I recently went to a health talk that my supervising doctor put on at Arizona State University, and one of the attendees brought up this great question. How do you find good quality supplements? I mean, if you walk into a Whole Foods or a Sprouts these days it’s like the bread isle on crack. There’s 8,000 companies offering 9,000 products, all the while claiming that theirs is the best. But how do you know you’re getting what you paid for? Or more importantly, how do you know if you’re paying for something you really didn’t want?
Functional Medicine practitioners such as myself work with pharmaceutical grade supplements from many different companies. Such companies only sell their products to licensed healthcare professionals. To you out there in the world who just wants some vitamins this may be annoying, but believe me when I tell you it is for your own good. When they say pharmaceutical grade they really mean it… which means two things. On the one hand, you can have a great therapeutic (positive) effect with these supplements. On the other hand, you can do a lot of damage with them if you take them inappropriately… I know- I’ve made myself sick stimulating the wrong pathway a time or two and I’ve heard friends’ stories after they’ve done the same. If these products got into the hands of the general public who doesn’t know how to use them properly a lot of people would be in a whole world of hurt. I’m not saying that non-pharmaceutical grade supplements aren’t effective… Just perhaps not as effective as what we in FM use. The other plus side to going to a doctor for your supplements is that they will run tests (blood, urine, saliva) to ensure that you are taking the right thing.
For those of you who don’t want to go to a doctor, there is a more reasonable way to find good quality supplements. Consumer labs is a third party company that tests and reviews different supplements. There is a small subscription fee that goes toward funding the tests that they run, and it is well worth the fee. Not only do they test the supplements for what they claim to contain, but they test for contaminants. For example, their review of vitamin D supplements revealed two products that were contaminated with Lead !