Supplements can be very tricky business. The truth is, the vast majority of products on the market are poor quality, ineffective and generally a waste of money. BUT, that doesn’t mean that ALL supplements are junk. You just need to make sure you’re taking good ones that are right for you. Most people I see are taking a variety of supplements from different companies, that they bought wherever they could find them and have no way of knowing what the quality of that product is or the reputation of the company. We want to be informed consumers, but the problem with the supplement industry is that it’s extremely challenging to sort out the truth about a given product without a lot of background knowledge and experience. Just reading the information on the label doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the product.
Let’s take fish oil for example. There are lots of things you need to know about fish oil in order to choose a high-quality product and this is one of the more important supplements to be picky about. Low quality fish oils can be rancid and contain a lot of contaminants and could be HARMFUL to your health. You’re actually better off not taking it at all than taking a low-quality fish oil! Most consumers don’t know the difference between all the different types of fish oil on the market. They don’t know that the essential fatty acids are extremely susceptible to oxidation through exposure to heat, light and oxygen or that fish oil can contain toxins like dioxins and heavy metals. Reputable companies spend a lot of time and effort testing their products for oxidation, contamination and viability, but consumers don’t know any of this!
They also don’t know if they should get a formula that’s higher in EPA or DHA, if they should take it with food, away from food, how much they should take or if there any side effects or cautions they should be aware of. A self-educated pharmacist might be able to help you make a good decision because they understand compounds and physiology, but they have very little formal training on supplements and the products sold in drug stores are limited and generally poor quality.
Supplements are things we generally take because we have some kind of problem we’re trying overcome or prevent, but because they are designed for EVERY DAY use, it’s essential that we’re not poisoning ourselves with poor-quality, useless or harmful products. Unfortunately, this is more common than not.
To make matters worse, I see a lot of clients that are ordering supplements from the US where supplement regulation is much less stringent than in Canada. I actively discourage people from buying products from the US unless they are very knowledgeable about the company they are buying from and even then, it’s extremely easy to be fooled. Most of the doctors that write books and then come out with their own supplement line are simply padding their bottom line. The nutrients they recommend may be wonderful, but they often hire contract supplement companies to slap their label on a product you could buy in any store, mark it up 40% more and sell it on “auto-ship” to unsuspecting consumers.
Navigating this complicated, nefarious landscape isn’t easy for anyone. Even those of us in the natural health industry have to stay on our toes with supplement companies. Nothing is stopping them from re-formulating their products with cheaper raw ingredients to fatten their bottom line at any minute. Companies get silently acquired by other companies with some frequency, which means any trust we may have had in the integrity of the products becomes suspect.
I do my best to stay on top of the industry and only recommend products with a long track record for safety, quality and integrity. I largely ignore any marketing information I get from a company about their own products. Instead I check for independent third party certifications and learn from industry insiders and other practitioners. The professional-grade supplements that you can only get from high-quality health food stores or directly from a practitioner are the cream of the crop.
Ideally, supplementation should be individualized to be safest and most effective, but most people can and should take some basic nutrients just to cover their bases. Supplements should not be used to make up for a poor diet, they should be used in ADDITION to a healthy diet. It’s next to impossible to get everything we need for optimal health from diet alone, especially as our world becomes more and more toxic and our food becomes less nutrient dense.
I’ve designed a couple of basic general protocols that are safe for almost everyone; one for general wellness and one for enhancing immune function. These protocols are appropriate for all healthy individuals 18 and up that aren’t taking prescription medications and that haven’t been diagnosed with major diseases like heart disease, cancer, autoimmunity or other serious disorders. If you’re unsure, reach out to me or your natural health care provider for guidance.
You can access those protocols and a lot of great free information about all the supplements I’ve added to them when you sign up for my online dispensary for free. Click the box below for more details and to create your free account!