How to Choose a Dietary Supplement

If you’re considering taking an alternative or complementary medication supplement, we can help you evaluate your options. CHI Franciscan Health has developed these five steps to consider.

Step 1: Determine your goals.

  • Replace a diet deficiency.
  • Meet an increased demand for a nutrient.
  • Attempt to prevent or treat a health problem.

Step 2: Do your research.

  • Use reputable alternative medicine websites, such as our Guidelines for Complementary and Alternative Medications.
  • Don’t trust people who are not health care professionals, Internet advertisements or salespeople who lack training or credentials.
  • Seek professional advice about your personal health status and whether a supplement may be appropriate, from experts such as:
    • Your primary care physician
    • A pharmacist
    • A dietitian
    • A licensed naturopath
  • Make appropriate lifestyle changes:
    • Healthy eating
    • Exercise
    • Stress reduction

Step 3: Identify personal risk versus possible benefit.

  • Consult your primary care physician to discuss conventional medical treatment and possible interactions with your prescription drugs.
  • Ask about increased risk for side effects if you have a history of intestinal problems or allergies.
  • Consider whether you can afford the cost.

Step 4: Select a quality product.

  • Choose reputable brands by researching different products on Consumer Reports or Consumer Lab.
  • Choose products marked “USP” on the label, for U.S. Pharmacopeia, an independent public health organization that verifies product quality and safety.
  • Look for products marked “GMP” on the label, for Good Manufacturing Practices, which are guidelines that assure that the product has the identity, strength, composition, quality and purity that it claims.

Step 5: Set a trial period to evaluate tolerance, effectiveness and safety.

  • Set a time frame to assess the supplement’s effectiveness, taking into account whether it is needed on an ongoing basis.
  • Note any adverse side effects such as stomachache, headache or allergic reaction.
  • Keep up on current reputable news on product recalls or latest research.
  • Inform your health care team of your supplement use on every office visit.

Make an appointment for primary care

Talk with your doctor about integrating complementary or alternative therapies into your care. Need a primary care doctor? Find a doctor and make an appointment to begin your journey to wellness.