I’m an advocate for supplements. I’m not obsessively into them, but I use them and can appreciate some people who make them a big part of their life.
I also know there are problems with supplements.
Vitamins, herbs, probiotics, and their ilk are often not what they seem. The products can be dangerous, directly or indirectly.
The laws that govern the manufacturing, sales, and promotion of these products are weak, with huge loopholes allowing toxic compounds or completely ineffective ingredients to be sold at a premium.
Some types of supplements, though “natural”, should not be available to the general public, at least without some sort of oversight or restriction. Usually, because they’re so potent, or risks outweigh benefits, or can be abused (being used in a manner outside the intentions).
We hear about clearly dangerous ingredients in hot-selling products. We know the claims the system makes about them, and then we wink at each other because we “KNOW” what they are actually for.
There are problems with supplement culture.
At times the belief systems around supplements can be toxic. Supplements, for some, have become to represent something more than a way to be healthier. It’s almost to a point–at least with a chunk of supplement-loving folks–that they’ve made it a big part of their identity.
As a result, even the hint of systemic change or a valid criticism is seen as an attack, and no constructive conversations can be had.
I don’t blame the end users fully for these guarded beliefs. In fact, most of the onus is on the wellness-industrial-complex: the machine with the purpose not of health, wellness, or the platitudes it “sells”, but of power and profit.
One could make an easy argument that the strongly held paradigms of some die-hard supplement consumers are the results of decades of propaganda and misinformation.
Some of the smartest psychologists don’t work in mental health, they work in marketing.
Charlatans spout the rhetoric 24/7, and we soak ourselves in the media that wants its own attention and profit.
Some of these “experts” know they’re snake oil salesmen deep down, but can pull off the traveling preacher thing with gusto.
Some have drank the Kool-Aid, and they REALLY believe in the words coming out of their mouth. Of course, just the slightest questioning knocks over the house of cards quickly.
Even the idea that these beliefs have some roots in our early days is a fallacy. Protocols and methods for healthcare ebb and flow over time, but there’s a general desire for progress and change. The original intentions of “natural” medicine at that time are often misunderstood. Even folks back then would probably scoff at the idea that we are not evolving with the time and the data.
That’s the biggest problem with supplements: the science.
We have access to data. We have the ability to perform proper evaluations now. There are things that are quite clear, others that need more digging, and some we haven’t, but should be exploring.
Folks in the wellness-industrial-complex try to downplay, hide, or even prevent scientific advancement. One would only do so if it were perceived as a threat to their ultimate intentions and their comfy status quo. Lack of transparency is paramount to their success.
If we had open-source supplement knowledge and uniformity across our vast country, we’d finally have a clearer picture and the right information. Then, we could see these malicious influences and sources of bias and shove them out of our lives.
Then, we could be closer to that utopia where we grant people the ability to “make their own decisions.” Until then, we’re really just puppets on a string.
That’s a tough pill to swallow, and my goal isn’t to put people down, but to cut those strings.
I love supplements that are made well and have data to support their use, but I must rage against the machine to find those needles in the haystack.
Blind allegiance to the ideologies presented by a greedy industry only furthers their grip on us all, and puts many of us at risk.
This impassioned, Emperor-has-no-clothes mentality puts us in a place where we’re not really advocating for supplements and our health (no matter what we tell ourselves and our peers)… we’re propping up a corrupt system that doesn’t have our best intentions in mind.
If we choose to not “keep it real” and just keep this whole broken machine moving, at best we waste some money and resources, swallowing bitter pills with false hope and never really achieving wellness goals.
At worst, we could be hurting ourselves, ingesting harmful compounds that interact with our complex body systems, or directly risking our own health.
I just think there’s a better way.
Imagine if supplements worked way quicker and our use of them could affect other people…
Done right, we can advocate for EACH OTHER.
We can have supplements if we want them and actually be healthier, achieve our goals, and all be safer.
We just have to shake free of these chains, forged by a system that only wants as much of your money as it can get.
(This post is really about a few things.)
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth