Self-prescribing and the supplement spiral

Okay, We’ve ALL done it right?

We read something on the internet, or hear it on TV, “vitamin C can help you get over a cold”, “take more probiotics”,  “fish oil will prevent cardiovascular disease”. We then go directly to our nearest drugstore and purchase the first probiotic and fish oil capsule bottles we see. Then we go home, read the bottle, and take our best guess as to what we should be taking of each per day. No problems right?

Well in some cases, no. Tons of people know that taking vitamin C can help you stay healthy and get over a cold, everyone SHOULD be taking more probiotics, & fish oil DOES help to prevent cardiovascular disease. So what are we doing wrong?

Looking at the shelves of an average drug store in the vitamin section is a little overwhelming. There are multiple brands of vitamins and supplements, giving us a plethora of options of the same thing in many different doses to choose from. How do we know which one we should choose? Thats where the problem is.

The problem with many supplements is their lack of standardization. Now I’m not just talking about something as simple and widespread as vitamin C, but other vitamins and supplements that aren’t as commonly well known. Cheaper supplements tend to be made with cheaper ingredients which may include some fillers that can be allergenic. Other than the fillers, absorption of a supplement is a key factor in determining if it will have the required effect, or any effect at all. It is often a lot less expensive for companies to create a supplement with a less absorbable form of the nutrient.

Taking the most common example is probiotics; some bottles say 1 billion cultures, other say 10 billion, others say 2 billion, etc. Some are able to be left on the shelf and others have to be refrigerated. Many different products have many different combinations of probiotic strains. Everything seems so confusing, so how do we know which ones are right for us?

The good news is that this is what naturopathic doctors do! We have tons of medical training throughout our program which teaches us not only herbs, vitamins, supplements and other modalities, but a very important part of our education deals with patient individualized treatment.  If you are on many medications, going to shoppers drug mart and taking whatever you see is probably not the best idea.  Everyone is different, therefore depending on what you are purchasing the product for, your dosage may or may not be anywhere near the recommended dosage on the bottle.

Keep in mind, just because it is “natural” and you do not need a prescription, does NOT mean it is always safe. This is why talking to an expert is very important. Practicing Naturopathic Doctors know which brands are tried tested and true, and others which aren’t up to the quality which they would recommend. Naturopathic Doctors also may not necessarily prescribe a supplement based on the dosage recommended on the bottle depending on what the best research says on the condition they are trying to treat.

So next time you go out to buy your supplements, take a minute. What brand are you buying? What form do you need? Are there other fillers you may not want? How much are you supposed to take and how do you know?

Supplements can have a LOT of benefits if you are taking them correctly!

Dont get sucked in to the supplement spiral and know which ones are right for you!

Yours In Health

Laura Pipher