The wonderful world of supplements can be a bit overwhelming. Many supplements are available over-the-counter, yet this should not be taken as a license to self-prescribe or self-dose. Everyone’s health needs are different and an individualized health plan is vital for reaching optimum health. You may not even need a supplement, or you may need more of one supplement than you do of another. Often, over-the-counter supplements (especially those in tablet form) contain binders, fillers, and additives. Magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, starch, microcrystalline cellulose, stearic acid, simethicone, vegetable gum, talc, and propylene glycol (primary ingredient in antifreeze), are just a few of the most common additives you might find listed as “other ingredients” or “inactive ingredients” on the package supplement label.
The forms of vitamins, minerals and other substances used in products can be very important. For example, consider Vitamin E. Studies indicate that using the isolated form of Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) can increase risk of cardio vascular events in someone diagnosed with heart disease. However, using the full spectrum of Vitamin E as it occurs naturally, (mixed tocopherols and mixed tocotrienols) can decrease risk and even help improve heart health. Bargain brands and other OTC Vitamin E often contain the cheaper isolated form of Vitamin E. Your ND knows about things like this and can guide you to making better choices.
Your Naturopathic Doctor can guide you toward supplements that come in forms without unnecessary additives, and which are rigorously standardized for product amount and dosage. Supplements provided by your ND will come from reputable companies that follow very strict compliance and safety standards, including the monitoring of the supplements’ degradation due to expiring shelf life. Additionally, self-medicating with supplements poses the threat of drug interaction, allergic reaction, and other risks, all of which should be monitored by your Naturopathic Doctor.
Still, the most important factor remains individualization. Discuss your health concerns and appropriate supplement options with your Naturopathic Doctor to develop a supplement regimen tailored to your specific needs. Not everybody needs the same supplements in the same amount. Your Naturopathic doctor will be able to consider your individual needs and health and choose appropriate supplements and forms that will work best for your body.
Murray, N.D., Michael, and Pizzorno, N.D., Joseph. 2012. New York, NY: Atria Paperback. The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.