Many of our patients take supplements. In fact, one study by the American Osteopathic Association found that more than 80 percent of Americans take some type of vitamin or supplement. Other surveys routinely show that more than half of the population regularly takes supplements, with a higher percentage of those with cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic pain taking them. But supplements are even taken for acute conditions, such as the coronavirus pandemic we are currently facing.
Just recently the FDA and FTC warned companies selling products that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19. This puts consumers at risk of serious harm to their wallets as well as their health according to the joint statement: “Using these products may lead to delays in getting proper diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 and other potentially serious diseases and conditions.”(1)
Unless we ask about supplements, we may never know what our patients are taking. Whether they think we will disapprove of the “brain health enhancers” advertised on TV, embarrassed by their anxiety about the recent outbreak, or have a lifelong multivitamin routine they don’t think to mention at their yearly visits, patients often do not share information about vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbs.
That’s where integrative health can begin changing this health care conversation and our patients’ health. Remember that patients are engaged in their own health care when they consider, choose and take supplements. And we have noted elsewhere that patient engagement is the “blockbuster drug” for healing chronic disease. We want engagement, we just need to be sure it is done in a trusted partnership between provider and patient.
As a health care provider, you can take advantage of this point of engagement to guide your patients towards better health with behavior change and appropriate supplement use.
Here are some resources I have developed to help you have conversations with your patients with safe and effective supplements use.