How to Choose the Best Supplement for You
Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you walk into a supplement shop or even the supplement isle at the natural foods store? You’re not alone. Trying to find the right supplement through the haze of different brands, different prices, and different concoctions is enough to make you doubt your decision to try something natural or something new. But don’t be discouraged!
We are going to walk you through how to find the right supplement for you so you are prepared next time you are face to face with those daunting isles of product.
When it comes to supplementation, you want to think of it as food. Food is meant to be nutritious, providing fuel and the building blocks for many parts and processes in our bodies. Supplementation’s purpose is the exact same, and so you should treat the supplement isle like any other isle in the grocery store. Whether you are looking for a general multivitamin/mineral, or want to use supplementation in your healing from a diseased state, you want to make sure you are only putting the best nutrients in your body. We’re here to help.
When you go to the grocery store, you don’t just pick up one of everything down an isle, you select only what you need to make the recipes you have planned. Similarly with supplements, you don’t just want to randomly pick one, you want to be selective in getting a product that is going to give you what you need, depending on your purpose for getting the supplement. This is the first step in choosing your supplements: Be clear on what you intend to use the supplement for. If you want help with your arthritis, you might look for a supplement that will reduce inflammation. If you want help with your headaches, you might look for something that reduces tension in your neck. And so on. Being clear on what you plan to use it for will help narrow down your selection.
Step two: Do your research. Once you know what your primary concern and intention is, research alternative methods for treating the symptom you are experiencing. Using key words like “alternative medicine,” “natural remedies,” and “alternative treatments for (insert your concern here),” will help you find what foods, herbs, strands of bacteria, etc. you need to look for in the supplement isle. You’ll quickly notice that most sites and articles will mention a specific herb or food. Write that down and keep searching. You want a list of at least 5 different ingredients that can help your symptoms. This is step three.
This list is now your supplement grocery list. Once you get to the store, find the isle or section that your concern is most closely related to and face your supplement options. You are armed with 5 potential ingredients that are going to get you in the direction you have decided to go. Now start reading. Step four: Read the ingredient list on the supplements in front of you. You want a product that has the ingredient you found most often in your research from step two. If a supplement doesn’t have it, put it back. Each time you find a supplement with one of the other ingredients you have on your list (in addition to the primary ingredient), bonus point!
What is incredible about foods and herbs is their ability to act synergistically with each other, creating different effects than any isolated substance. So we are looking for a product that has as many of the ingredients on your list as possible. Now we’re not only reading to make sure they contain some of the ingredients you’ve researched, we’re also looking to see if it looks synthetic or if it is derived from natural sources. From what we understand, isolating certain herbs, or specific properties of a food or herb, may lead to a loss of some of its healing properties. For more information on this and how to tell them apart, read our post Whole-Food vs. Synthetic Supplementation.
And finally, step five: Check the expiration date. You wouldn’t buy milk that expires tomorrow, so don’t buy a supplement that you won’t be able to use before its expiration. Read the recommended dosage, and then the number of capsules or servings in the bottle. Make sure you have time to finish the bottle before the expiration date. Side note: if a product doesn’t expire for years, it likely isn’t whole-food based, or it has additives to prolong self life that tend to detract from health, not support it. Don’t choose those products.
The only thing left to do is saunter up to the register with a smile - you should be confident that you found the best supplement for you!
Just to recap, here are your five steps for finding the right supplement for you:
1) Be clear on what you intend to use the supplement for.
2) Do your research.
3) Create your list.
4) Read the ingredient list.
5) Check the expiration date.
If this seems like more than you’re willing to do, you might consider talking to a functional nutritionist. Supplementation can add so much value to your health when done appropriately so either make time to do it right, or be bold enough to ask for help. You’ve got this!
*This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare professional before making changes that could impact your health.