$Monday: Skip the Supplements (Unless Medically Advised)

Dietary supplements cost more and do less for your health than nutritious food. Popping a pill is not a good financial or health choice unless you have a specific condition that is truly treatable with a supplement AND it is not possible to consume enough of the nutrient you need in real food AND your supplement is not a fake. Otherwise you are literally flushing money (and possibly your health) down the toilet.

It's tempting to buy into the fantasy of a pill that can fix something or even provide an "insurance policy" without doing any harm. The truth is more complex. Sometimes vitamins and herbal supplements can help, but the poorly regulated supplement industry is filled with fake news, false claims, and literal sawdust posing as active ingredients--or worse.

If a nutrient is good for you in a whole food, it might not be good for you when processed into a pill or tablet or gummy or whatever.

If something is good for you in a precise amount, more is not better. You can poison yourself with just about anything if you ingest too much of it. Correcting a deficiency is good; adding more beyond that does not give you superpowers, it throws you off balance and can even cause a deficiency in something else by blocking absorption.

If you think you need a supplement to address a specific health problem, always seek medical advice from your primary care physician, a Registered Dietitian, or a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (not just a "nutritionist," which can be anybody). If you think you might have a nutrient deficiency or another condition treatable with a supplement, have that confirmed by testing. If your spidey sense alerts you that your doctor may not be listening appropriately, doesn't know how to treat you, or is pushing an inappropriate treatment or just saying yes to whatever you suggest, you always have the right to seek a second opinion.

If you and your doctor agree that a supplement is right for you, be sure to choose a product that you can confirm is real, true to what it says on the label, and the correct dose. You may need to be monitored over time, with blood tests or other medical checkups, to determine whether the supplement is working and when it may be appropriate to stop taking it.

Don't confuse the wholesomeness of a natural herb with the wholesomeness of a salesperson or internet ad. There are plenty of MLM schemes and snake oil dealers out there leading consumers to waste money on fake or irrelevant products that don't help and may even do harm. The placebo effect is real, but... take care that whatever you're swallowing won't cause unintended consequences, either to your health or to your wallet.


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