To some of you, the fact that people have said the above to me will be quite shocking. Even more shocking, those exact words have been uttered numerous times by colleagues in chiropractic school.
Saying you “don’t believe in supplements” is like saying you “don’t believe in surgery”; another thing that is often said by fellow chiropractors. The thing about it is that nothing in life is so black and white. I don’t believe in unnecessary surgery, but I’m careful to draw a distinction between necessary and unnecessary and I acknowledge that those definitions change in different situations. If my arm gets lopped off tomorrow please, please get my butt into emergency surgery and sew it back on. Gallbladder removal surgery, many back surgeries, bariatric surgery, and many more? Grossly overused. No question.
I don’t believe in unnecessary surgery in the same way I think that most people mean that they don’t believe in supplements. I don’t believe in unnecessary surgery, nor do I believe in ineffective use of supplements.
So many times people go to a health food store, multilevel marketing supplement distributor, or website and get random supplement X. Random supplement X might be a vitamin, mineral, herb, or protein powder that has been said to help a symptom or disease- Iodine for the thyroid or alfalfa for gout, perhaps? But without an understanding of the person’s whole body and the physiology of the symptom or disease, how do you know that supplement X will help?
My point here is that while all of the above folks are well-intentioned, they often lack the level of understanding needed to appropriately manage people with complex/multiple problems. That’s not to say that their products wouldn’t help the complex cases I see- it’s just that this route tends to be very non-specific. I have just found that many people need their physiology picked apart with a fine-tooth comb- something functional medicine doctors excel at.
The effectiveness of a supplement is only as good as the understanding and expertise of the person dispensing it. Going to Whole Foods and asking the kid behind the counter what to take for your thyroid might prove to be beneficial, but honestly this model almost never does. These are almost always the beginnings of a “I tried supplement X, Y and Z and didn’t feel anything different” stories. Those people often go on to say that they don’t “believe in supplements”. But of course you wouldn’t believe in something that didn’t work for you! You’d be a fool to still “believe” in something that has proven to be ineffective.
Finding someone who knows what they’re doing is so crucial when considering using supplements. Sadly, even most chiropractors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, doctors, and naturopaths have relatively limited understanding of how to properly dispense supplements. Functional medicine doctors, on the other hand, go to great lengths to understand biochemistry, nutrition, and physiology and are generally very good at using supplements effectively in practice. The key word here is effectively. Functional medicine doctors try to get to the root cause of problems, but often more importantly they prioritize. Figuring out what is causing what is a delicate art and ensures that the patient receives the most effective care (and cost effective supplementation) possible. One such example is being able to recognize when an autoimmune disease (hashimoto’s) is causing hypothyroidism, which then in turn causes hormonal imbalance and an irregular period. Oh the tangled webs we weave!
If you or somebody you know is interested in working with a functional medicine doctor please call my office at (919) 238-4094 and see if we are the right fit for you. Infinity Holistic Healthcare is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, part of the Raleigh-Durham “triangle” area.