If you’re taking any medications, I suggest talking with your prescribing doctor before taking a supplement. The problem with this advice, however, is that unless your doctor is trained in functional medicine or at least nutrition, they might not know what to tell you and will probably err on the side of caution, telling you to avoid taking the supplement. Why is this? Medical schools in the United States offer, on average, only about 19 hours of nutrition education over four years of medical school. Only 29 percent of U.S. medical schools offer med students the recommended 25 hours of nutrition education. On the flip side, many doctors have taken it upon themselves to earn extra degrees and certifications in nutrition and functional medicine and will be able to help you safely manage your supplements. Regardless, I’m still a major advocate for having an open, honest dialogue with any prescribing doctor so that they, as medical professionals, are looped into your health decisions, and you can make the most educated choices for your health.
Remember, you can’t supplement your way out of a poor diet. Food is foundational, and supplements are meant to do just that: supplement a whole-food, nutrient-rich diet. So how do you know if you’re taking the wrong supplement or too much for your body? The symptoms of overdoing it on a supplement can vary, but digestive symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, or stomach pain are typically the first indication. I suggest that most people check in on their body with labs occasionally, depending on what they are going through or what they are supplementing with. One of my goals as a functional medicine practitioner is to fine-tune and tweak supplement protocols and food plans as time goes on.
Want to start a new supplement? Read Dr. Cole’s essential supplement guide first.