Monday, May 5, 2014

Vitamins, Supplements, & Homeopathic Remedies

The first time walking into a store or even down a grocery store aisle that sells vitamins, supplements, and homeopathic remedies can be overwhelming. It's kind of like walking into a gym for the first time...you know everything in there can help you, but how and when do you use it? You go in looking for one thing, but when you start browsing, it looks like you could use a little of everything. How does one know where to start?
First, choose one store to buy your products from. So how do you choose a store? I base this on two factors: reputation and location. When I began researching a place to get all of my vitamins and supplements, I realized I could just get them at my local grocery store. The problem was, there wasn't someone there to answer my (many) questions. So I chose a store less than five miles from my house that has been in business for over 30 years and has many great reviews on Yelp and other Internet review sites. They also had hours that worked with my schedule. (For my local readers, that store is Back to Nature Health Foods http://www.btnature.com/ You can find their Facebook and Twitter handles on their website)
So now I have a location and reputation, but how is their customer service? Are they helpful? Are they going to see how na├»ve I am and try to sell me every supplement available? I started simply by asking for a multi-vitamin. However, I didn't want to be taking more than one or two a day, I didn't want to pay a lot, and I often get nauseous from big vitamins so I need something that's easily digestible. I was pleased that the owner offered me many different brands of multi-vitamins that fit my tall order.
In my opinion, I choose a small business not only because I love to support small businesses and shop local, but because I truly feel the owners of this store have my best interests in mind. If you can't say that about the store you're currently going to, it's time to do a little research and see what else is out there. And remember: location (because time and traffic is always a factor and if it's too far, you won't go...same train of thought when choosing a gym), reputation (referrals from a friend are great, but when you don't have that, check out how long the shop has been in business and do a little Internet research for reviews), and customer service (much like choosing a personal trainer...does the shop owner have your best interest in mind, or do they just want your money?)
OK, so you've chosen your store. Now you have a long list of supplements that you've written down from friends' recommendations and watching or reading Dr. Oz and you don't know where to begin. There are so many different brands each claiming to be the best and each bottle is giving options the others don't (capsules, oils, gummies, etc.) How do you know which is right for you? First, pick one supplement. If you're not taking multi-vitamins, I say to start there. There are some that say a multi-vitamin isn't necessary, that we get all of our nutrients from the food we eat. That may be true for some, and good for them because that's the best way to get them, however, when I look at the label of my multi-vitamins, I know there are vitamins and minerals in there that are not in my daily meals.
Discuss your allergies and preferences with the owner or employee of the shop. Make sure they are fully confident in what they are suggesting to you (and if not, try another employee or another shop. Your health is nothing to take lightly!)
Start with one vitamin/supplement and take that for a week, maybe even two. Once you feel that it is a benefit to your health and there are no side effects, then you can move on to your next. Remember that what works for a friend may not work for you, same as diet or exercise. If it's not working, don't give up, just look for another option.
I tried looking for an article online that I could provide as a guide for you to use when shopping for these products, but unfortunately they were all tied to an online company selling them. I'm sure many online companies are legitimate, however, I wouldn't suggest buying them off the Internet unless they sell your exact brand and you've been using that brand for a few months without any issues or side effects. I found this site from the National Institutes of Health to provide some useful information on the background of homeopathy, as well as use, side effects, and regulation: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy

I hope this has been some help to get you started. Even if you only take a multi-vitamin, it's important to make sure you're taking the right one. For years I took a popular brand sold in every major pharmacy thinking that if all of these stores are selling it and I see commercials for it, it must work. It wasn't until I started taking a brand that's not sold in big box stores that I noticed my energy increase and my nausea decrease.

If you've had good or bad experiences with vitamins, supplements, and homeopathic remedies, or even with a store that sells them, please let me and the Body by Kelly community know!