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The Savvy Guide to Buying the Right Supplements

Thrive Carolinas / Lifestyle Medicine  / The Savvy Guide to Buying the Right Supplements

The Savvy Guide to Buying the Right Supplements

The global supplement industry is booming. In 2019 sales topped $115 billion and that was prior to the pandemic when supplements sales really took off. The industry is huge and if you’ve ever searched for a supplement online or in the grocery store, you probably were bombarded with a million choices. It can be confusing to know which supplement is right for you–and which companies are misleading you about what’s actually in the bottle. Today, we’ll demystify why supplements are so confusing and give you the ultimate guide to selecting the most effective supplement for you.


The Supplement Industry


Four out of five people take at least one supplement, and many take more than one. The supplement industry is a multibillion industry with almost as many choices as there are consumers. Yet, it is easy for consumers to be misled about what might be found in the bottle. Many people do not realize the FDA does not have the power to examine and approve supplements. In fact, you can launch a supplement product without the FDA ever knowing.


Who are you buying from?


As you can imagine, who you buy your supplements from matters. When you buy online or at a giant retail chain, you’re getting a supplement from a third-party provider. This makes it harder to verify what’s actually in the bottle.


In fact, a 2015 study investigated the validity of supplements sold in big chain stores, like Walmart, Target, Amazon, and GNC. They found 21% of supplements did not contain the ingredients as advertised. This may be because these companies don’t have rigorous regulations and systems in place to check the ingredients of each supplement they sell. Also, many of the supplements contained common allergens like peanuts or soybeans, that were not listed on the ingredient list.


Amazon, for example, has guidelines on what supplements they do and don’t sell. They have a rule against promoting a non-FDA-approved label, a warning not to sell supplements that are part of an FDA recall, and a regulation against selling supplements that are expired. Amazon does not, however, mention any system they have in place to test if supplement companies are following these guidelines. A recent Forbes article revealed that 25% of the supplements sold on Amazon are Chinese counterfeits possibly contaminated with heavy metals and pollutants.


Instead of buying online or from these bigger retail outlets, buy directly from the supplement production company or buy locally from companies that vet what they sell.

Make sure the supplement company you choose is third-party tested, meaning their ingredients are verified by an outside source. Also, be sure the supplements are free of fillers and allergens and verified to be free of chemicals and heavy metals. Buying from a local organization you trust, like Thrive, is often the best option because local, smaller suppliers can ensure supplements maintain ingredient integrity.

Look for the following brands which meet Thrive’s criteria for high-quality, third-party tested supplements free of fillers and contaminants. Many of these brands are carried at Thrive.



Stay informed


Along with buying local or directly from the supplement brand, it’s important to stay informed on what’s in a supplement and which supplements you actually need. Research different supplements before deciding which one is right for you.


Often, you don’t need a supplement for everything. First and foremost, you should get your nutrients from a whole foods diet. Supplements are needed but generally, to supplement or fill any nutritional gaps you may have in your diet. The best way to evaluate your needs is through testing but common supplements we recommend to our patients include:



Since choosing the right supplement is a personal decision, it’s best to talk about your options with a healthcare provider. Book an appointment with Thrive or stop by our office to learn more about your options.

Thrive Carolinas

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