Wild Alaskan Salmon with Açaí Berry: Recipe or Supplement?

Wild Alaskan Salmon with Açaí Berry: Recipe or Supplement?

How to Choose Supplements

The other day I was looking for a supplement in the grocery store; and with some of the combinations, I swore I could have been reading the titles of recipes. It’s one thing to be identifying pills and figuring out what’s in your medication bottle, however what was in some of these bottles was a completely different story. It reminded me of the times, when as a pharmacy student, we would have events where patients could bring in their medications for review. We would answer any questions or make sure they were being taken appropriately. The Drug ID app would have saved us so much time versus the use of our giant pharmacy books.

More often than not, only one third of the pills would be identified as prescription medications and the other two thirds were over the counter supplements. So how do you know what supplements are good for you? Then, out of all the ones on the shelf, which one do you choose?  It seems like there is always a new supplement craze. For a while it was fish oil, then glucosamine, then Vitamin D. Now, it is almost like seeing turmeric fly off the shelves. If your doctor has told you to “watch things you’re getting close to” a diagnosis such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease–then supplements like cinnamon, red yeast rice or aspirin have probably crossed your path.

Several times when I would ask my patient why they were taking a supplement, it was because “a friend was” or someone recommended that they should be taking some more “ginger” or other supplement for their life. I’m not here to knock supplements, trust me I have some in my own cabinets at home; my goal is just to give a little more direction. When your aunts-sisters-next door neighbors-hair dresser say to “take some Green Tea Extract” to cure all that is ailing you – pause. It’s good to ask questions: Why is she taking it? Who recommended it to her? What is the purpose?

Always ask a healthcare provider for their opinion. This is where having access to your local pharmacist is great. You don’t have to wait to see the doctor and your pharmacist can give you some great advice. Most will ask why you wanted to start the supplement and why you feel you need one. The goal of this is to make sure that what you are taking is truly the best supplement for the issue. If you can go to your regular pharmacist, that is ideal. Your local pharmacist will have your medications on file, and can advise you as to which supplements may have a negative interaction with your prescription medications. Many people do not know that there are some supplements that can interact with prescription drugs. Yes, supplements are natural but that doesn’t make them harmless at times.

Once you decide with your pharmacist on a supplement or vitamin, which do you pick?You can have one recommended for you, however, with all the choices there is one symbol that sometimes helps. One way to identify that what is in the supplement is guaranteed, is to look for a small green USP symbol on the bottle. That little symbol basically means that the product contains what is listed on the bottle, at the amount listed, without being harmful to the user. (For more information, visit: USP.org).

Why is this important? Prescription medications get scrutinized by the FDA but most over the counter vitamins and supplements do not go through the same rigorous requirements. This is why prescription medications can be found using a pill identifier and vitamins cannot – they don’t get the same identifiers prescriptions do. So finding that little green symbol is a great place to start.

In the end whether you chose the wild Alaskan salmon with the acai berry or the raspberry flavored B vitamins – run it by your pharmacist. There are so many tools they have to identify your medications and what is best for you as an individual. Your needs are probably different form your sisters-aunts-hair dresser or whomever. Just remember: take your vitamins once you buy them so they don’t end up sitting in your cabinet until they expire. (Me: Guilty!)


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