Does Choosing Supplements Feel Like a Never-Ending Maze?

iStock_000008226295_SmallI have been getting some questions as a health coach about how to go about choosing from the many holistic product options, especially when it comes to supplements. So, I will summarize 4 key pieces of advice:
 
1) Make one change at a time.
This is the only way for you to feel whether a product is working for you, and it increases your chances of sticking to the new habit, because you will know EXACTLY what changed.
As a health coach, I have seen people change only what they eat with no added supplementation at all, and still reach 60-95% of their goals. Nothing is more important than what you choose as fuel for your body, what you do to keep it in shape (movement of some sort), and how you manage your thoughts (lessening stress and negativity).  
Many find it easier to start with taking a supplement, because they feel it is something they can do with less effort at first, or because they feel it will help them have more willpower. If that is you, then go ahead and try it, but JUST take your new supplements at first so you know what is changing. If you start the supplements AND you start eating better AND working out more…you cannot say which change is helping most. How do you really know? 
 
2) Research your ingredients.
Natural does not necessarily mean it’s right for YOU and your body. A year or so ago I had a friend who started taking aloe daily to help with digestive issues. After a couple months, he went for a colonoscopy. Afterwards, the doctor told him he knew he was drinking aloe juice and to stop it immediately because the continued use over time was turning his intestines black, and although it would reverse if stopped, if continued it could do damage.
And did you know that if you have a latex allergy, you should be VERY cautious of taking aloe? The aloe plant contains an aloe gel in the middle and an aloe latex before the leaf and after the gel. When the aloe ingredient manufacturing process includes both, an aloe-allergic person could react and the latex portion is what causes the intestinal damage due to its laxative effects.
Now for some, aloe has been a lifesaver and works well, but most gastroenterologists agree it should be taken as needed and not proactively/daily over time to be safest. Is it possible that some supplements have found a way to harness the good parts of aloe and not the challenging parts to ensure continued use is safe? Absolutely. But if it were me, I would want to ask and know how they are ensuring that, and I would at least want to know that it COULD become an issue so that I could monitor with my doctor. This is merely one example of why it is important to know your ingredients and be aware of all potential benefits AND risks.
Basically, do your research because not all ingredients are manufactured or processed the same, and some have risks to specific groups of people. High quality supplements cost money, so make sure the ingredients and science behind it feels worth your investment. Just be sure your research is coming from expert sources, and weigh both negatives and positives against logical tests to see if you can trust all the information (e.g., Is the opinion based on newer or older research?, Does the person have a personal interest in the advice presented?, Does the article include links to science-based studies/references?)
3) No one option works for everyone.
Every body is different, with a different natural chemical plant than everyone else. So, although some things may work for the majority, no one thing will work for EVERYONE, and no experience will be exactly the same. So, do your research to ensure the line is pure, well balanced, and ask others how it has worked for them. Then trust your instincts. If you feel it may be right for you, then try it. You have nothing to lose usually. In most cases, you will receive some benefit even if it isn’t exactly what you were looking for, and many high quality lines offer a money back guarantee the first month.
 
4) No supplement or natural product is legally allowed to claim it CURES or HEALS disease, or that it REPLACES any approved medication.
If someone is saying that their supplements will cure cancer, heal your Crohn’s Disease, or replace your prescriptions then you should be at least a bit skeptical. That sort of language is often used to convince those groups to buy, and does not always stem from truthHowever, some natural products ARE proven to be highly supportive of specific normal body functions (e.g., respiratory, digestive, etc.).
And, many times the person means well. It is completely normal process to have a product work so well at supporting a body system that a person experiences a grand improvement in their wellbeing, and of course that leads them to wanting to shout it from the mountaintops and help everyone they know feel better too! When someone says to you something like, “I took this and my reflux was cured!”, that is hopefully an accurate perception of what they believed to have happened. However, what most likely happened is that the product helped fill a deficiency within their body and that enabled that body system to fully function again. The supplement didn’t cure the reflux, it supported healthy digestion. The body then stopped the reflux because it was able to.
This is largely different than what happens when you take a manufactured drug that is synthetically produced to change how normal body functions operate in order to facilitate a change in disease state. If someone is marketing honestly and legally, then the message should be that the product supports or promotes healthy normal body functions or promotes or improves normal, everyday types of issues (aches after working out, feelings of anxiousness before a test, etc.).
According to the FDA, as soon as someone is benefiting from the sale of a product, that person can no longer say that the product stopped his or her reflux or saved them from buying reflux medicine….EVEN IF THAT IS THEIR TRUE EXPERIENCE…because it then falls under commercial speech. Someone may take that as a drug claim and purchase based on that perceived promise. How do I know? Because I carry the doTerra line of oils and supplements and our company has been cooperating fully to educate every leader and advocate in the company as to why controlling commercial speech is so important, and on how to still promote the benefits of our products in a compliant manner. I believe the best in most people, and think those who are still making those claims are doing so because they just don’t understand the laws yet, but the few who use those claims for financial gain only, the few who are the reason the FDA has to make these efforts to begin with…those are the people you want to watch out for.
The bottom line?
I think it is awesome that there are so many natural, quality supplements out there to choose from today. They are sorely needed thanks to the state of our food supply, the amount of toxins we are subjected to daily, and the latest findings that are finally proving that many of the grocery and pharmacy chains have fake supplements on their shelves or supplements without the proper ingredients to facilitate absorption (resulting in expensive urine).
 
So, understand that natural supplement products are merely a support tool that DOES NOT give you a free pass to eat like crap and never workout, yet still expect to get healthy. Research the ingredients so you know what the potential benefits and risks are. And, maintain an accurate expectation of natural supplements’ role in your wellness goals.
They are supportive. They are not magic pills.
iStock_000008226307_SmallThey cannot immediately instill perfect willpower, turn your metabolism into overdrive, erase years of bad habits, make that hot in the corner see you as sexy, or fix your marriage.
 
However, they CAN be a HUGE part of your wellness toolkit when used properly.
 
My most important piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to try different products, and once you find one that helps you reach your goals, don’t let the naysayers and skeptics talk you out of it…stick with it until your body tells you there is a change needed.

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