The ABC’s, Four Corners aired (yet another) segment on supplements, "Swallowing It" on Monday night. You can view it here. I was negative press for the complementary medicine industry. They raised questions around whether supplements were effective, safe and if they were a waste of money. The majority of the supplements they were taking about were multivitamins and other self-prescribed supplements available at pharmacies and health food stores, usually endorsed my celebrities and sports people.
My patients know, I only prescribe supplements if they really need them. I'd prefer to do food as medicine when possible. People with restricted diets, under going a stressful period, have compromised digestion, a planning to conceive or are pregnant or have a chronic health issue including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, thyroid or hormonal issues and the list goes on! And yes, there is good evidence for specific nutrients and herbs for certain disease states. The therapeutic nutrients and herbs I prescribe are practitioner only dispensing. These are tested for safety, quality and efficacy. Self-prescribing is not something I recommend nor do I believe in multi vitamins. Why? Because a lot of the time the dosages aren’t therapeutic, often they contain nutrients you really don't need more of (copper is my pet hate) and because they are not in the right form, you are likely excreting them anyway via the urine (this is certainly the case for B vitamins). I really encourage people to use food as medicine before reaching for supplements and if you do need supplement to seek out the advise of someone who has extensively studied in that area, such as a nutritionist or dietitian. Pharmacist can offer some advice but they haven't specifically studied nutritional or herbal medicine (sorry if I've stood on anyone's toes!). Some pharmacists and integrative doctors I see regularly at education events so some do know what they are taking about. The bottom line is get some professional advice before spending money on supplements.
Anyway enough of my rant, here is when you should consider taking supplements:
Haven’t seen the sunshine in awhile (sunshine is essential for vitamin D)
Are planning on conceiving (both men and women)
Have compromised digestion
Have a restricted diet-be it vegan, vego or dairy/gluten free
Have a chronic health condition
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