Part 3 of 3 of my mini-series on supplementing. It's long, but an important read if you are taking supplements!
The supplement market is huge. A billion dollar industry. For someone new venturing into the market, it can be scary and a potentially expensive venture.
Where do you even begin to shop for a good supplement? What ones do you need? Where should I buy them ...health food store? ...pharmacy? ...doctor? ...online? What's a good price? A good brand? What about dosage?
As you can imagine from the questions posed above, there is quite a lot to think about in regards to choosing a good supplement. While I can't talk about every nitty gritty detail of supplementing on the blog, I am going to try to highlight some of the most important details today.
First of all, I must advise that you see a naturopathic doctor! Naturopathic doctors are nutritional supplement experts. No one else in the field has as much supplement training as we do (much more than health food store workers, nutritionists, or MDs). We can also perform the relevant physical exams, ask the important intake questions, and requisition the lab tests required to determine your individual supplement needs. Naturopathic doctors can also help you sort out all of the following things to consider when choosing a supplement:
Brand and Price: some supplement brands are much better than others. In fact, the supplements at the strongest therapeutic doses can't be purchased at a health food or drug store; they can only be purchased from naturopathic doctors. Unfortunately most of the no-name supplement brands (such as Life brand form Shopper's Drug Mart and Kirkland brand from Costco) are not very cheap cost-wise, but are not very good quality wise. For the most part with supplements, you pay for what you get. The cheaper the supplement, the more likely that the quality of the product is poor, the dosage is wrong, and the availability is not very high.
Coating: some supplements are placed in capsules that don't pass easily or have coatings that are far to thick to be digested. Have you heard of multivitamins being nothing more than "expensive pee"? This is because some supplements don't break down in the body due to a thick coating, meaning the nutrients they contain are not absorbed, and thus all of the supplement passes straight through the body and ending up in the toilet bowl. This is especially scary when you are taking a supplement for a real health concern that needs supplementation to be corrected: here you are taking a supplement under the impression that you are absorbing it, but low and behold it's just ending up down the drain. Don't waste your money on expensive pee!
Form: What is the best way in which to take your particular supplement? Capsule, tablet, tea, powder, liquid, injection, etc? Did you know that the best way to take calcium is in liquid form, vitamin B12 is via intramuscular injection, herbs are in alcohol-based tinctures, probiotics should be refrigerated, and that protein powder is best absorbed when eaten cold?
Dose and Timing: some supplements need to be taken with food, while others should be away from food. What about frequency: once, twice, or three times a day? Take as needed or daily? What about dose: are you trying to restore levels or maintain health?
Toxicity: some supplements interact with prescription medications, some raise your blood pressure, and there are others that should not be taken long term (greater than 6 weeks). What is safe for you and your body?
...and with that, I'll say it again: please consider seeing a naturopathic doctor for all your supplement needs. Even if you just make one appointment to discuss supplements, you'll be saving yourself money by not wasting money on expensive pee. When taking supplements, you want to get a therapeutic effect. Ensure that supplements are working for you by taking them at the correct dose, at the right time of day, in the best form, and in a safely manner.