Evaluating Nutritional Supplements

Why I Recommend Nutritional Supplements

I frequently prescribe nutritional supplements for my patients.  These play a key part in healing, and may take the form of micronutrients that act as cofactors for many intracellular enzymes, or herbal combinations that have been used in integrative medicine for years for their particular healing benefits.

My reasons for prescribing supplements are two-fold:

  1. The soils are depleted in minerals, therefore even eating a healthy diet will not provide the needed nutrients.  For instance, dark green leafy vegetables are known for supplying magnesium, but this assumes that there is enough magnesium in the soil for the plant to extract.
  2. My patients have specific medical conditions, for which I frequently use targeted nutritional therapy.  I do laboratory testing to diagnose deficiencies or use symptoms that suggest need before I make recommendations.

Quality Matters

When choosing between nutritional supplements please know that there are three main categories:

Feed Grade supplements meet the scientific standards for safe animal consumption.

Food Grade supplements meet the scientific standards for safe human consumption.

Pharmaceutical Grade supplements meet the same scientific standards for efficacy, purity, safety, and reliability as prescription drugs.

Pharmaceutical grade supplements are far superior to food grade.  They must meet strict standards for purity, showing they contain what they state, are free of fillers and chemicals, and have absorption ability so that swallowing the capsule actually leads to absorption of the compounds—it does no good to swallow it and then have it pass right through!

Food grade supplement manufacturers do not adhere to these standards.  In 2015 the New York Attorney General brought suit against multiple major retailers of food grade supplements demanding that they pull scores of herbal products from their shelves after an analysis found that 80% of the supplements tested did not contain any of the herbs listed on their labels. Many of the products contained cheap fillers, including wheat, soy and other ingredients dangerous to consumers with allergies.

In order to ensure you get a true benefit from nutritional supplementation, I recommend investing in pharmaceutical grade supplements.  They do cost more than the grocery-store brand, but I think they are definitely worth it.

I have researched many pharmaceutical-grade brands, comparing efficacy of ingredients, sourcing of raw materials, and price, looking for the best value.  I carry numerous different brands of pharmaceutical-grade supplements in my office, because I don’t believe any one company has the best of everything.  All of the products I carry have been hand-picked for specific protocols.  I offer these products at a discount to my patients, to provide a valuable service at a reasonable cost.

What about Buying from Third-party sites at a Discount?

One must use extreme caution when purchasing from third-party sites such as Amazon, E-bay and web stores that offer discounts but don’t disclose the owner.  The supplements may be tampered with or the label copied with the actual ingredients not the same as what the manufacturer intends.

I equate this to buying a Gucci bag from a street vendor in New York City.  Sure it’s a great discount and the bag has the Gucci logo, but it is highly unlikely to be a true Gucci bag.

I recently spoke with a representative from a pharmaceutical grade manufacturer who told me of a customer calling to inquire about a color change in protein powder that she bought online.  “When did you change this to green?”  Well, they hadn’t changed the product.  The company then asked her to send in the container for analysis and found that it was NOT the product advertised on the label.  Someone had used their label and filled the container with who-knows-what.

My Method of Prescribing Nutritional Supplements

I recently decided to operate my supplement recommendations using the zero-based budgeting approach (just like I wish the federal government would do).  At each visit I will assume my patients are starting with NO nutritional supplements.  I then will make recommendations on what I believe my patient needs, based on the issues we are dealing with at the time.  This will allow the most tailored, effective regimen for their current situation.  It also provides a way to prioritize a regimen, so that I am not forevermore recommending a larger and larger regimen.  This will add a few minutes to our visits, but I believe it will be well worth it.

If you are taking nutritional supplements for health benefits, I encourage you to do so under the guidance of your health care provider, and to always use pharmaceutical grade supplements.

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