Often, one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about alternative health care options (like naturopathic medicine) is: supplements. While naturopathic therapeutics encompass much, much more than just supplements, they can be an important and powerful part of the health care plan that we will create together. Here is what you should know about effectively using supplements to…well, supplement your health.
1. Start with the basics.
Naturopathic medicine is founded on six principles, which creates the essential difference between a naturopathic medical practice and a conventional medical practice. The first of these principles tells us to do no harm; in part, this means that we use the lowest-force interventions necessary, following something called the therapeutic order when addressing our health. Imagine a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid, the first and most important element upon which our health rests, is: establishing the conditions for health. This means eating a healthy diet; moving your body; having access to clean air and water; exercising your mind; and so on. The next step up the pyramid is stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself; this might mean using hydrotherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, meditation, or other similar tools. Next we move up to strengthening weakened systems in the body. This is the first place where supplements may be useful. For example: if you find yourself with a vitamin deficiency, I might recommend a vitamin supplement to make up for the deficiency, while we also work together to address the underlying cause of the deficiency. As another example, during pregnancy we may recommend supplements (in addition to a healthy diet) in order to counteract the extra demand placed on the body while growing a baby. (The therapeutic order does not stop there! More on that in a later post.)
So, how does all this philosophy relate to supplements? In short, it reminds us that supplements are aptly named: they are not intended as a replacement to a nutrient-rich diet and healthy lifestyle – they are intended for specific, targeted use when we need to address a specific issue in the body. And, they work best when they rest on a firm foundation.
2. Have a time frame.
When using supplements for a specific issue in the body, we use them for a specific amount of time. Supplements are not intended to be a never-ending addition to your healthy lifestyle routine. Now that we understand their purpose of addressing a deficiency (or potential deficiency) in the body, or supporting or strengthening a weakened system in the body, we can see why supplementation shouldn’t last forever. The goal is to correct the deficiency, strengthen the body, and bring it back into optimal functioning – at this point the supplement is no longer needed!
3. Buy good quality.
This is an incredibly important aspect of using supplements effectively. I have often heard the lament that supplements are a “less effective, but more natural” replacement for pharmaceuticals. Often, this misconception is based on the overuse of low quality supplements. Unfortunately, many of the low cost supplements that are sold over the counter are essentially ineffective. Prices are kept low through various means, such as: harvesting poor quality plants; harvesting useless plant parts – for example, harvesting stems and leaves along with flowers when the flowers have the only medicinal qualities in the plant; unsustainable harvesting practices; using cheaper to produce but less potent ingredients; using doses that are too low to be effective; or adding fillers like sawdust (really!) to supplements. Of course these supplements are not effective – if we took an eighth of an aspirin tablet, mixed it with sawdust and swallowed it, we wouldn’t expect that to cure a headache either!
4. Get guidance!
So, when you are looking at shelves of supplements at the co-op, or browsing for your supplements on Amazon, how do you know which brands harvest sustainably and don’t include fillers? How do you know which plant part has medicinal qualities, or the medicinal qualities that will be beneficial to you? How do you know when you are taking a supplement at a therapeutic dose (the dose required to have the medicinal effect in your body)? Luckily, you don’t have to!
As a naturopathic physician, I am thoroughly trained in botanical medicine, diet and nutrient therapy, medicine making, and dispensary quality assurance. I am here to help guide you in determining which high quality supplements will be beneficial to your health, how long you should take them, and at what dosage.
Let us help you supplement your health
To that end, Rolling Hills Midwives & Natural Family Medicine carries a dispensary through Fullscript so that you can order online and supplements are shipped right to you.
- You can be sure that you are getting high quality supplements.
- We do our best to find a good value for supplements – we do the research so you don’t have to.
You can browse through our dispensary which lists various conditions and some supplements we recommend for each. Or, you can search for supplements that you currently take. (Great for things like prenatal vitamins!)
I also offer a 15 minute phone consultation to discuss your current supplements, any brief concerns, and my recommendations. You can schedule a consult online here, or give us a call!