top of page


Updated: Jun 4

New to recommending supplements? You are not alone. We all start somewhere. When you are a new practitioner, it can feel a little daunting. Where do you start learning?

Some of my first herb teachers said you can do a lot with 10 herbs in your toolbox. The same is true with supplements.

Take any problem or health goal and there are likely 30 different supplements that will address that will “move the needle” for a client on a specific issue. Healing is not a narrow path. There are often many beneficial nudges that the world of dietary supplements can offer.

Before you start recommending supplements. Get your priorities clear. Stick with your food first mentality. Supplements are just that, a supplement to diet. They can not overcome or correct physiology brought about from negative dietary inputs.

There are two questions to ask whenever giving a supplement to a client.

  1. Is this supplement right for my client?

  2. Is this a high quality supplement?

Start making a list of supplements you know and trust. A working google doc or google sheet is a nice place to start. We give our interns a list like this to get them started. You will be surprised how many you already know. Most folks have a trusted multi, magnesium, vitamin D, probiotic and fish oil. Maybe a trusted mentor or teacher has shared wisdom with you on good quality supplements. Maybe you take a few supplements. You can start there!

How to check supplement quality?

First let’s clear up a common myth that is out there. Dietary supplements are regulated. FDA has GMP’s (Good Manufacturer Practices) which need to be followed. GMP’s for Rx companies are stricter and supplement companies can voluntarily follow them. In theory, the FDA can knock-on a supplement company’s door and inspect facilities and processes.

There are independent organizations that verify supplements provide what they intend to supply. These verifications protect against improper labeling, adulteration, contamination and poor quality supplements.

Let’s take an example here…Kirkland is USP verified. That is great but Kirkland uses a lot of ingredients that are not optimal. Take ubiquinone over ubiquinol or DL-alpha tocopherol versus alpha tocopherol. The curcumin is correctly dosed and clean but it may not be in a whole plant extract. With Kirkland, we know we getting what the label says we are getting, not contaminated or adulterated, BUT it does not mean the product is the best quality in terms of the choice of ingredients.

Prop65 is a California law that is stricter than FDA for heavy metal contamination. You can choose products that meet Prop65

Get to know product lines and specific products.

  • Have useful books

    • Alan Gaby’s Nutritional Medicine 2nd Edition

    • Braun & Cohen’s Herbs and Natural Supplements 4th Edition

  • Work or volunteer at a health food store or pharmacy

  • When you go shopping at your health food store, spend time in the supplement aisles reading labels

  • Join newsletter lists for popular brands like Designs for Health, Gaia, Pure encapsulations, Apex, and others

  • Join free webinars given by various companies

  • When you see new clients ask them to bring their supplements to the visit on zoom or in person and look at the supplements together. Read labels of proprietary or compound formulas and note doses of supplements.

  • Find out what is in the supplements your clients are taking. NIH Dietary Supplement Label Database

  • Ask your clients about their experiences taking certain supplements

  • Attend conferences where you can talk to supplement manufacturers.

    • Expo East and West are fabulous places to go

    • FNCE has a great expo as well

    • The Personal Nutrition ANA conference and IFM both have supplement vendors.

  • Set up meetings with supplement representatives so they can educate you about their brands

  • Call companies and ask for samples & try them yourself

  • Call companies or look at their websites and ask these questions…

    • Where do they source raw materials?

    • Do they make products at their facility?

    • What testing do they do?

    • 3rd party testing or verification?

    • Do they conduct their own research?

Now you know a bit about which companies are quality. Let’s look at Fullscript advanced search functionality

  • You can search Fullscript by most popular products and the most recommended brands

  • You can search by form, food allergy, specialty diet

  • You can search by included and excluded ingredients

Gain confidence in your clinical nutrition skills in our monthly Clinical Working Group! Led by an experienced CNS supervisor and clinical nutritionist: share a case from your functional medicine clinic, gain health and nutrition resources and insights, collaborate with your supervisors and other nutrition graduates, and learn how to incorporate functional nutrition coaching skills with your clients to help them meet their long-term health goals.

Have questions?  We’ve got you! Check out our Frequently Asked Questions about our personalized nutrition Mentorship Program and meeting the SPE requirements.


bottom of page