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Why this Naturopathic Doctor Doesn’t Like Supplements

The supplement world has exploded in the last couple of years. If you have ever taken a stroll down the vitamin isle at a store like Sprouts, I bet you have felt more than a little overwhelmed. Should you take extra nutrients? And if so, should that be through a multivitamin, B complex, trace minerals, amino acids, or greens powder? Or maybe you want to try something herbal. There are over 200 individual American herbs on the market which can be bought either singly or in a combination product like a tea, a tincture, or a capsule. Keep browsing and you see the fish oils, probiotics, immune formulas, sleep formulas, energy pills, mood support, libido support… I could probably go on indefinitely. Every product seems important and helpful, and when you read the label it appears taking it will solve every problem you have ever had. This information overload can only lead to one of two scenarios: either you run out of the store screaming and decide the whole supplement world is a sham, or you dive in and fill your cart with hundreds of dollars in pills and potions.


As a naturopathic doctor, I feel a little ashamed to admit to you part of me really dislikes supplements. How can that be true??? Especially when I can pretty much guarantee that if you were to become my patient, I will more than likely put you on at least one supplement. If you come to my house, you will see the supplements that I personally take sitting right there on the shelf. I must be a hypocrite, right? Well maybe not. What I actually dislike is when I get a new patient and they bring in the WHOLE BAG of supplements that they have been taking for the past year, or sometimes the past 10 years. Sometimes the patient has researched and bought all of these products themselves, but often-times another naturopath has prescribed them. Either way, the patient has paid hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars with the true belief that this barrage of supplements is going to “cure” them. Now to be fair, maybe this approach actually works for some people and those people just now have no need to come see me as a patient. But what I do know for sure is that the ones who DO make it to my office after a protocol like that are more than a little disappointed, completely disheartened, and thoroughly distrustful of my profession. And this is what I dislike; in fact it makes me quite angry. This practice is not the naturopathic medicine that my profession was founded on.


Dr. Jared Zeff, a prominent and incredibly successful naturopathic physician outlines what is known as the “Therapeutic Order” for the naturopathic treatment of disease. The order is as follows:

  1. Establish the conditions for health (environment, rest, removal of harmful influences and lifestyle choices)
  2. Stimulate the self-healing mechanisms (homeopathy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy)
  3. Support weakened or damaged systems or organs (supplements, nutrition)
  4. Address structural integrity (physical adjustments, massage, etc)
  5. Address pathology: use specific natural substances, modalities, or interventions (supplements, surgery, etc)
  6. Address pathology: use specific pharmacologic treatments (drugs)
  7. Suppress pathology: temporarily, if necessary (supplements, drugs)


It is not necessary to use all 7 steps when treating a patient, and which steps a naturopath uses will depend on the patient and what condition they currently have. But one step up there is vitally important in the successful treatment of chronic disease, and that is #2: stimulate the self-healing mechanisms. Supplements cannot do this. I don’t care what the label on the bottle says. I don’t care what the cashier at Whole Foods tells you. I don’t even care if this offends some of you reading this. What I care about are my patients. I care about practicing the medicine that I have seen time and time again to restore health, the medicine that worked for me when I was suffering from chronic disease ( And supplements are part of that medicine, but that is all they are, A SUPPLEMENT to stimulating the innate healing power of the human body. And using them in that way is what makes all the difference.


If you are interested in learning more about how I work in my practice to stimulate self-healing, please visit my blog post on homeopathy: Another wonderful resource on this healing modality is You can also call Horizon Natural Medicine at 602-359-2893 and schedule a free 15 minute consult.

  • Posted by Dr Katie Nuckolls
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