I’ve been in the health products industry for a number of years now, long enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly (aka the life changing, the mediocre, and the complete waste of money) when it comes to supplement brands. It seems like there are more and more brands producing what seem like identical supplements, which makes it impossible for you to make a decision! The health products industry is not rigorously regulated to protect you as a consumer, which unfortunately leaves it up to you to choose brands that actually work.
This blog post is to help you navigate the supplement jungle and to share with you that all supplement brands are absolutely not equal. If you’re finding your supplements, especially fertility supplements, aren’t working for the reasons you bought them for, then this blog is for you. Please let me be the one to tell you that it’s not you, it’s the brand!
Here is my list of 6 things that ensure a fantastic brand, and an effective supplement:
1. Your supplement brand does not have any unnecessary additives.
There are so many brands that have countless non-medicinal ingredients that no one can pronounce!
Quick tip: if your pill is in a coloured capsule you know harmful ingredients have been added. Here’s an example of a common label that has unhealthy non-medicinal ingredients
2. The ingredients are standardized to the medicinal component.
This means a brand is not just throwing an herb in a capsule, but extracting the medicinal ingredients from the herb. For example, the first label provides a guaranteed percentage of the medicinal ingredient in ginger: gingerol. The second label just has ginger, with no gingerol.
Quick tip: a percentage next to the herb indicates the medicinal standardization
3. The form of the ingredient is bioavailable to your body.
This means the ingredients are in a recognizable form for your body to absorb. If your body is not able to process the ingredients then you don’t get any benefits and they end up in your urine! Below there are two labels that include forms of folic acid. The first label describes the form of folic acid: L-MTHF (the most readily absorbed form). The second label does not list forms of ingredients at all.
Quick tip: form can be really confusing, your naturopathic doctor is trained to know what is best absorbed by your body
4. Fat-soluble herbs have fat-soluble ingredients
There are certain vitamins and herbs that need to be taken with fat in order to be absorbed. Did you know Vitamin D and Curcumin/Tumeric are examples of these? Curcumin supplements are extremely popular now for inflammation and pain. Every brand makes a curcumin supplement! But only a good brand makes sure it will be absorbed properly.
Quick tip: the terms for “fat soluble” include: glycine, phosphatidylcholine, lecithin, emulsified, liposomal.
5. Ingredients listed have been validated by third party lab testing
This means the product has been tested by an unbiased lab to ensure the ingredients are present in their labeled dosage. Unfortunately, health product companies aren’t forced to test their products at all in Ontario! So when you see a company that uses third party testing you can rest assure they care about your health!
Quick tip: brands that use third party lab testing include: NFH, AOR, Thorne, Cyto-Matrix, Designs for Health, MediHerb and Seroyal.
6. The dose
The dose on the bottle does not actually reflect therapeutic benefit. Depending on your concern, you may need to take less…or significantly more of the ingredient to see benefit. For example, a product may have 30mg of magnesium citrate, but for bowel function, sleep, and muscle pain you would need a much more powerful product.
Quick tip: your naturopathic doctor is an expert in the scientific evidence for effective dosage.
If you find yourself staring at a sea of supplement brands in your medicine cabinet that don’t meet this criteria, or you’re spending hours at the health food store surrounded by walls of brands, I can help you determine the most effective brands for you. If your supplements aren’t working it does not mean natural alternatives don’t work, it means the brand you’re using doesn’t work!
Book an appointment with Dr. Sumner
Radomski, J. L. (1974). Toxicology of food colors. Annual Review of Pharmacology, 14(1), 127-137.
Kakkar, V., Singh, S., Singla, D., & Kaur, I. P. (2011). Exploring solid lipid nanoparticles to enhance the oral bioavailability of curcumin. Molecular nutrition & food research, 55(3), 495-503.
Akoglu, B., Schrott, M., Bolouri, H., Jaffari, A., Kutschera, E., Caspary, W. F., & Faust, D. (2008). The folic acid metabolite L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate effectively reduces total serum homocysteine level in orthotopic liver transplant recipients: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. European journal of clinical nutrition, 62(6), 796-801.