Do you ever wonder if you should be taking a certain vitamin, mineral, or herbal product to improve your health? Maybe you are already taking one or more of these products but don’t know if it is the best choice for you. Well, you’re not alone. Many of my clients can’t remember why they started taking a particular supplement and some just feel generally confused about what they should be taking. Considering Americans spend nearly $13 billion a year on natural product supplements and that many of these products are available without a prescription, it is important that individuals be provided with all the information they might need to make the best decision for their health and safety.
In today’s world where information is at our fingertips and almost anything we desire can be delivered to our door with a click of a button, people are more equipped than ever to take charge of their own health. Whether this means reading the latest health blogs or purchasing dietary supplements online, people are becoming more aware of their own health issues and possible adjuncts to conventional care.
But all this information can be overwhelming too. If you’ve ever gone down a rabbit hole researching a particular disease or supplement online, you know how it can quickly feel like drinking from a fire hose. As a Naturopathic doctor, it is important for me to provide my clients with the best and most up to date information regarding the quality, efficacy, and safety of the supplements they are using or considering. They rely on me to help sift through the noise because I was trained to understand not only the proper use and dosing of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and herbs, but also their potential interaction with other supplements or pharmaceuticals.
I believe knowledge is power especially when it comes to health. My goal with this blog series (and in my private practice) is to provide the information needed to make the best choices for your health. Please note that I will not be giving any specific health advice or promoting any particular brands on this blog, and you should always discuss changes you make to your healthcare routine with your doctor first. What I will be offering are a series of posts in the coming weeks providing detailed answers to the the most common questions I get regarding dietary supplements and similar products. In each post, we will discuss a particular supplement, its common uses, available research, safety information, and which forms are best.
A Note About Safety
I mentioned in a previous blog post that many pharmaceuticals have their origins from organic material. This is important to keep in mind as you think about supplements and other “natural health products”. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful and even potentially harmful. One of the most popular safety examples (but certainly not the only one) is the interaction of St. John’s wort with other medications. St. John’s wort is a plant that is often used for depression and nerve conditions. But just like everything we put into our bodies, it has to be eliminated via chemical processes. In this case, St. John’s wort is known to be metabolized by an enzyme in the liver that also happens to metabolize a great many other drugs as well. Because of this, St. John’s wort could actually alter the amount of drug available for the body to use. As you can imagine, depending on the drug, this could become quite a problem. Several studies have shown that if you take St. John’s wort at the same time you take your birth control pill, for example, the birth control pill may not be as effective in preventing pregnancy.
I provided the above example in order to illustrate how an otherwise safe and widely available product such as St. John’s wort does indeed deserve extra scrutiny and consideration, just as all supplements and herbs do.
In the coming weeks, look for parts 2-6 of this blog series. Topics to be discussed include Multivitamins, Fish Oil, Probiotics, B Vitamins, and Vitamin D and more! We will break it all down and hopefully answer a lot of questions you have and some you didn’t even know you had, like “how much EPA vs DHA should I be getting with my fish oil supplement?” or “Is it OK to take my Vitamin D in gummy form?”
Sneak Peek to Next Week
Next week we will dive into the world of multivitamins! This is one of the most confusing topics since there are simply so many ingredients to your average multivitamin. If you have any specific questions before then, feel free to comment below or send me an email with your questions and I’ll try to answer it in the next post.
Emily Hudson, ND