For many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, it’s a challenge to choose good quality nutritional supplements and herbs. Some people choose a supplement or herb based on price alone, and while the most expensive supplements aren’t always of the highest quality, the cheapest supplements are frequently of the lowest quality. The problem is that most people don’t know what to look for, and so the goal of this post is to give some tips to help make choosing a good quality supplement a little bit easier.
So what I’m going to do is to list some of the things you can do to improve your chances of choosing good quality nutritional supplements and herbs:
1. Choose a company that uses high quality ingredients. Obviously this can be challenging for someone who doesn’t know what high quality ingredients to look for. And so I’ll give a few examples. Magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed, yet because it is cheap it is commonly used by many supplement manufacturers. The same concept applies to cyanocobalamin, which is a lower quality form of vitamin B12. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that these nutrients won’t get absorbed at all, but better quality forms of magnesium include magnesium orotate, magnesium malate, and magnesium citrate. Methylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin are higher quality forms of vitamin B12. Synthetic folic acid is also of low quality, as you ideally want the supplement to include natural folate. These are just a few examples, but if you look at the multivitamin from your favorite supplement company and it includes magnesium oxide, cyanocobalamin, and/or folic acid, then this is usually a good indication that this company doesn’t use high quality ingredients.
Although many people purchase supplements from well known retail stores, this doesn’t guarantee that these supplements will be of high quality. In fact, an article in the New York Times showed that laboratory tests run on some herbal supplements at Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and GNC showed that four out of the five products tested contained none of the herbs listed on their labels! This is why you need to be very careful when choosing a supplement or herb, as if you don’t receive good results when taking a certain supplement then you might attribute this to the nutrients and/or herbs which are included in the supplement as not being effective, when the problem might have been that the product you took didn’t have the actual nutrients and/or herbs that were listed on the label.
2. Choose supplements and herbs that work. This might seem like common sense, but many people just randomly purchase supplements without doing any research. The obvious question you might have is “what type of research is necessary to find out whether or not the supplements I purchase are effective?” Well, there are a few things you can do. As I’ll discuss later in this post, choosing a company that has their supplements tested by a third party can help to confirm that all of the ingredients listed on the label of their supplements are actually included. Besides doing this, before taking any supplement or herb you can take a few minutes to perform an internet search using your favorite search engine (i.e. Google, Bing, etc.) Try to find some reviews from people who have taken the supplement before. Although I’m not a big fan of purchasing supplements on Amazon (I’ll explain why later in this post), this can be a great place to do some research and see what others are saying about the supplement you purchased. However, you need to be cautious, as reviews can be artificially manufactured. And so you might need to make sure the reviews were from someone who actually purchased the product (a verified purchase), and in most cases the more positive reviews a product has the better, although this isn’t always the case.
If you can’t find any information or reviews on a specific supplement or herb then search for a few different supplements or herbs from the same manufacturer. If there are a lot of positive reviews for other supplements from the same company then this is a good sign that the company has good quality supplements. I realize that doing this type of “research” takes some time, but when spending your hard earned money on trying to improve your health it definitely is worth it. If you are working with a healthcare professional you can trust and know they have had success helping others, then you might not have to do all of this work, as you might simply take the supplements and herbs that they recommend, especially if you know they have been effective in helping others with a similar condition.
3. The supplements should have minimal fillers. Fillers are commonly added by supplement manufacturers, and while many of them are harmless, others are more controversial. Obviously you want to avoid supplements which have artificial ingredients. In most cases I’m not too concerned about a supplement having a couple of fillers, but it depends on what these are.
4. Are the supplements third party tested? In 2007 the FDA published something called “Current Good Manufacturing Practices” (cGMPs) for nutritional supplements and herbs. While it’s great to have these guidelines, there are also a few third party companies which test the quality of supplements. NSF International is one of these third party organizations, as they test thousands of supplements and herbs to not only make sure the supplements contain the ingredients listed on the label, but they also conduct a toxicology and contaminant review.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the pharmaceutical regulatory agency of the Government of Australia, and it’s supposed to be one of the toughest regulatory agencies around the world. While many supplement companies are NSF certified, fewer companies are TGA certified. Once again, this doesn’t mean that supplement companies who aren’t certified by third party agencies don’t sell good quality supplements, and I admit that there are some supplement companies I use that aren’t certified by a third party. But if you are choosing a supplement company on your own and are concerned about the supplements not including ingredients that are on the label and/or having a high level of toxins, then it might be best to choose a supplement company that has been tested by a third party.
5. Be cautious about purchasing nutritional supplements and herbs on Amazon and Ebay. Although I recommended using Amazon to look at the reviews of supplements you are interested in purchasing, I’d be cautious about purchasing supplements on Amazon, as well as on Ebay. I’m not suggesting that you can’t find good quality supplements on Amazon and Ebay. But there can be a few potential problems with purchasing supplements on Amazon and Ebay, as well as through some other online websites. First of all, you don’t know how the seller is storing the supplements, which can be important. If you’re purchasing from a seller on Amazon or Ebay who sells supplements for a living then perhaps there is a greater chance that they take better care of their supplements (although there still isn’t a guarantee of this). On the other hand, if you purchase from someone who is randomly selling a supplement you’re looking for then there is a greater chance of the supplement not being stored properly (i.e. being exposed to sunlight and/or heat). Another concern is that there have been many cases of counterfeit supplements being sold on Amazon and Ebay. For example, you might spend money on what you perceive as being a high quality supplement, but are unaware that the seller has substituted a lower quality product in its place. I’m not saying that this happens frequently, but it does occur more often than you think. Natural News wrote a good article about this that I would recommend reading:
6. Work with a natural healthcare professional with a strong background in nutrition. Although I’d like to think that every natural healthcare professional recommends good quality supplements and herbs, this of course isn’t always the case. When I was focusing on chiropractic I didn’t have a good deal of knowledge with regards to high quality nutritional supplements and herbs. It wasn’t until I was personally diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and restored my health that I began increasing my knowledge, and just as is the case with any healthcare professional who deals with nutrition and functional medicine, over the years my knowledge has increased even further. Working with a healthcare professional whose patients get excellent results is a pretty good indication that the supplements they recommend are of high quality. But it still doesn’t hurt to ask the doctor what supplements they use, and why they choose to use them. Also, if you work with a healthcare professional then hopefully they recommend supplements from different companies. Don’t get me wrong, as just like most natural healthcare professionals I have my favorite supplement companies, but I also realize that different supplement companies have different strengths and weaknesses, and as a result I recommend supplements from a few different companies.
In summary, choosing good quality nutritional supplements and herbs can be a challenge. One of the most important things you can do is to choose a supplement company that uses high quality ingredients. While a few fillers usually is okay (although it depends on the fillers used), you want to be cautious about companies that include a lot of fillers in their supplements, and of course avoid supplements which include any artificial ingredients. You also want to be cautious about purchasing supplements and herbs from online retailers such as Amazon and Ebay. More and more supplement companies are hiring third party companies to test their supplements. If you still don’t feel comfortable choosing supplements on your own after reading this information then you might want to consider working with a natural healthcare professional with a strong background in nutrition.