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Save Money By Asking These Important Questions When You Shop for Supplements

Jayne Reynolds

I am a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist® passionate about restoring the body's health, balance, and wellbeing. I get down to the root cause of what's happening in the body so that it can be addressed instead of chasing symptoms.
Published: June 11, 2021
Supplements on a store shelf

Last week, we established that 99.9% of us need supplements, like a multivitamin and mineral, because our food’s nutritional value is declining, the Standard American Diet is lacking, and most people are subclinically nutrient deficient.

With that in mind, you got online or went to your local health food store or big box grocery store determined to find a solid multi to add to your morning routine. You found yourself looking at thousands of supplements and hundreds of brands.

You stand there, a little overwhelmed, scratching your head and wondering which one is the best one for you, what dose you should take, and why some cost a small fortune while others are only a couple of dollars. When you flip the bottle over to look at the back of the product, you aren’t even sure what all the ingredients are.

If this sounds like you, today’s blog post will help you ask the right questions before shopping for your vitamins, minerals, and other supplements. Excellent quality supplements provide nutrients your body can actually use, so you won’t end up wasting your hard-earned dollars by peeing out vitamins your body can’t even use. Or worse yet, buying products that don’t even contain what’s written on the label.

Here are the 14 questions you should ask whenever you purchase your supplements:

1. Who is recommending the brand to me?

Trusted sources for reputable brands can include a naturopath, chiropractor, or another functional or integrative practitioner. You want someone who knows what you are already taking, can make recommendations based upon your personal needs, and won’t waste your time and money on inferior products.

2. Is the brand trusted?

I have worked with a naturopath since 2004 and now know which brands are solid and dependable. Thorne, Douglas Labs, Pure Encapsulations, Wise Woman Herbals, Gaia Herbs, Designs for Health, Microbiome Labs, Integrative Therapeutics, and Vital Nutrients are just a few. I regularly look within these brands for my client recommendations, and they are the brands that I use. 

3. Are the products tested independently?

One common newsfeed report we see says that vitamins don’t contain what the labels say they do. That is a common problem with sub-par products, and unfortunately, some products found on Amazon and in some retail chains. Independent product testing by a 3rd party lab is a great way for companies to verify that the bottles contain the ingredients that they say they do. You may be able to find this information on the brand website. Buying from a trusted retailer such as Fullscript, Wellevate, or direct from the manufacturer is always a good idea.

5. What other ingredients are in the supplement?

Are there additional and unnecessary fillers? Recently, I sat down and reviewed the label of a popular 50+ multivitamin and mineral. Besides some inadequate forms of nutrients, the supplement contained: 

  • Maltodextrin is a food additive. It is generally regarded as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. However, it may affect your gut bacteria, leading to inflammatory bowel disease, and cause food allergies or intolerances. 
  • Modified corn starch and corn starch Chemical, enzymatic, or other processes alter corn starch to provide texture, control moisture, stabilize ingredients, and extend shelf life. Side effects include allergies, headaches, diarrhea, bloating, digestive distress, fatigue, and more.
  • BHT  A lab-made chemical added to foods as a preservative. The jury is out on whether or not this is a safe preservative. “Long-term studies found a causative effect between BHT and hormonal disruption in human fetuses, namely the thyroid and testes. For this reason, the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends avoiding BHT and has added it to their caution list.” 
  • Blue 2 Lake and Red 40 Lake food coloring Blue 2 Lake is a petroleum-based chemical formula that mimics indigo, a dye normally found in plants. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that these food colorings may raise our risk of cancer, ADHD, and allergies.
  • Polydextrose A lab-made carbohydrate that can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea
  • Talc Used to prevent supplement ingredients from clumping together or to the machinery when forming tablets. Scientists assure us that talc in our supplements is not the same as cancer-causing talcum powder.

6. Is it free from major allergens? Is it free from my allergens?

Always check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain anything you are allergic to or don’t tolerate. If garlic gives you diarrhea, don’t take garlic caps. Make sure corn isn’t hidden in the product if it sends you into anaphylaxis. And if you have a wheat intolerance, make sure it’s not a listed ingredient. Also, make sure the actual supplement doesn’t contain any food sensitivities. A few years ago, like any good nutritionist, I took my cod liver oil daily. I felt like I stopped making progress in my healing and felt off. I knew I didn’t feel good, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. My updated food sensitivity results showed that I was reacting to cod. Once I stopped taking the supplement, my symptoms resolved. 

7. Where applicable – are the ingredients organic?

Minerals are never organic (unless they come from a plant, like non-heme iron). An organic label applies more to products that contain plants, for example, goldenseal or echinacea. Many of the supplements and tinctures that I recommend contain organic ingredients, especially the plant-based ones. 

8. Do they use chemicals in the extraction process?

Often, harsh extraction methods compromise the integrity of the fragile nutrients during the manufacturing process. 

9. Are the supplements plant-based or chemically created?

Lab-created vitamins are far inferior to their plant-based counterparts. For example, folic acid raises your blood level of folic acid, but your body doesn’t know what to do with it, so you end up peeing it out. Instead, make sure your supplement contains methyl folate. Cyanocobalamin is the synthetic version of vitamin B12. One study showed that you might pee out three times more cyanocobalamin than methylcobalamin. That indicates that you may retain more of the natural version of the vitamin in your body.

10. How do they package and ship their product? 

Is the product shelf-stable, or does it need refrigeration? If it needs refrigeration, do they ship it in cooled trucks or mail it out with ice packs? 

11. Is it in glass or plastic?

Glass is the preferred storage method because it reduces the risk of chemicals transferring to the supplement. 

12. Are the oil-based supplements in dark-colored glass jars?

Dark-colored glass protects the product from the sun’s rays which may cause it to deteriorate.

13. How are my supplements encapsulated?

Enteric-coated capsules dissolve in the digestive tract, which makes them a perfect choice for probiotics. In contrast, gelatin caps dissolve easily in your stomach, which means the contents won’t pass through your digestive system without being absorbed. Vegan gel caps exist that are usually made from cellulose or tapioca roots.

14. What are the ethics behind the brand?

Last but not least, picking brands that work hard to protect the planet and humanely raise their livestock is always a win-win for you and the environment.

Kelly and I carry all of our favorite brands at Fullscript and Wellevate. Our clients always receive a 10% discount. Do yourself a favor. Sign up for an account today and purchase your quality supplements at a discount while supporting a local, women-led business.

What’s Next?

For most people, minor lifestyle changes will make a big difference. However, there are times when the problem runs deeper, and you need professional help. If you’ve tried to figure this out on your own, or you feel like you’re lost in a maze of information and aren’t sure which path to take, don’t give up hope.

We have a range of different approaches that will help you figure out the root cause of your dysfunction and stop the cycle of sickness so you can feel better now. Book your free 30-minute Breakthrough Strategy Session today.

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