Vitamins, Supplements and Naturopathic Doctors

dietary supplementThe question of whether we need vitamins and supplements, and how effective they really are, is often a hotly debated issue.  Theoretically we should be able to get all the nutrients we need from the foods we eat.  However, even those on a paleo, primal or other healthy non-Standard American Diet who are eating whole foods aren’t always getting what our bodies need to thrive.

If you are taking supplements, like everything else that has a label, it’s important to make sure you are getting what you expect without extra fillers, sugars, gluten, etc.  You’d be surprised what’s in some vitamins and supplements.

Supplement requirements are person specific, rather than a one size fits all type of thing.  However, there are some supplements most of us need:

  • Probiotics to promote a healthy gut
  • Fish oil for Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin D (especially crucial for those of us who live in less sunny locations)

DWhen it comes to what and how much to take, especially if you are struggling with particular health issues, I have found it very helpful to consult a nutrition oriented physician, like a naturopathic doctor (ND).  An ND works to get to the root of health issues, allergies and nutritional deficiencies by investigating your diet and other lifestyle habits as well as lab testing.  The ND then uses natural and non-toxic therapies to address these underlying problems.  Poor health is often a condition that has taken a long time to manifest and thus a commitment to following a health plan and allowing the body time to rebuild is required.  NDs are focused on preventive health care to avoid disease.

I purchase many of our vitamins and supplements directly from our ND (this is in no way required) to know we are getting the right quality and strength as well as often the best price.   Others I purchase from natural food stores or Amazon (check labels carefully!).

If you are in the Milwaukee area, I highly recommend Dr. Sarah Axtell at Lakeside Natural Medicine in Shorewood who has helped my family.  New clients can mention this blog and receive $20 off your first visit!  You can also locate an ND by going to  For those of you in WI visit

Be aware that not all naturopaths are licensed NDs.  “Lay naturopaths” can obtain a degree online and are unlicensed.  NDs who go through the program at accredited schools are truly physicians.  If someone lists a school other than these accredited US schools, they are not a licensed ND:

Many people ask whether NDs are covered by health insurance.  It depends on your state and your insurance coverage, but in general it is not covered.  Some insurance will cover lab tests ordered by an ND but not the office visits themselves nor vitamins and supplements.  Some Healthcare FSA accounts often count ND visits as eligible expenses (check your specific plan).  I love the way Dr. Sarah compares health insurance to car insurance – it’s good for catastrophic care.  Car insurance does not cover regular tune-ups and maintenance, such as putting gas in your car, rotating your tires, oil changes, etc.  Same goes for health insurance – good for emergencies but does not usually cover prevention.  We have to invest in our health if we want to prevent disease.

I make a similar argument when people say eating Paleo is too expensive.  There are many ways to reduce the cost – see this earlier post about Paleo on a Budget.  When you are healthy you aren’t spending money on expensive drug prescriptions (which are much more expensive than vitamins and supplements) and costly medical procedures – even if a portion is covered by insurance.  You aren’t taking excess sick time off of work and losing income.  You are spending your time enjoying life!

Let’s face it, there is no free lunch.  If we want to be healthy we have to take control, find ways to prevent disease through our lifestyle choices, partner with doctors who are interesting in working with us to prevent disease (not just treat it) and be smart shoppers for our food and healthcare.