Navigating the Supplement Industry

As the wellness industry continues to grow, the supplement sections in health food stores seem to be taking up more and more shelf space. Are these supplements actually beneficial? And if so, how do you begin to navigate the decision of which supplements are best for you?

Supplement Quality Matters

Did you know that not all supplements actually contain what is listed on the label? Because supplements are considered food products, manufacturers are not required to prove that they are safe or effective. The ingredients in the products are not always in the quantity listed and might not be in the product at all. There are also counterfeit products on the market that are mislabeled as reputable brands. These are often sold through third-party vendors on websites like Amazon. Additionally, supplements can contain contaminants including metals, toxins, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. To ensure that your product contains what’s on the label and is free of harmful ingredients, check the manufacturer’s website to see if the product is third-party tested, and purchase from a reputable company, not just a well-known brand.

The Dose Is Important

Some supplements come with such low doses of the desired ingredients that they will likely have no impact. It’s important to be aware of the therapeutic dose, or the amount of the substance required to have the desired effect, so that you can determine if the product will be effective and how much you will need to take to see a change. Research studies are a great tool for determining what the therapeutic dose of a supplement is.

Supplements Can Have Side Effects

Many people prefer to use natural supplements rather than pharmaceuticals because they believe them to be completely safe. While supplements typically have fewer side effects than pharmaceutical medications, you should still use caution when taking a product that is new to you and do your research on potential side effects and interactions if you are self-prescribing. Even common supplements that are typically considered safe can cause side effects, like magnesium and Vitamin C causing diarrhea if you take too much. Supplements also have the potential of interacting with other medications you take, natural or otherwise. For example, a common herbal supplement used to treat depression, St. John’s Wort, can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners, antibiotics, and birth control pills.

Individualize Your Healthcare

Just like all other aspects of health care, not all supplements are right for all people. If you have questions about which supplements are right for you, talk to your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment at BNHC.


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Denham, B. E. (2021). Dietary supplements in the USA: Problematic trends. Public Health Nutrition, 24(9), 2771–2775.