How To: Choosing Supplements from a Naturopathic Doctor
Are your supplements actually helping you?
This is a loaded question that requires several answers. The first of which is “why are we are taking supplements in the first place?” I have many patients ask me if supplements are even necessary and the answer in an ideal world is “no”. Theoretically, we should be able to get all of the nutrients we need to thrive from our diet but sadly, that is not reality for most of us. Reasons can include those that are out of our control such as depleted soils that grow our food, to a staggering number of people developing unhealthy digestive systems that cannot break down foods to pull the nutrients out that our bodies need. It could, however, be as simple as many people lacking variety in their diet, causing them to miss a number of essential nutrients.
I always educate my patients on the importance of eating well and working toward natural, optimal health. I do not prefer or recommend to use supplements as a replacement for a balanced diet or poor function GI tract. Unfortunately, as stated before, there are some issues we cannot avoid which is where supplements can be so helpful.
In addition to supplying nutrients that may not be available in our food source, supplements can be used to support our naturally occurring healing processes. This means they can be beneficial for short term use to help our bodies get back in balance when things go awry.
Finding and buying proper supplements, however, can be very confusing. Not all supplements are created equal. It’s important to know what you are buying and what you are buying it for to be sure the desired effect is achieved.
Here are a few tips from a Naturopathic Doctor on what to look for when shopping for supplements:
Read the label:
There are so many things to be looking for on a label. First, is the dosage. Are you getting a sufficient amount of the intended nutrient? Or do you need to take half the bottle to get a sufficient dosage? It’s very important to also read the inactive ingredients as there should be very few things included on this list. Most of what I recommenced will only have “vegetable capsule” listed here. Occasionally some other ingredients are necessary to help stabilize a nutrient or improve its absorption, but watch out for unnecessary fillers and dyes. Also look if any common food allergies such as gluten, dairy, eggs, soy etc. are listed as an ingredient or processed in the same building that manufactures the supplement.
2. Pay attention to form:
A less expensive supplement is often less expensive because the form of the nutrients are not the most active or bioavailable. This means that your body will have to work a lot harder to absorb those nutrients and manipulate them into a form that you body can actually utilize, if at all. If you’re dealing with a chronic health condition, your body might not be able to make this modification, and those nutrients become completely useless. Working with a health care professional can help you to determine which forms are best for you and what to look out for. The form of supplement delivery is important as well ie: tablet, capsule, powder, etc. Again, depending on what you’re taking it for, the preference of this can vary. Tablets are more difficult to break down and absorb than capsules or powder, so if you’re already struggling with nutrient absorption, it’s best to steer clear from this form.
3. Do not purchase based on price:
Do not buy whatever is cheapest - you get what you pay for. It costs more to make supplements that are in their most beneficial and bioavailable form. Less expensive supplements are also more likely to have fillers, food dyes and be processed with common allergens. It’s not a good idea to reach for the highest price item either. Watch out for vague health claims or marketing scams. You might be paying for fancy marketing or packaging, rather than a quality product.
4. Know where it’s coming from:
It’s generally not a good idea to get supplements from a third party supplier like Amazon. There’s no way to guarantee quality in this situation. You won’t know if the product you're buying has been properly stored to prevent damage, if it’s expired, or has been tampered with. Purchase from a health food store or health professionals that are able to provide supplement directly from the supplier - this ensures that what’s on the label is what’s actually in the bottle. Many health care professionals will use professional grade supplements, meaning they can only be purchased from health professionals. This is beneficial because there are higher standards for these companies to provide a quality, pure product. These often contain higher dosages as well, providing more therapeutic effects.
5. Do your research:
Be sure that the product you are buying will actually provide the health benefits that it’s been claimed to do. Always discuss any supplements you are taking with your health care professionals and ask questions if you’re unsure.
This is a look into my insight I share with my patients to help them better understand what is going into their bodies and why. I offer complimentary 15-minute meet and greets to any prospecting patients to discuss health care concerns or have any questions about how Naturopathic Medicine could supplement their life. Please call our office, (616) 264-6556 for our office staff to set up your meet and greet or visit grnaturalhealth.com for more information.