far from optimal.  Our soils are becoming increasingly depleted of micronutrients - one of the main reasons I support organic farmers whenever possible.  But even then, there is an increasing body of evidence that points to deficiencies of micronutrients you’ve never heard of (ie vanadium, molybdenum anyone?) and possible links to health imbalances.  So, I often will recommend that my clients use high quality multivitamins a few months a year to plug the gaps we may or may not be aware of. And, it bears repeating that when it comes to omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D3 there is almost no way around at least some supplementation for most if not all people.

7.    Finally, remember that supplements are exactly that.  They cannot replace a bad diet but, used in conjunction with a good diet they can sometimes make up for certain shortfalls to get you back into a more balanced state.  In the case of using supplements to address health concerns - keep in mind that the intention of a supplement is not to treat disease but rather to help restore balance to your body to open the way for optimal function - but again, in these cases it is best to seek the guidance of a professional who can take the entire situation into account before loading up your pill dispenser.

Questions? Comments?  Let me know - reach out by email: nat@academyoflions.com or nniddam@rogers.com