Off The Shelf and Your Health- Part 2

So last blog we discussed those off the shelf products and investigated if bigger is actually better. This time we look into the other areas that differentiate between a naturopathically prescribed supplement and those you find on the shelf of your local health food store or pharmacy.

Quality Service

This is a big one. If you're looking for a particular item, one of the first things to consider is who has recommended these products to you? Was it the TV? The internet? A sales assistant? Or a qualified professional? If you saw it on TV or the internet, I would be very hesitant about buying the product before you have actually spoken to someone who can advise you if that product may help. You want to speak to some one who can discuss your health, talk about your current medications or supplements, and give your personalized advice, suited to you.


Another area where quality service goes a long way is in the area of dosage. The dosage written on bottles of supplements you get off the shelf is very generic. Some times they are very low, and to get a significant dose you may need to increase this amount many times, other times it might be quite high, and it could be dangerous taking more than the recommended amount. Take, for example Vitamin C. Most 1000mg vitamin C tablets will say 1 per day is all you need. If you have a cold or a flu, 1 per day is not going to be beneficial. I would recommend a large adult male to take 6 of these tablets per day. I would also warn that overdose may cause loose bowel motions, so that if this did happen, the patient would know they had reached ‘bowel tolerance’ and shouldn’t have any more that day. This high dose will be able to saturate the patients body with vitamin C, and work far more effectively as reducing any deficiency, and helping their body recover much quicker from the flu. But none of this is written on that bottle. Someone taking one per day may not notice any improvement and may therefore assume that vitamin C doesn’t work at all.

Looking now at St John’s Wort. It is sold off the shelf for mild depression. If someone just grabs these supplements without talking to a professional they can get themselves into trouble should they stray from the recommended daily dose, or take them in conjunction with pharmaceutical medication. It can be quite dangerous. So assuming that anything you grab off the shelf is safe, or if one tablet is good, two must be better, can be a risk you take with you health at stake.

‘Cheap’ Savings

If you see a discount bin at your local pharmacy or health food store, make sure you always check the expiry date on an item you are thinking of buying. Often items will get discounted when they have only a month of shelf life left, and if it is something that you won’t use up in a month, it may not be worth your money.

Also be aware of the buy-one-get-one-free deals. Make sure you check the expiry date, and that you actually need the product before taking it. 


Does it Work?

Some customers will ask if the products they want to buy actually do what they claim on the bottle. In Australia, we have a regulatory body that monitors all health products and the claims they make. It is called the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This body will runs tests on all natural commercial products and make sure they are up to Australian standards for quality. If the product has an AUSTL number on the bottle, you know it has been tested. If it has an AUSTR number you know it has been tested for quality and claims. This means an AUSTR product can say “This product helps this problem” on the bottle. If the product only has an AUSTL number, all the bottle can do is suggest it MAY help. This does not mean the product won’t do what it suggests, it just means the company did not have the funds to pay for AUSTR testing (which is ridiculously expensive). So yes, generally in Australia, the products we have on our shelves will be what they say they are and help what they say they help. But will they help YOU? That is another story.


Will it Help?

So the product says it may help weight loss. It has an AUSTL number so you know it is what it says it is. You saw it on Dr Oz and he said it helps people lose weight… so it should help you right? Well not always. This point is hinged on the above section about quality service. Without speaking to someone and discussing your case as an individual (because you are an individual!) then grabbing a product off the shelf may not be what you need.

Take weight loss for example. The reasons we carry excess weight can be numerous. We can eat too much, eat junk food, and not exercise. That is the simple category. Changing these things will usually result in weight loss. If it doesn’t then there may be a host of other metabolic problems causing the weight to hang around. There could be thyroid problems, hormonal imbalances, pituitary problems, vitamin D deficiency, digestive disturbances, food intolerances, parasites, inflammation, the list really does go on. So will that one little pill help you to lose weight? If you have no other complicating factors then yes, probably. But if your weight is more complicated than ‘too much food, too little exercise’, then no, your pill is likely to do very little.   

Health Boosters or Money Wasters?  

So looking at all the information I have placed above, I can understand if you are now questioning those products you can buy off the shelf. To make it simple I have popped down a few points that will enable you to buy a quality product, without fear.

  • Avoid discount pharmacies or warehouse type places where they stock mass products.
  • Buy from smaller stores where they stock a smaller, more refined range of good quality products.
  • Look out for sale days that may happen once a month at these places. You can buy your good quality supplements at a discounted price.
  • Get your information from a professional. See a practitioner for a consultation or talk to the staff and make sure they are qualified to give you health information.
  • If it’s a small problem like a cold, off the shelf can be fine! Get the staff to recommend a good one and check the dose they suggest.
  • If it’s a big problem such as weight loss that won’t happen, dig deeper. Sit down with a naturopath for a consultation, and let them do all the hard work uncovering exactly what could be going on with your health. It’s our job. It’s what we love to do.
  • Avoid getting your health information from the internet or TV. It’s just a marketing ploy to get you to spend money. They are not concerned with your individual health.
  • Check expiry dates.
  • Check dosages and strengths.
  • Find some one in store or as a private practitioner that really wants to help YOU.

Remember, you are an individual, your health is individual and it’s very precious. Don’t always settle for the cheapest or biggest. Go for quality every time.