Saturday, May 17, 2008

Weekend Lesson # 1 - The Seven Rules

Every weekend, I'd like to devote a blog to (hopefully) help you make the most out of your health food store experience.

This week, I want to start from the very beginning. What should you do prior to visiting your local health food store?

Rule #1: Know what you're looking for.

Are you just looking to buy a basic multi-vitamin? Do you have a specific health concern that you'd like to address? Are you looking to put together a more comprehensive program? How much are you willing to spend? How often are you willing to take your vitamins/supplements?

All of these questions and more are vital to know before you walk into the store. If you don't know what you're looking for ... you're likely to end up getting products that you may not need, understand and you'll probably spend more than you intend or can afford.

Rule #2: Put the important information down in writing.

Pull out a note-pad. Jot down the main points you want to remember when you're shopping.


+ I want to look for a one-a-day mutli-vitamin.

+ I want to look for a high-potency liquid calcium formula specifically made to support bone-health.

+ I can afford no more than $50 a month for all my supplemental needs.

You can even show your note paper to a salesman or manager. That way, they'll know exactly what you want and it'll save you both time and effort.

Rule #3: You have to look out for yourself at a health food store.

There are some wonderful employees/owners working at your local health food stores. But, there is also a lot of bad-advice floating around (often times given with the best possible intentions).

And, as a former-member of the natural health industry, I want you to understand that ultimately ... it is a business intended to make money. The advice you are often given factors in the profit-incentive. This is a necessary part of any business but you need to be aware of this reality.

Everything I tell you, in this and upcoming blogs, will be intended to help you protect yourself when you shop for supplements. The safest and most appropriate supplements at cheapest price ... that's the goal we're aiming for.

Rule #4: Research and Ask Questions

Before you start taking (almost) any new supplement, it's a good idea to research it and/or to ask a knowledgeable health professional about it.

I understand that many conventional doctors and pharmacists often aren't very familiar with natural supplements. But, it doesn't hurt to ask. You may ocassionally be surprised by how much they know.

If it turns out that they're "clueless" or consistently bashing natural supplements ... consider consulting with someone else who is more knowledgeable and/or open-minded (a new doctor or pharmacist, a nearby naturopath, etc.).

But, before you even consider consulting with health pro, I would first do as much research (on my own) as possible. You are the first-line of defense in this process. You know more about yourself than any body else. If, after doing a reasonable amount of research, you think something may be right for you ... then proceed to get some additional advice.

Remember, it's your body and your decision about what you take. You have the power (in most instances) but also the responsibility to do as much or as little about your wellness as you choose.

Rule #5: Look out for some important considerations.

Make sure to pay close attention to any possible supplement and medication interactions. Your doctor and pharmacist may be able to help you with this.

There are also some websites that provide information about known interactions. Please note that the information, that these sites provide, isn't and cannot be considered comprehensive.

Supplement/Medication Interactions

Also, keep your own individuality in mind.

For instance, green tea extract is a wonderful supplement for promoting wellness. But, if you're very sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid it.

Another example would be using red yeast rice or high-dosages of niacin with a pre-existing liver condition. This is generally not be a good idea.

Rule #6: Remember that these are supplements.

Supplements are intended to supplement a healthy lifestyle. That's how they work best.

Do not fall into the common misconception that supplements allow you to live-hard but not die young.

Use supplements to fill-in-the-gaps. Use more supplements if you have more gaps than average. But, do try to live as well as you can and get off any unnecessary supplements when you no longer need them.

Rule #7: Let your doctor(s) know what you're taking.

This is especially important for several reasons.

1. Your doctor(s) will need to keep this in mind in case they prescribe you any new medication. They may also identify any known interactions between a medicine you're taking and any supplement you may also be taking (as mentioned in Rule # 5).

2. If you ever require any type of surgery, you may need to temporarily discontinue certain supplements.

3. Your doctor(s) may want to monitor certain markers, in your routine blood work, to determine if your supplements are helping (and possibly hurting).

An example of this would (again) be niacin. Your doctor could monitor if it's lowering your cholesterol but (s)he may also want to see if it's irritating your liver.

4. By letting your doctor(s) know about what you're taking ... you are educating them. And that not only helps them (and you) but other patients as well.

More to come ... next weekend!

The Vitamin Tutor

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