The Risks Involved with Self-Supplementation

by Justin Gallant, ND
  1. Self-supplementing can be just as dangerous as self-prescribing or self-diagnosing.
  2. See an expert who has education and experience in clinical nutrition.
  3. Labels can be deceiving and confusing.
  4. There are more products out there that have negligible doses than those with appropriate doses, don’t be fooled.
  5. Not all supplements and vitamins are safe, some are absolutely contraindicated for certain people.
  6. The media (news, TV shows, etc…) are more interested in thrilling an audience rather than doing legitimate research.
  7. Don’t believe everything you hear, when in doubt ask your local ND.
  8. Some supplements are targeted towards specific populations or conditions but when you look at the ingredients they’re just repackaging a multi-vitamin or a single nutrient, calling it something else and charging way more.
  9. I would prefer all of my patients get their nutrients through whole foods but those who are deficient or can’t get them from whole foods should be taking appropriate supplements.
  10. If you’re going to be spending $100-$1000’s on supplements each year, it would be wise to know which ones are appropriate or not.

Lack of proper knowledge

  • Just because someone works out and looks healthy doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they’re talking about. Bodybuilding forums have increased the demand for nutraceutical companies but getting advice from friends or online forums is dangerous. The paradox of the internet is that those who are qualified know they shouldn’t give individuals medical advice over the internet and those are unqualified are the ones who give medical advice over the internet. 
  • As part of my health intake I ask patients to bring in all of their medications and supplements so I can see what they are taking. This allows me to make sure there aren’t any potential interactions and gives me a chance to teach them what to look for in proper supplements so they aren’t wasting their money or putting their health at risk.


  • Myth: All vitamins are safe; you’ll just pee out what you don’t need.
  • Fact: There are several interactions natural health products can have with specific medications or conditions.
  • Fact: Certain minerals and nutrients counterbalance other ones (i.e. Zinc and Copper, Calcium and Magnesium). Thanks to nature, most of these balances are accommodated for in whole foods. Some supplements however, don’t take these balances into consideration.

Deceptive marketing

  • Labels can be very deceiving and confusing
  • A couple things to be aware of are dosages, nutrient form (i.e. magnesium citrate vs magnesium oxide), source of the nutrient and serving size.
  • Serving size is very important because you could be comparing 2 labels but one might be for 4 capsules so it might look like they have the same amount but in reality it could have a fourth of the dose of the other.


  • There are numerous conditions which are contraindicated with certain supplements. Some contraindications are relative and some are strict. This is the main reason why giving medical advice to someone when you don’t know their health history is dangerous.
  • A few examples are psoriasis and vitamin C, Licorice and high blood pressure or fiber and any medications.

Improper research extrapolation

You don’t necessarily get what you pay for

  • There are a lot of deceptive supplements out there. Some who target vulnerable populations will charge through the roof but when you look at the ingredients they are just a typical multivitamin with negligible doses. An example of this are some supplements targeted for those who are infertile, bipolar, or have kids with autism or ADHD, etc…There are also simple supplements out there for conditions like restless leg syndrome that just contain an single ingredient like magnesium citrate which you can buy for a fifth of the price.
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