If you are already a patient of mine, then you know that I am super snobby about vitamins and supplements. But if you are not (or haven’t figured that out…?) then I want to make sure that you know why I am so snobby about them…
You see.. there is a difference.
Let me explain..
First there are various “tiers” of quality when it comes to supplements.
1. Tier One: This is your lowest quality of vitamins and minerals. This type is inconsistent in strength and is always of questionable sourcing. It is filled with fillers, “inactive ingredients” and made without thought as to what shouldn’t go in the body. You pay the least for these when it comes to financial cost but they may cause an upset stomach, side affects or they may not work at all. They also may be filled with allergens, pesticides and sugar. This level of supplement is the types of things you find at your drug store next to the prescription pharmacy and your toilet paper.
2. Tier two: This is a step up and has some variance in this level. This type you find at a health food store and includes some “discount brands” next to some more expensive versions. While this tier is good for some things and includes some very good brands (I love garden of life, for example) and may even be next to some brands that are included in Tier Three, they are generally part of a sea of confusion. The risk in this group is that there is no standard of strength. For example, there is no guarantee that each bottle will contain the same strength of active ingredients- especially herbs. While some vitamins will be sourced from excellent sources, some will not. And unless you know a lot about the varying types of brands and the reputation of the companies, you are subject to the information from the person responsible for making sure they sell: the person that works there.
Even if the brand is “ok” there is a question of strength. For example, I bought an herb from one of these “ok” brands. Even though the bottle said it had the same number of milligrams as my Tier three version of the same herb, I had to take 4 times as much to get the same results! This can be dangerous, because on many of these, there is a max dose of these herbs. And if one bottle has less of the active ingredient and the next has more, but they both say the same amount– then you could take enough that would harm you.. or not enough and think it doesn’t work. Some of this is quality control and some of this is ignorance. Did you know that the leaf and stem of the plant contain different “strengths”? But they may both weigh the same 20 mg.. or whatever weight is on the bottle. Bottom line: you are not getting consistent quality and may be wasting your money.
3.Tier three. This is the group of supplements sold by doctor’s offices. While you can find them in other places like Amazon, websites and sometimes in health stores (My health store sells 3), these supplements are the highest quality. The strength is always the same and allergen information is clearly marked and strictly controlled. In the industry, these are referred to as Nutriceuticals. They are the quality used by functional medicine doctors to treat disease. One benefit is that when you use one of these brands is that you do not have to use as much to get the same result, which actually ensures your safety and also that you get your money’s worth.
In addition to the three tiers of quality there is the question of synthetic versus whole foods.
For vitamins, this comes into question of which is best and the answer is… it depends. You see, generally speaking, whole food forms are best. When synthetic vitamins were introduced into our society, cancer rates actually rose! This is the opposite of what we expected. But think of it in these terms: Vitamin C is not just Ascorbic Acid- but a complex of various components that make up Vitamin C. The various components work together for the body to boost the immune system and help it do all it needs to do.
When you isolate one part of a “team” of vitamins, you are left with only part of the equation.
Let me use another example. The coca leaf is what is used to make cocaine. For centuries, the people of south american countries have been consuming the coca leaf with no real problems. That is because it contains more than just cocaine. It contains other components that balance the part that is isolated to make cocaine. When we take the isolated part away from the other parts of the “team”, we create imbalance. Another word for imbalance in the body is… disease. In theory, this imbalance in the body’s input, can lead to imbalance in the body’s output. An orange will not cause cancer to rise because it is balanced with the rest of the fruit, but isolated it may cause imbalance.
However, there are some caveats.
It may be better to use a synthetic sometimes. For example if you cannot get a high enough dose in a whole food form, then a synthetic may be a better option. This would be necessary if you are looking for a therapeutic dose of either a specific nutrient or an isolated amino acid. This usually is used when you are trying to get a specific result from the vitamin, mineral or supplement. An example of this would be when you are using something like 5HTP, a type of tryptophan to manipulate the body into making more serotonin. Magnesium is another example of this as it is sometimes needed in high, therapeutic doses not able to be reached with whole food formulas. It may also be because you need a specific type of magnesium (or other type of vitamin or mineral) to increase absorption.
Also, some types of formulas are better absorbed. For example, liquids are more absorbable than capsules which are more absorbable than caplets or tablets, generally speaking. You also have things like “liposomal” which are usually liquids or gelcaps and are metabolized by the liver instead of the stomach. These are used when digestion may be compromised and affects the absorbability.
So as you see, there are a lot of factors that go into picking the right supplement for the right person and their situation. If you are trying to fill your medicine cabinet, then go over and check out my online store to see some of my favorites. You can also check out this article for some basics that you can keep in your cabinet and kitchen to help you and your family on a more regular basis. Of course, talk to your doctor before taking anything to make sure it is right for your body and your health.
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