That supplement is expensive… can’t I get that in my food?

by on March 3, 2018

Supplements: good or bad? Are they a total waste of money, or do we actually need them?

I struggle a lot with supplements. Big confession for a naturopathic doctor, right? I say big confession because many people associate going to see a naturopath with taking a handful of supplements everyday, and I have to say that they’re not entirely wrong by thinking this. So one would assume that working in this profession, I would be totally cool with recommending them, but that’s not exactly the case for me.

Health and healing involves many factors and processes. I’m a big promoter of food as medicine, and I really love the transformational power of nutrition. I always get goosebumps when I see someone completely transform their health and their life simply by changing their nutrition. So when you ask the question, ‘can I get that through my food instead of a supplement’, I am happy to answer ‘yes’! If this is an option, who wants to take a handful of pills everyday and spend hundreds of dollars on supplements every month? That doesn’t sound like much fun to me…

There is a massive market for supplements. They are everywhere. Walk into the store to get a supplement, and you’ll find yourself spending hours just trying to pick out an omega 3 supplement. And most of the time, the dose isn’t high enough for you to really benefit from it. 

So, where do supplements fit then, if we really want to improve our health? Well, in my opinion, supplements should be used exactly as what they are called, to supplement our diet, not to cover for an unhealthy diet. If you work at creating balance in your life, developing healthy habits like exercise, meditation or some form of grounding activity, spending time outside getting some fresh clean air, and having a great diet, and you have great genes, then you probably don’t need any supplements. But this isn’t the case for most of us, unfortunately. But this doesn’t mean that we all need supplements either. So we need to figure out which ones to take to reach our health goals.


Can’t I get that in my food?

Yes, nutrition is so important. In fact, I think it’s one of the most important things we need to consider. But we can’t always get everything in our food. In many cases, we need doses of specific vitamins, minerals or active components of plants that we simply can’t get through our food – we would have to eat cup upon cup of a certain food in order to get what we can get though a capsule. This is where supplements really play an important role. If we have low iron causing fatigue, that fatigue won’t go away until the iron deficiency is corrected.

In many cases, a supplement play a role in speeding up a healing process or help the body establish balance while we are working on making other changes – like decreasing stress, improving our nutrition, decreasing our exposure to toxins, etc. Once those things are established, the supplements can go! This is the most ideal situation.

This supplement is expensive, can I take less of it?

Yes, supplements are expensive, and taking them month after month can really add up. I agree 100%. To avoid useless spending on supplements, it’s important to really select the supplements we need. We can take lots just for good measure, but really, we should prioritize the supplements we are taking, working on one process at a time. For example, if you’re working on balancing hormones, it’s important to start by detoxing your body and ensure proper elimination, and then move on to targeting the hormones that need balancing. Different supplements will be used, but not all at the same time.

It’s also important to take enough of a supplement for it to work. Look at the cost of the supplement and the amount per capsule. A less expensive supplement will often have a much lower dose per capsule, so you’ll end up going through your bottle much faster and spending the same amount of money. Supplements are like pharmaceutical medicines – the dose matters. Imagine taking a quarter of an Ibuprophen for a headache – it probably won’t help you much. The same goes for supplements – you need to take enough for them to do their job.

I think it’s also important to look on the other side of the coin and track where we spend our money. We can often easily justify spending 20$ per week on a bottle of wine, or 200$ on our car, so why do we struggle so much to spend 40$ on a supplement that will last 1 month? 



So which ones should I take then?

I encourage you to go through your supplement cabinet and take a look at everything you have in there. Get rid of the ones that are expired and cherry pick the supplements you need to take. For me, a high dose Omega 3, a multi strain probiotic and vitamin D are supplements I take all year. In 3 month spurts, I also use a vitamin B6 complex, magnesium and a herbal tincture for nervous system support, adrenal support and hormone balancing…

Remember that there is such a thing as taking too many supplements, and supplements won’t do you any good if they just sit in your cupboard! If you’re going to take supplements, make sure you’re taking the ones you need and in the dose you need. Get the rest through your diet and lifestyle!

If you need help navigating the supplement world, a naturopathic doctor can certainly help!

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