Do you even need supplements?

So, supplements are in the news lately because Goop Wellness just launched with a line of protocols. They worked with doctors like Sarah Gottfried, who also just came out with a book on aging well called Younger, and Gwyneth's personal doctor Alejandro Junger. The idea is, you choose which of four protocols (set of supplements) to take based on your symptoms or situation.

I don't blame Goop for getting into the supplement business. The stuff is flying off the shelves and everyone's obsessed with this sort of more natural-ish approach to taking pills to make it all better. And they're hardly the first to go there. I even think their approach is clever and I'm sure they've created a high-quality product.

But nutrition is so very, very personal.

A few months ago my doctor had me get some blood tests and fill out a long questionnaire as party of my checkup. I reported how I was feeling, what health issues concerned me, what sources of stress I had in my life. I recorded everything I ate. I even kept track of my bowel movements (in detail, people). My doctor reviewed my blood test results and talked with me. And then she recommended some supplements she thought would support my particular wellness goals and needs. 

In an interview with Harper's Bazaar Gwyneth Paltrow acknowledged that this approach is the ideal way to go. "But for a lot of women it's not that accessible. We thought well, wouldn't it be amazing if we could leverage our relationships, curiosity, and relationships with our doctors and create really targeted solutions?"

Well yeah, it would be amazing. But this isn't it. This is 4 different protocols that probably benefit a lot of people, in a general way. And at $90 a month this isn't even that much more accessible than going to your doctor and getting a blood test. If you have insurance, it's probably going to cover that. Even my lame-ass insurance did. 

And if you don't have health insurance you probably don't have an extra $90 lying around for supplements, either.

But let's say that's you. No health insurance, but somehow an extra $90 every month you can spare for your wellness goals. So save that for a couple months and go to a good doctor. Get your blood test. Find out what, if any, supplements you need.

Another options is WellnessFX, these new blood analysis labs that do a variety of tests and connect you with health practitioners that can review your results with you. Packages start at $78. I am very interested to see how this business takes off.

Or maybe you've got something truly serious going on that a handful of vitamins and minerals aren't going to fix. GET A REAL DIAGNOSIS FIRST. Find out what is actually causing your fatigue or what have you, because the cause matters. Then, in partnership with a doctor you trust, pursue a protocol tailored just for you. 

I can tell you this much, supplements aren't going to make up for a nutrient-poor diet. And they're not going to fix a major health issue. They may give you a little boost in addition to the other things you're hopefully doing to support your health, like getting enough sleep

Also, supplements are highly contextual. How they work depends on what else you've got going on, and what kinds you get, their quality, their form, so many factors. The industry is kind of the wild west -- not enough peer-reviewed studies proving efficacy for humans, not enough regulation to ensure quality.

If you want to learn more about supplements I highly recommend my new obsession, It's a database of studies on supplements. A treasure trove. (Like, say goodbye to the next two hours as you descend into a K-hole of nootropics and creatine.) It runs independent of advertising or sponsors, so it's unbiased. Well, that's not true -- they're biased towards scientific rigor. 

In conclusion, please honey, please. Don't throw your money away on the magic beans. Be smarter than that.