As the nutritional and herbal supplement industries continue to grow, there is a lot of confusion by consumers over what brands to buy. People are becoming overwhelmed by the choices that are continually growing. Because supplements do not have to go through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) before they are marketed, it is up to the companies themselves to check the efficacy and safety of their own products. This leads to a lot of variability in the effectiveness and safety of supplements, even when different brands of supplements claim to have the same dosage of ingredients.
How can supplements differ so much in their effectiveness and safety? For one thing, the processing and choice of ingredients can affect the bio-availability of the supplement. Lower quality supplements are also made with lower quality ingredients, decreasing their absorption and availability to the individual. In this case, people may actually be passing their supplements through their digestive tract with little digestion and absorption of the supplements at all. For instance, calcium comes in a number of different forms, including calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is cheaper and can be found in most calcium supplements, but they are not absorbed as readily as calcium citrate. X-rays of some people who were taking calcium supplements have actually shown the calcium supplements sitting in their stomachs or intestines during the time the x-rays were taken. If the supplements are not even being digested and absorbed, they are completely ineffective for what they are actually being consumed for!
The other ingredients in supplements, which can be fillers or binders, can also affect bio-availability as well as causing problems for people who are sensitive to certain ingredients. Some supplements may contain synthetic ingredients or common allergic ingredients such as wheat, corn, or soy that can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Other problems can include not knowing where ingredients are coming from. The quality of herbal supplements can be an issue if we do not know how or where the herbs are being harvested, if pesticides are being used, or if there are heavy metals or other contaminants in the soil. The safety of the products can then be an issue for consumers.
Because of the variability in the quality of supplements, Naturopathic doctors choose to work with professional lines of supplements that are guaranteed to have a certain standard. Professional-grade supplements are tested and manufactured at a particular standard to ensure that the products are high quality, free of harmful ingredients, and are more bio-available to the consumer. This provides practitioners with the peace of mind that they are giving a product that will be effective for the patient as well as being free of extra ingredients that may cause allergies or sensitivities in certain people.