By Ken Peifer, Air Force Veteran, LSF Yoga Practitioner, and South Central Region Director for Veterans Yoga Project
Whaaat? To be clear, by supplement I mean this article. The creative organ I’m referring to is your brain, and there are no guarantees – just as it is in life.
How often do we hear about things that promise a lot, but fail to deliver? Magic pills, “one weird trick,” or “your doctor doesn’t want you to know about this (cure-all).” Even the buzz words can be B.S. – “scientifically proven,” “guaranteed results,” “exclusive proprietary formula,” and “amazing new ancient secret discovery!” Welcome to the world of supplements. It’s all here; the good and not so good.
I’ve been taking supplements most of my adult life; some work very well, others didn’t pan out, and that’s ok. The supplements I use include vitamins, minerals, herbs, and natural things such as honey and apple cider vinegar to improve my health and wellness.
The trial and error approach I began with led me to develop a way to navigate the terrain of supplements a little more efficiently and effectively. I am able to root-out false information and unsubstantiated claims, evaluate risk and reward, and ultimately find the things I can use to enhance my creative organ (and the rest of my body as well), and not waste money.
It’s important for me to know why I would use a supplement in the first place. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to eat 5 lbs of kale every day. Or I want to replace a prescribed pharmaceutical medication with something that provides greater health benefits and reduces risks to my body. In general, I take supplements to give my body what it needs to thrive and, when necessary, manage pain. But I don’t take supplements because someone else wants me to. I need to know the expected benefits, risks, side effects, and contraindications for the supplement I’m considering. This requires a little research.
When I’m researching a supplement I use a series of questions to find things I can use effectively and affordably to improve my health, wellness, and quality of life. I take into account my age, gender, overall health, what I already have in my regime of supplements, and any prescriptions.
When I evaluate studies and “research” articles, I’m analyzing the information provided and its sources – looking for quality, reliability, and applicability to me personally for the supplement I’m interested in.
Because I’ve worked with supplements as part of my intentional health and wellness life choices (things like moderation, hydration, sleep/rest, physical exercise, and yoga), I’ve eliminated my need for prescribed pharmaceuticals for high blood pressure, arthritis, PTSD, Gerd/acid reflux, and hypertension. I eat what I want, when I want, but I also make sure I give my body what it needs nutritionally, including things not on my favorite food list. I’m willing to try “amazing new discoveries,” but I always use my questions to evaluate them.
- Why: Why would I take this supplement? What could it do to improve my health, wellness, or quality of life? Are there any health risks associated with taking the supplement? Given my current health profile (including lab work, dietary restrictions, and prescriptions), is it safe for me to take the supplement?
- What does the research say? Do not rely on marketing information. How, exactly does the supplement work? Are there one or more independent research studies that substantiate the claims (rewards and risks) made about the supplement? Are there any studies that counter the claims made? Does the preponderance of the research consistently point to the same conclusions?
- How do I properly use the supplement? What amount is right for me? Before, with, or after meals? How often? How will I know if I’m using too little or too much? When do I stop taking it? What does it interact with positively and/or negatively (food, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and prescriptions)?
- What form of the supplement is best? Look at what the research says. Should I use solid, powder, or liquid? If it comes from a plant, should it come from the leaf, stem, bark, root, seed, fruit, or sap – does it matter? Does the synthetic pharmaceutical version work as effectively as the natural or organic version? Look for information on purity (no junk, binders or fillers), potency (strong enough to be effective), and bio-availability (in a form your body can easily absorb and use). How do I measure what I’m getting for my money per serving?
- Where do I get the supplement? Which manufacturers and retailers are trustworthy? Can I get it in the grocery store or online? Can I grow it myself?
- What do my health care providers know about supplements? Use every opportunity to get information from your healthcare providers. They may or may not know about every supplement you might want to use, but it is worth it to ask.
Some suggested sources for information and research on supplements:
National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: https://ods.od.nih.gov/
U.S. Anti-doping Agency Guide to Supplements: https://www.usada.org/wp-content/uploads/supplement-guide.pdf
WebMD Vitamin & Supplement Glossary https://www.webmd.com/g00/diet/vitamin-supplement-glossary#1
Lone Survivor Foundation provides a no-cost, high impact program led by licensed trauma experts for veterans, active duty service members & their families. To learn more about our program, please visit https://lonesurvivorfoundation.org/service-members/.
To learn more about Ken Peifer, you can view his Program Team spotlight here.