Clients often ask their health coach about dietary supplementation. Often
these questions stem from the desire to improve some facet of their health,
such as sports performance, sexual performance or most commonly- weight
loss. The conversation often sounds like this, “Hey, I was thinking
about taking Product X… It worked great for my friend Sally, she
lost 15lbs in a week!”
These questions can be tricky to address for a number of reasons. The health
coaches at Campbell County Health Wellness all have some dietary knowledge,
but not all are registered dietitians (RD). We may know just a little
or nothing whatsoever about the particular supplements we are asked about.
That said, your health coaches would like to share these four guidelines
to follow to help you decide whether or not you should be using supplements,
and how to wisely choose the ones you use.
Be aware of consequences. Always refer to your
doctor or pharmacist before you try a supplement.
Also, inform your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking any over-the-counter
supplements. Just as some foods can react adversely with certain medications—like
grapefruit with some cholesterol medications—supplements can also
be contraindicated with medications you take. “Natural” does
not necessarily mean safe.
Do your research. There are reputable websites such as
www.consumerlab.com to learn about the supplements you are considering. Dietary supplements
fall into many categories. Some of the most common ones are vitamins and
minerals, or herbal supplements. Everyone is familiar with Vitamin C,
and you may have heard of fiber or peppermint too, but you may not think
of them as a supplement.
The National Institute of Health has published an article called
Using Dietary Supplements Wisely for more information. Most importantly, be sure to completely read any
instructions or warnings on the packaging of supplements before you use them.
Evaluate product claims carefully. Supplements are marketed for profit. Many claims made through advertising
and supplement packaging are vague and “endorsed” as safe,
or natural. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. It can be
helpful to use sites such as
www.consumerreports.org to research an over the counter product for safety. Also, be sure to check
out this Consumer Reports article,
15 Supplement Ingredients to Always Avoid.
Supplements are required to meet lower standards. It’s good to know, over the counter products are less regulated by the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) than prescribed medications. They are required to meet less strict advertising
standards and do not have to provide the same safety and ingredient information
that is required with medical prescriptions. Over the counter supplements
are often part of drug recalls and the FDA tracks claims of injury and
fraud with these products. (In this
Forbes Magazine article,
Massive Drug Recalls are a Wake-Up Call for Vitamin and Supplement Industry, learn about supplement recalls.) The FDA also has the ability to fine
companies who make false claims or cause injury, and lawsuits are common.
One example of this, in 2008 the manufacturer of Airborne supplements
was involved in a class-action lawsuit, resulting in a $23.3 Million settlement
for false advertising.
Your safety and wellbeing are the highest priority of your CCH health coaches.
Please remember that the information we share with you can only be within
the scope of our practice, meaning only within the realm of our knowledge
and licensure. Although we may not always be able to answer your questions
about a supplement, we are happy to research with you, weed through dubious
claims and give you the tools to evaluate the safety and your need to
use a supplement. We are beside you to help you manage your health successfully!
Campbell County Health
Wellness works to reduce health risks and promote overall wellness among employee
groups and individuals across the northeastern Wyoming region. To learn
more about Wellness, please visit
www.cchwyo.org/Wellness or call 307.688.8051.
This blog was written by Rachel Wilde, CPT, MA, CCH Wellness Services Technician