Have you ever walked into your local health food store or pharmacy looking for a vitamin or supplement and felt completely overwhelmed with the number of choices? There are literally hundreds of brands to choose from, and some ingredient lists look like they are written in a foreign language. It can be a confusing process, and if you don’t get it right, your health and your wallet will suffer.
My clients frequently ask me…what vitamins and supplements should I be taking? Are these okay? Most of the time the answer is “NO! Those kind suck!” except of course I would never say it that way, because how would you know in this market where the supplement with the best infomercial, the best pop up ad on Google, the right shelf location and of course, the most for the cheapest price wins?
Imma be real honest with you right now. Even though I graduated from med schools with Honors, I had no idea what to buy either because we aren’t taught ANYTHING about how to utilize vitamins, minerals, botanicals, or homeopathics in a therapeutic way in “regular” medical school. Then I went over to left field (as most of my MD and D.O colleagues might call it) and got continuing medical education in homeopathy, functional and integrative medicine (including training in IV nutritional therapy). Boy is there a lot you can do to help the body recover and be well with supplements AND food. You know what???? they still don’t teach this in most American medical schools. And thus when you want to know these things, asking your doctor will many times authoritatively tell you up you that there are no studies and they would be factually incorrect. Just so you know , there are over 55,000 studies on Vitamin D alone for conditions like cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease, depression and diabetes to name a few.
It’s more important than ever before to make sure you purchase high-quality vitamins and supplements. So let’s get down to first things first. Although food should be the main source of nutritional intake, the reality is that the quality of our food is declining and has been for over 100 years. The food we are eating today isn’t nearly as nutritious as it once was. Even if you are eating a variety of whole foods every day (and who is a perfect eater? no.body!), you aren’t getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to work at its best. Its has been long known that RDAs (the recommended daily allowance) is insufficient-Yes there is an article in PubMed and I’ll let you go find it since you have lots of time on your hands these days and I want you to become a better armchair scientist
At a minimum, we all should be taking a multi-vitamin daily to ensure we are getting what our body and mind needs to thrive. Ask most doctors what they take and 60-75% are taking vitamins and supplements . (There is a study on this too!)
If you are purchasing vitamins or supplements for yourself or your family, there are a number of things you should look for to make sure you are getting the highest quality ingredients and the results you deserve.
Let’s get down to business
- You get what you pay for.
This saying is absolutely true when it comes to purchasing vitamins, supplements, herbs, and essential oils. If you are buying the cheapest supplements you can find, you may be doing your body more harm than good. As a general rule, never purchase the cheapest supplements. They are priced low because the ingredients are low quality. That doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive brands to ensure you are getting high-quality ingredients. You simply have to do your research, read labels, and understand what to look for in a good supplement. If you are concerned with finances, talk with a well-versed pracitioner about what supplements will help you the most, so you can buy the high-quality vitamins and supplements that will make the most impact for you.
- Make sure supplements are NSF Certified (and third-party verified).
You might be surprised to realize that vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) the same way that other over-the-counter products are. In fact, there are few guidelines to ensure the quality of the product. NSF International is the only independent third-party testing organization for vitamins and supplements. They provide a national testing certification program for all products considered a “dietary supplement,” which includes vitamins and supplements. They follow a rigorous testing process to ensure that each product is free of contaminants, and all ingredients match what is listed on the label. If a product if NSF certified than you can rest assured you are getting exactly what the bottle says. All certified products will have a blue NSF mark on the bottle that says “Independently Certified.”
In the absence of NSF certification, I use ConsumerLab.com who independently tests lots of supplements and has a vast amount of really solid researched-back information on their website. You have to have the paid version to see everything. It is worth the investment because there are many supplements that are NOT APPROVED or are approved but the amount is not enough to get the therapeutic value unless you take more than is on the label
- GMPs are NOT good enough.
Good manufacturing processes are simply not enough when it comes to vitamins and supplements that you are putting into your body. All manufacturers are required to follow GMP regulations for cleanliness, sanitation, etc. Following these guidelines does not guarantee that you are getting a high-quality product. It is a process for manufacturers to ensure they are following rules, it is not a process for buyers to use to gauge the quality of the products they are buying.
- Read labels carefully.
As with nearly everything you buy at the grocery store, it’s important to read labels carefully. Many over-the-counter vitamins and supplements are full of binders and fillers like artificial dyes or hydrogenated oils. Some brands consist of 90% fillers and binders, which means you are only getting about 10% raw ingredients. Taking a vitamin like this will do little to improve your health. In fact, it could do the opposite. You also want to make sure you look for any hidden allergens like dairy or gluten listed on the labels as well.
- Purchase professional grade supplements, if possible.
Professional grade is what I like to refer to as “pharmaceutical grade” vitamins and supplements that are the gold star in the industry. These are the ones that healthcare practitioners who are educated about how to correctly use and prescribe supplements recommend. They contain at least 99% raw materials, which means they are full of high-quality ingredients that will make the biggest impact on your health. Many of these brands test every partch of their raw materials so there is significant quality control and consistency patch to patch. These companies tend to adhere to standards that drug companies adhere to to guarantee what the bottle says is actually in the bottle. Some of these brands are more expensive than what you will find over-the-counter (because of their stringent testing requirements which cost lots to carry out but assures safety) so they are highly reliable from the practitioner standpoint which means you get better results in your health. Working with a knowledgeable provider is key to make sure you are safely taking the right dosage for you..
- Be careful purchasing from popular online stores.
It may be tempting to “get a deal” and buy vitamins and supplements while you are ordering toilet paper, lip gloss and 3D transparent puzzles, but this could be seriously dangerous. You do NOT want to purchase supplements from third-party vendors like the one that begins with an “A” unless….Why? Because, you are not sure what you are going to get. A product could have been sitting on a shelf for a long time, it could be expired, or it may not be stored correctly which could decrease its nutritional value. It’s also possible that the formula of the product has changed since it left the manufacturer’s hands. There is no guarantee you are getting the most up-to-date formulation which could put your health at risk. (There are lots of fakes on these types of sites unless it is the manufacturer’s verified store. Buying from a 3rd party seller is risky even if they do have good reviews because the reviewers are rarely people truly in the know!). Since I know it is convenient to use some these sites, I set up a storefront in which I found verified products. Later on I’ll tell you a better and cheaper way though so hold on a bit.
- Order supplements from a trusted provider.
There are a number of companies that work directly with health care providers to offer high-quality pharmaceutical-grade vitamins, minerals, and supplements. lf. I encourage my clients to use this site to get high-quality vitamins I know and trust. You can create your own account and order what you need to be assured you are getting the results you are looking for. Huge benefit is that the pricing is BELOW retail so you will get great products for a better price.
- Figure out your customized dosage.
It’s always important to remember that labels don’t provide dosage information. This can be tricky for people when they are trying to figure out what they need to get the best results. Dosage is different for everyone. Your DNA provides some clues to this as well. Genetics, methylation, and things like skin color, age, sex, or amount of adipose tissue can all change your specific dosage. Your dosage may change throughout the year or seasons of life as well. If you are wondering why it seems that something is not working, many times its because the amount being taken is not correct.
I work with a number of clients to customize their regimen to get the best results. By taking out the guess-work of figuring out what you need and when; we create a custom plan that will help you get exactly what your body and mind need to achieve the wellness you deserve. If you have any questions about what vitamins you should be taking or what dosage is best for you, click here to make a consultation with me. It’s amazing how something as easy as supplementation can change your life.