What’s in Your Supplement?

By Esther Sears, MSN, AOCNP, FNP

First, Why are Supplements Necessary for Most of Us?


Supplements and natural remedies have become a common aspect of health seekers in the past 2 decades as people become more educated on the importance of replacing the nutrients that are often lacking in our foods.  The majority of our food comes from large agriculture businesses which often grow one specific crop.  This depletes the soil of nutrients that crop rotation provides.  Pesticides and herbicides create unhealthy soil as well, further producing contaminated and nutrient poor crops.  For those who are fortunate enough to grow their foods organically, hunt, fish or raise their own protein sources, supplementation may not be necessary.  And then there are the rest of us….

Some Good, Some Bad, and Some Just Plain Ugly

Regulation of supplements falls under the category of “food” rather than “drugs” by the FDA, making regulation much less stringent.  Manufacturers are expected to comply with Good Manufacturing Procedures (GMP).  The FDA does random audits to evaluate compliance with GMP which regulate the design and construction of manufacturing plants, maintenance and cleaning, manufacturing operations, quality control procedures, consumer complaints, testing of products to meet label claims and manufacturing records.  Audits are done randomly.  According to Daniel Fabricant, PhD, past director of the dietary supplementation program at the FDA, almost 70% of those companies tested were in non-compliance with GMP’s.  Compliance issues included failure to test appropriately, or to keep adequate records, adulteration of product, presence of heavy metals, and false labeling claims.  Internet sales put more distance between the consumer and the source and can be a way for opportunists to hijack well-known company labels with fake product.  Try googling “fake supplements” and see how prevalent the problem is!

Getting it Right

So how do you know if you are getting a good supplement?  First, it is important to choose a manufacturer that tests every batch rather than skip batch testing.  This is something you will see a reputable company boast about in their sales pitch.  This ensures the quality of every batch and consistency of their manufacturing processes.  Also look for third party certification such as Natural Products Association (NPA), Consumer Labs (CL), Dietary Supplement Verification Program (USP) or the National Safety Foundation (NFS).  You can also subscribe to The Natural Medicine Database which does independent verification of products and gives a rating of each supplement by each manufacturer allowing you to compare the quality of products.  The Office of Dietary Supplements or the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health provide information on supplements uses, precautions, dosing, interactions, etc. but do not provide information on individual manufacturing.  For information on on safety alerts, recalls, and market withdrawals go to the FDA website.

At Boise Natural Health Clinic

In our clinic we recommend and provide pharmaceutical-grade supplements only from reputable sources ensuring our customers the best quality.  Obtaining your supplements from us takes the homework (and the guess work) out of your purchase.  We meet with representatives from companies such as Metagenics, Thorne, Vital Nutrients, and Pure Encapsulations at conferences, and we learn first-hand about their manufacturing processes and quality assurance.  By purchasing your supplements from us, you are also supporting a local business and we truly appreciate this in our customers!

To schedule an appointment with Esther Sears, FNP, APRN, AOCNP regarding optimizing your daily supplement regimen and treatment plans, call Boise Natural Health Clinic at (208)338-0405.