"Let's redefine holistic care and create a new wellness path. Together."
When it comes to vitamins and supplements, many of us feel overwhelmed. There are so many options, brands, and doses—we don’t know where to start! Perhaps you’re frustrated by the avalanche of information, much of it conflicting, or have the sense that some of it just might be snake oil. You’re right to feel this way!
Guess what? Our patients and customers feel the same way.
Maybe you’re already confident recommending supplements to your patients. (I say patients, but depending upon your specialty, you may call them customers or clients.) Perhaps you have some experience navigating the wide selection that’s out there and believe you know enough to determine a good treatment plan. However, I beg to differ.
Because here’s the truth: The natural products industry is broken. Disreputable manufacturers are making suboptimal or dangerous products. Charlatans are making outrageous claims, based on only a thread—or less—of any real scientific evidence. Study quality is poor due to the poor quality of products to be studied, poor methodologies, or extreme bias.
If history is any indicator of a trend, the faults I’m calling out aren’t flukes. They’re failures—and they are widespread, common occurrences.
Many health care professionals have turned their backs on the industry, and for good reason.
The System Is Sick. You’re the Cure.
Our observations about the flaws of the natural products industry often have little effect on our patients and their care decisions. As patients in conventional medicine, people tend to feel like they’re just a number in a huge system that doesn’t listen to them. If they’re up with the news, they’re aware of the blatant corruption of “Big Pharma.” And sadly, as a result they turn away from us.
To care for them better, we must acknowledge the problems with conventional health care as well.
Over my years of experience as a pharmacist, I’ve found that people will take supplements with or without my blessing. When it really comes down to it, they’ll look for advice from whoever will take their concerns seriously. They’ll do their own research online and come to their own conclusions. All without understanding the necessity of having proper guidance. Because they want agency. They want and need to be empowered.
Like them, I believe that a true holistic approach is the best way to live our healthiest lives. Unfortunately—through no fault of their own—they will inevitably choose a system that fails them. That is unless we can educate and guide them down the path of honest holistic care.
I propose that we take back leadership. I would like to see us step forward and embrace the possibilities by advocating for change—both in the industry as a whole and on the immediate level where we help our individual patients.
Let’s Be Honest about Supplements
I love supplements and natural products. They’re an essential part of a real holistic care plan. But I take it as my mission to call out BS where I see it.
In pharmacy school, we were taught that vitamins are to sell, not to take. But that skepticism has never sat right with me, because I’ve seen the power of healthy habits and supplements in treating and preventing disease.
Yet the skeptics of supplements are right, too. Standards and regulations continue to be inadequate, and as a result, product quality is highly variable; some supplements can even pose harm to patients.
Together, we can make the entire system better. But we need a new path forward.
The Holistic Standard
These issues have weighed on me. I’ve spent years brainstorming for a clear answer. Now at last I believe I have found the solution.
I’m calling my method the Holistic Standard. It’s a comprehensive approach that is backed by science and geared to significantly improving the lives of patients—and I want you to use it to care for your patients, too!
The Holistic Standard is composed of two essential pieces: the Wellness Pyramid and the Supplement Standard.
Here’s how it works:
Our Holistic Standard method starts with learning what’s truly important. Because there are too many options and loud voices out there, I think we’ve got to do a better job helping our patients hear the signal in the noise. We must to teach them to bypass the flashy and the trendy and instead put into action only what really works.
The Wellness Pyramid
The Wellness Pyramid provides a framework for true holistic care. It teaches patients how to take ownership of their wellness by simplifying their self-care and focusing on what really works.
Some practitioners too often neglect lifestyle modifications or simply reject the options offered by conventional medical care because they’re so focused on supplement sales as a method of treatment.
Supplements are an option, so an added focus is applied to the confusion around which supplements to use and why.
True holistic care is all three in balance, each as crucial as the other.
It’s all about helping our customers realize they have the power to choose. Diet, exercise, stress management, sleep, and environment—all can be managed in a better, simpler way. With the proper education, you can empower them to manage their own wellness, easily.
What’s missing from most supplement plans? The plan itself! We teach you how to build supplement strategies for your customers, starting with five win-win nutrients that I call the Vital Five.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t green-smoothie away all of our problems. But we can teach our customers how best to navigate the system, how to ask effective questions, and that they can once again rely on us as their experts.
“What Supplements Should I Take?”
The goal always seems to be “How many supplements can I sell someone?” However, I believe that we practitioners have an important role to play in improving the health of the system itself, and that means moving away from supplements as the be-all and the end-all.
We must learn how to direct patients to the fewest, best-made supplements that they actually need.
A supplement strategy starts first with reevaluating everything. Then, we strip away any products the patient doesn’t need, the ones that could be dangerous, and the ones that just aren’t what they think they are.
We rebuild the patient’s regimen starting with five key nutrients that I’ve identified as potentially benefiting almost everyone who uses them. The data shows that not only do we not get enough of these, but when we do, it has profound health benefits on multiple body systems.
We call these the “Vital Five.”
The Vital Five are:
We’re bringing healthy fat back (yeah!)
Good bacteria that love us too
Support our bones with calcium and more
Animal or plant, just get enough
Fill in the gaps when needed
Once we’ve covered the basics of healthy self-care and the Vital Five, we then can add other supplements that support our strategy and goals.
If you want to try a supplement—for whatever reason—the Wellness Pyramid encourages it under two conditions. First, it must work well with your body and your current supplements; we don’t want any interactions or problems. Second, it must be a well-made product in the proper dosage and form.
Here’s the problem: how do we know if a supplement is well made?
The Supplement Standard
A Model for Comprehensive Supplement Quality
We need to be sure the supplements we recommend exceed our expectations and provide the health benefits that we’re promising. There are so many supplement salespeople who tell me they research the brands they sell. I’m glad to hear this, but I’ll argue that their process isn’t comprehensive enough, for I know how difficult it is to pierce the veil of secrecy in the supplement industry.
For myself, for my customers, and finally for you, too, I’ve created the Supplement Standard as a guide for comprehensive supplement quality. The standards are thorough and cover three main components of quality—and it’s the first of its kind!
Supplements and their manufacturers must demonstrate industry-leading methods for ensuring you are getting exactly what you need and nothing more.
Our experts scour the literature for the best supplement studies. It’s only when we have this information that we can ensure you’re getting the right dose of the right form of the supplement for the right health concerns.
Wellness can’t come at a negative social cost. How the materials are sourced (sustainability) and how the business behaves (ethical conduct and integrity) must be top priorities of any best-in-class supplement.
Putting the Wellness Plan into Action
Using the framework of the Wellness Pyramid combined with the Supplement Standard will ensure you’re providing exemplary holistic care.
A smarter, simplified approach to holistic care is executed… well, simply! Here are the four steps you can use to execute a no-nonsense approach to wellness:
The health care AND supplement industries are broken, but there is still “gold in them thar hills.” We have to keep it real. We can’t ignore the problems of the natural products industry nor believe they don’t apply to us. As practitioners, we are in the best position to advocate for change while carefully selecting the best, most responsible options for our patients.
Gather up and organize all your patient’s records, supplements, and medicines. It’s time to fully clean house and measure every one of their old decisions against your new strategy for them.
Make a Plan.
Your strategy will set the vision for your customer’s future, healthier self. You will teach your patients not only what to do but also what to avoid. The end result? Freedom from all the overwhelming distractions the industry throws at them. And the clarity to move forward and finally begin to get sustained results.
Execute. Review. Repeat.
Any plan takes discipline. Set time aside to review their progress, make adjustments, and keep moving. Just don’t stray from the goals.
The Next Steps
I’m passionate about helping people avoid the pitfalls of the current wellness models. At the end of the day, I don’t want anyone wasting money, having false hope, or worse, getting harmed by something marketed as healthy.
I want to help patients AND professionals come together. Patients can live a happier, healthier life free of the unnecessary, problematic products and misinformation the supplement industry currently offers. And professionals can embrace a holistic approach to guide patients in their journey, now actually leading the way instead of dismissing it.
No matter what, it will take all of us—patients, professionals, and my big mouth—to get it done.
Are you ready to join me in my fight to raise the bar on the natural products industry? Then it’s time to enroll in Supplement School and become a Certified Holistic Standard Practitioner.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Holistic Pharmacist, Big Mouth
email@example.com • (845) 521-7455