Fiona Lawson | 05 Apr 2019 | Dysbiosis, SIBO

Everything You Need To Know About Supplements

David Brassey is a nutritional therapist and founder of our favorite online supplement store for healthcare professionals.

Over the last ten years, he has hand-selected 3,500 nutritional products that have redefined the UK supplement market. He is scrupulous when it comes to quality, purity and efficacy, which is why Healthpath sought him out as a partner for our supplement bundles.

Here David explains what you should be looking for in supplements, how to determine if something is high quality, and why more isn’t necessarily better.


Are supplements really necessary?

When you consider the foods that the majority of the population are eating, there are undoubtedly nutritional deficiencies. Under these circumstances, a multivitamin and multimineral can be appropriate. Yes, it’s covering over the cracks—but at least it’s giving people a safeguard.

If you have a specific condition, supplements can really help but it’s best to seek the advice of a healthcare professional first. Improving the health of your gut isn’t as simple as taking a probiotic! If you have SIBO, for example, taking the wrong probiotic can actually make it worse.

A healthcare professional is trained to direct specific protocols to meet the needs of the client. Supplements aren’t always part of that, but more often they’re a valuable addition.


What are the biggest misperceptions about supplements?

 Too many people buy a product based solely on price, and they don’t look at bioavailability. But a product’s bioavailability is the difference between it having a positive therapeutic effect and none at all.

Curcumin is a classic example of this. People do some research and think, “I’ve got achy joints…Curcumin sounds like a good idea!” Curcumin is really, really poorly absorbed, so the only way you’re going to get curcumin in therapeutic doses is if it’s coated in a fatty substance, such as the trademarked Mireva version. Yes, this is more expensive than a high-street formulation, but you don’t have to take much for it to have an effect.

When it comes to supplements, don’t be taken in by a fancy label. And definitely don’t be taken in by an offer. Price cuts have to come from somewhere—and it’s generally the quality of the product.


What should people look out for when buying supplements?

 Look at the active components and how many you’re getting. Going back to the curcumin example—a poor-quality supplement will have an eighth of the curcuminoids of a high-quality supplement.

A good tactic is to take the discount brand you’re considering and compare it with a similar product from a quality brand. Pull the products apart: what’s the active ingredient in each? The dose? The form it’s in? Even an untrained eye will notice a big difference between the two.

 It’s not easy for the consumer, and it requires a bit of effort. But that effort can pay dividends.


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What’s your view on fillers and binders?

It’s a juggling act between cost and benefit. In an ideal world, they wouldn’t be in there, but the manufacturing process is a lot smoother if you use a filler, binder or flowing agent.

There are certain ingredients, especially herbs, which just don’t fill easily into a capsule. You simply have to use a flowing agent unless you fill them by hand, which becomes prohibitively expensive.

My philosophy is don’t put anything in there that doesn’t need to be in there. And to make supplements available and affordable to everyone, sometimes fillers and binders do need to be in there.


What’s the difference between a standard supplement and a professional-grade supplement?

Put simply, it’s the quality, strength and effectiveness.

The first thing I ask when looking at a new brand is, ‘Does is comply with GMP?’ This stands for Good Manufacturing Practices. It’s a voluntary certification, but you want to know your supplement provider has it.

GMP look at every aspect of production, from the raw materials coming in to the third-party batch testing at the end. That means you’re not only relying on the manufacturer’s batch test to know that it’s a high-quality product, but also an independent report. That’s vitally important.

Professional supplements also have superior formulations. There’s a synergy to the ingredients that means they often provide better clinical outcomes. I find they tend to be better tolerated than non-professional versions.


Should I be worried if I go over the recommended daily amount of a nutrient?

A prominent nutrition practitioner has written about this. His philosophy is that megadoses are appropriate for the majority of the population because of nutritional deficiencies in the standard Western diet.

I have a slightly different view. Your body will only absorb what it needs, and I’m not convinced of the need for huge doses unless it’s for therapeutic purposes. But people with chronic conditions often do have that therapeutic need.


What’s the best way to use supplements?

 The first step is to get sound, professional advice. People, by their very nature, think they need everything—especially when they start googling their symptoms. I see people who have bags of supplements when really all they need is a very specific, client-based approach.

The second step is to consider the delivery form. If you have an inflamed gut, sometimes capsules aren’t the best delivery method. You might want to look at liposomal delivery instead, which diffuses straight into the bloodstream, or even patches. Food state supplements can be a gentler, better-tolerated option too.

Lastly, you need to use them appropriately. They’re not magic pills—and they should always complement sound dietary and lifestyle habits. Again, if you need direction, a good starting point is to seek professional guidance.


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Fiona Lawson BA (Hons) DipCNM mBANT is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and health writer. She is a member of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). As Content Director of Healthpath, Fiona is on a mission to help people take charge of their own health. Read more about Fiona on her practitioner page.

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