Nutritional science has produced some useful advances. But our society's nutritional problems are a disaster area:
Twenty-Two Supplement TRAPS!
- the unhealthiness of many different foods, and even supplements;
- the haphazard dietary choices of many people;
- the wearing out of our soils; and
- the stressed and/or sedentary lifestyles of most people.
|Full disclosure: I'm a well-being advocate and a caring person, but I'm not a health professional. It's very important to note that I don't earn any sort of commission for recommending any particular supplement or company. My thoughts are based on a combination of (a) studying the advice of nutrition researchers, (b) visiting web sites where supplements are described, and (c) personal knowledge coming from experiences with many different supplements. I had to go through quite a few health problems, before discovering supplements and foods that I found to be more healthifying than anything else I've ever tried. I sincerely judge these supplements to be effective for the vast majority of people. However, effectiveness can vary depending on your biochemistry and state of health. You can read my full disclaimer here.|
A century from now, our times may very well be looked down upon as "the dark ages of nutrition" by historians! People a century ago had fewer vitamins, but were usually healthier because they were far more active and ate little "junk food."
Some supplements can provide a great nutritional boost. However it's so important to know the supplement industry's harmful traps that we need to cover that first. "Supplement Traps" are a list of don'ts, defined as anything that cripples a supplement's helpfulness to you -- or perhaps even makes it harmful. In later posts we'll discuss "Supplement Tech" (the best techniques and technologies involving supplements) and "Supplement Tips" (the best types and brands of supplements.)
Three Types Of Traps
Supplement Traps are the many hidden (and sometimes very sneaky) ways that supplements can fail you -- or even harm you. I used to list only sixteen traps on this page, but now the list has grown to twenty-two. Nutrition researcher Rex Smith says that over 90% of supplements do not improve your health and will probably even worsen it! You'll read about the dangerous traps everyone needs to be aware of. There are three kinds of traps:
The good news is that as we list these traps, we'll also build a list of ways to avoid them all. Let's begin with Trust Traps:
- Product traps: Unknowingly consuming the bad ingredients used in many supplements.
- Trust traps: Believing some other person or organization will look out for your best interests.
- Judgment traps: Mistakes by you or I that can steal a supplement's benefits away from us.
Fortunately there's a way to fix about 90% of these trust issues, using two key principles:
- Believing that "expert advice" is necessarily reliable. Employees of supplement stores may have very little expertise. They may pick a supplement just because it's most expensive, which is not necessarily an indicator of quality at all.
- Assuming that experts are even free to speak freely. Laws may restrain some people you'd like to trust from advising you. This is actually a weakness of the entire supplement industry, and sometimes even nutritionists. Here's one example: In our litigious society, nobody is allowed to claim that their supplements have a curative effect. Some companies won't even give advice about helpful supplements to people with diseases, because they could get sued if something goes wrong. But I know that good food and quality supplements helped reverse my underactive thyroid, and that seems curative to me.
- Assuming that government agencies offer much protection. In reality, the supplement industry is more lightly regulated than many people realize, and it's sometimes heavily politicized. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) doesn't necessarily do valid testing, or come to accurate judgments. The FDA occasionally acts to punish blatantly false advertising or ban immediately harmful ingredients. But if a supplement gradually undermines the health of its users, the FDA sees little basis to take action.
- Being fooled by a company's advertising. No supplement works for everyone, so if that's what they assure you, consider avoiding that company's supplements. Nutrition is not a well-understood science, and won't be fully mature for decades (and probably even centuries!) Our bodies each have significantly different structures and biochemistries, requiring different combinations of nutrients.
- Believing in a supplement "fad." Sometimes a fad begins with a supplement that does in fact work really well, but then two things can happen that mess you up. Either (a) the market gets swamped with cheap imitations that don't work, or (b) the original product(s) that started the fad are forced to rely on inferior ingredients, because the supply of effective ingredients becomes too scarce.
- Trusting news media reports. Sometimes the media gives you the straight news about supplements, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they only get it partly right. Sometimes they fall for "fads" and other deceptions, much like we consumers sometimes do. We all need a trustworthy guide to help us through that wilderness of fact-mixed-with-fiction, and we need to test supplements carefully to see if they will really work for us.
- Assuming that someone's sincere enthusiasm for a supplement means it's a good one. Oftentimes a supplement seems to work at first, but its flaws cause it to graduallly damage your body. That's why over 90% of opinions about supplements are untrustworthy, despite the sincerity of most people and even most supplement makers. The vast majority of people want to be honest, but they do not understand the many ways supplements can fail them.
- Trusting ourselves to test supplement brands and decide the best. The huge maze of suppements out there is too big and confusing, and too many traps await you. Some supplements can harm your health. Others may seem good for you at first, but they'll damage your health so gradually that you won't be able to trace that damage to its its source, back to the supplement you trusted all along to improve your health. You and I shouldn't risk our health so recklessly, and we don't have the time to sort through it all anyway.
Two Key Principles|
- Buy supplements based on trustworthy advice from one of the two companies listed at the bottom of this page. Their good people have sorted through that confused maze for us and found excellent, gentle supplements that won't subtly damage your health.
- Then test their most-recommended supplements and rely on the ones that give the biggest boost to your health. Train yourself to test supplements wisely and listen to your body carefully. Trust your body when it signals that you need more or less of a supplement.
That first key principle of trustworthy advice can prevent the vast majority of product traps from harming you, while many judgment traps can be avoided if you develop the second key principle: carefully test and listen.
- Using supplements with harsh or ineffective primary ingredients. Many nutrition experts even believe that most supplements are harmful in the long run. That was my experience with the cheap, poorly made supplements I was taking years ago.
- Choosing supplements with bad secondary ingredients." It's unwise to buy supplements with "filler" ingredients such as magnesium stearate. Over time, these will gradually harm your digestion.
- Assuming a supplement is safe because you don't notice any harmful effects. Some supplements do damage very gradually. It's really hard to notice whether a supplement is doing gradual damage to your body. Therefore, it's very important to make sure your supplements are designed to be gentle and not cause any such slow damage.
- Thinking that a more expensive supplement must be of higher quality. If a supplement is more expensive, make sure it's from a reputable brand and that it's favored by knowledgeable experts.
- Assuming the ingredients in a supplement will absorb well. Some supplements may not dissolve well enough to be absorbable by the colon. They might not have a molecular structure that can even be absorbed. If absorbed, they may not have a "transporter" that gets them where it's needed by your body.
- Assuming that high-quality ingredients make for an effective supplement. It seems like common sense that a supplement that has high-quality ingredients would be good for us. This may not be the case however, because a balanced recipe matters. As our meals must be well-balanced if they are to provide us with adequate nutrition, so too a supplement must be a well-formulated recipe that gently balances its various useful ingredients. Otherwise a supplement may bring us some positive results at first, but fail us in the long run, e.g. by stressing our body with too much of an overly strong ingredient.
- Allowing negativity to affect our judgment. Some people have had bad experiences with supplements and have mistakenly concluded they're all too untrustworthy. Those people then influence other people to avoid supplements. Other people are confused by the multitude of differing claims, so when they discover something exceptionally effective they still doubt it, hesitate and procrastinate too long. They miss a golden opportunity to improve their health, and descend further into declining health.
- Judging a supplement by your body's first reaction. A supplement may make you feel good at first, but it can still be bad for your health in the long run. Don't choose supplements that rely on stimulants such as caffeine, which wears down your adrenal glands in the long run. Even innocent-seeming supplements can be stimulating at first, but over time can upset your biochemistry. It's smart to learn how to test supplements correctly.
- Quitting on a supplement just because you don't notice any effects right away. It's possible that a slow-working supplement only seemed not to work because it's effects were too subtle to notice, and/or something else had an adverse effect on your health during the time you were taking the slow-working supplement.
- Taking too many supplements at once. Some of your supplements may have some of the same ingredients, which could give you an excessive dosage. Or your body may be sensitive to too many herbs or vitamins entering you all at once.
- Consuming junky foods, especially at the same time you try a new supplement. Subpar nutrition, be it junk food or bad supplements, can sometimes "mask" the positive benefits of a good supplement.
- Thinking you can get all your nutrients from foods instead of supplements. Nutrient-rich foods can often be preferable, but it's really hard for sedentary people to get enough nutrition from food alone.
- Forgetting to take a supplement that works well. This trap is about customers, not suppliers. Sometimes people stop taking a supplement because it seems to no longer work well, but that might be true only because your body has stored up enough of it to last for days or weeks. Sometimes people run out of an effective supplement and just forget to re-order.
- Discounting the mind-body connection. Almost everybody sometimes puts so much attention on nourishing the body that we overlook the spiritual side of our lives. The mind-body connection is very real. Becoming more positive about our thoughts, emotions and spiritual outreaches can promote healing. When you can that a food or supplement is healing you and you start to feel much better, look for spiritual and social opportunities to increasingly arise for` you.
So... Do You Want To Improve Your Health?!
It's likely that your smartest move is to briefly list your nutritional concerns at AskHealthyWay.com (mention your age and gender too) and ask what supplements they recommend. Various laws and ethical concerns may prevent them from telling you what supplements might cure a disease, but they can tell you which supplements can best help you do better in your individual health journey.
When you write to them, keep your questions brief (under 100 words) and about supplements, because that's their specialty and they probably wouldn't be able to answer other types of health questions. And remember that legal constraints prevent them from answering questions about specific diseases. For example, if you have a kidney disease then don't mention it, just ask something like "what supplement(s) will help my kidneys perform better?"
Usually people settle on about three to seven supplements that they find work well and three to seven more that are somewhat useful. It's wise to keep cautiously experimenting with the dosage. It's also very important to eat nutritious food too: I'll write another post about that, hopefully within a month or two.
AskHealthyWay.com can take your order anytime, while their brick-and-mortar store is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10-6pm (mail orders are taken by phone.) Mondays they are closed because that's their day for filling mail orders.
I also like a store with a similar product line, AbundantLivingNutrition in Portland. They have some good additional supplements on their website. If you find that one of these two sites is missing something, check the other one.