Supplement Review – An Idea

I’m having one of those moments when there are too many things on my mind to blog about, which is making it tough to focus on just one. As I noodle around with the others, let me start with an idea I had based on dealing with eczema for a decade.

In trying to find ways to keep my eczema under control, I’ve looked thoroughly at what I ingest, including foods and various supplements.

I had a food allergy test years ago during my eczema explorations. This was a skin prick test and it showed that I was allergic to lemon, spinach, apple, banana, and watermelon. Weird, eh? Along with avoiding these foods, I also went gluten-free, corn-free, and low-sugar. I never felt like I had a problem with gluten, having gone through an elimination diet and finding no ill effects when I added wheat and other glutenous products back to my diet, but my healthcare providers were insistent that gluten caused inflammation even if I wasn’t allergic, so I swore off gluten.

Recently, I wanted to check to see if I’d had any environmental allergy testing done because I suspected I had an allergy to my Doggle Woggle. When I called to ask, I was told there was a new food allergy test available that needed a blood sample to check around 200 different foods. While I was getting the environmental allergy testing done (a skin prick test), I had my blood drawn for the new food allergy test.

Results of Allergy Testing

I got the results of both this past week.

In terms of environmental testing, I’m allergic to dogs (Doggle Woggle!), cats (had 3 of them until a few years ago), and oak trees (my yard is filled with them). Nothing like a trifecta of allergens I’ve been continuously exposed to.

The results of the food allergy test were interesting, and not what I expected. For all the insistence from healthcare providers that I was allergic to gluten and wheat, it turns out I have a mild allergy to rice, the grain I had substituted for wheat and corn products. Well, now.

The food allergy test ranked allergies on a scale of 0-3, with 0 being not allergic and 3 being the most allergic.

My 3s include clam, quinoa, Brewer’s yeast, and basil.

My 2s include kelp and chestnut.

My 1s, well, it’s a long list: Oyster, amaranth, hops, rice, artichoke, mushroom, blackberry, coconut, date, mango, pineapple, honey, baker’s yeast, almond, chia seed, flaxseed, poppy seed, sesame, walnut, nutmeg, paprika, and vanilla bean.

In addition to these random things, there’s an entire category of food that I am allergic to … dairy. I had no idea, obviously. This was the biggest surprise on the list. It includes casein (3), cow’s milk (3), whey (2), blue cheese (1), cheddar cheese (1), mozzarella (1), Swiss (1), cottage cheese (1), and yogurt (1).

I have been eating yogurt almost daily for years and years and years. I don’t drink cow’s milk, so that’s no loss, but after going through the elimination diet, I started drinking smoothies for breakfast and used whey powder to bulk them up with extra calories.

My nurse practitioner recommended that I cut out the dairy, moreso than the other items on the list, though I will try to avoid the other 3s and 2s on the list, along with foods that mix a lot of different 1s. (I had purchased a gluten-free granola and was saving it for after I got my test results. It had probably 5 or 6 of the foods I tested allergic to. It is now my husband’s granola.)

This is a long-winded way of getting to my primary point, but bear with me.

Who Reviews Supplement Usage?

So, healthcare providers have various methods for determining food allergies … the skin prick test, elimination diet, and a blood test. Each time I visit my clinic, I am asked to provide a list of the supplements and medications I am taking. Makes sense. They don’t want crazy interactions between supplements and medications. As an example, fish oil is a blood thinner, so you’ve got to monitor how many blood-thinning substances you are taking so you don’t end up with internal bleeding or some other serious problem.

However, what I’ve noticed is that there’s never really been a good review of the supplements I’m taking in terms of comparing them to each other. This bothers me. How do I know whether I’m getting too much or too little of something for my specific constitution? How long should I be on a supplement if it is needed for a particular condition?

I recently learned that too much supplemental niacin can cause eczema. Between my B complex supplement and multivitamin, I was getting more than the recommended daily amount. I’ve dutifully reported these supplements to my clinic and no one has ever flagged this as potentially problemmatic.

Wouldn’t it be nice if each medical clinic had someone on staff specifically assigned to review all supplements and medications with patients?

That was my bright idea recently.

I mentioned it to an acquaintance of mine whose husband is a pharmacist. She said that pharmacists get training not only in prescription medications but in supplements. They will do just this sort of consultation with patients if asked.

Who knew? (Other than my acquaintance, of course.)

Have you ever had a supplement review with a pharmacist before? How did it go?

Here are a couple more articles that show we all must use caution when taking supplements. If we had regular reviews of our supplements, either by our primary care clinic or a pharmacist, we’d be less likely to inadvertently run into problems caused by supplements.

Can Any B Vitamins Be Harmful? by Dr. Andrew Weil

Fruits and Vegetables Are Trying to Kill You by Moises Velasquez-Manoff – There’s a twist to this title. Read on to find out what it is.