There’s a reason why some supplement companies are less expensive than others. Unfortunately, it’s not that these companies are trying to be kind, it’s because they are using cheaper sources for the ingredients. Supplements, unlike food products and medications, are not regulated and do not need FDA approval. It is important to understand what is going into your supplements and how they are manufactured in order to keep you and your family safe. After all, not all supplements are created equal!

For example, let’s examine calcium, since this is a supplement that comes in several formulas. Carbonate is used as a binder and is one of the cheaper forms, yet it is the least absorbable. Calcium carbonate can also cause digestive side effects, such as constipation, gas, and bloating. Calcium citrate, on the other hand, may be better for those with low stomach acid or those taking medications that block acid, as it is bioavailable even when stomach acid is low.

It is also important to know whether the main ingredient in your supplement is in its active form, such as in the case with folate. Look for 5-methylfolate or folinic acid, rather than folic acid, as the former are more bioactive and therefore more easily used in your body.

Supplements are available in many forms, from tablets, to gummies, to liquid formulas. Typically, tablets are less expensive than capsules but are often filled with cheap binders (like corn). Tablets may also contain ingredients used for purposes such as shelf-stability, palatability, anti-caking, bulk, and texture. When choosing a supplement, make sure you read the active and inactive ingredients. You may find an ingredient you are trying to avoid in your diet, or even have an allergy to.

Colors and other additives may also pose a risk to those with food sensitivities. Did you know that caramel coloring is often sourced from gluten or corn? Corn (if not organic) may be a source of glyphosate that can have toxic effects on the body, and those with gluten intolerance should be especially aware of the source of all supplement ingredients to avoid accidental consumption. Supplements can also sometimes contain contaminants that you won’t be able to find identified on a label. Bacteria, mold, yeasts, aflatoxin, and heavy metals have all been found in readily available supplements. Make sure you are purchasing from reliable manufacturers to avoid harmful additives and contaminants.

Supplement safety doesn’t stop with adult vitamins and minerals! Take a peek at children’s vitamins, as they are often filled with artificial colors and sweeteners. Some even have high fructose corn syrup or sugar as a main ingredient. Fruit flavored gummy vitamins seem like candy to kids, and if they take too many, overdose is possible. Make sure your kids are only taking supplements they need and be aware of the ingredients in the children’s vitamins you purchase.

Before you take something off the shelf, take time to look into the company, it’s sourcing, and of course, the ingredients in the supplement itself. Some companies will make a statement like, “breaks down easily.” That is important, but it’s also essential to know if the vitamin or mineral is highly absorbable. Otherwise it goes in one end and out the other and can’t do its job in your body. When researching a supplement company, also make sure that they regularly test their raw materials for toxins such as mercury or lead. Companies should also be testing ingredients to confirm their identity, purity, and strength, independently from any testing done by third party suppliers. If you reach out to a company for more information on a product, such as a certificate of analysis, and they tell you they do not routinely release this information, take it as a red flag. Companies that perform thorough testing and are transparent about their ingredients and methods are a much safer choice.

Choosing a safe supplement can feel overwhelming, especially with the lack of regulation. However, there are many great brands out there that make high quality, safe products. Once you find the right fit for your family, taking supplements can be a great way to fill in nutritional gaps and ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to live a healthy happy life. You can purchase trusted, practitioner-grade supplements through our Fullscript account here:

For other health and wellness content, check out these other blogs:

Health Benefits of Yoga
Toxic Burdens: What They Are and How to Avoid Them
Why Should You Work with a Functional Dietitian?
Health Benefits of Sauna Use