With nutraceutical therapy becoming increasingly effective and popular, it’s important to understand exactly what a nutraceutical is.

Nutraceuticals are ingredients that have been isolated from foods and are usually sold as medicinal products that have health benefits. The name is a combination of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical.” While you may know that nutraceuticals are the building blocks of our bodies and can mean the difference between health and illness, there are other things about them that may come as a surprise to you.

1. You need nutraceuticals

If you do a Web search for different vitamins and minerals, you’ll find a shocking amount of contradictory information. But, there’s one thing that most of the information is in agreement on: you need nutraceuticals. So if you’re not getting nutraceuticals from your food, you need to get them from somewhere else, or your body will eventually break down.

Many foods these days, especially highly refined foods, are fortified with vitamins, minerals, and all kinds of things that give them more nutritional value, which is even used as a marketing ploy to get you to buy them. But the last time we checked, a loaf of bread—including whole grain—does not contain omega-3 fatty acids.

The reason foods are fortified is because you need what the food isn’t providing you. Nutraceuticals are the building blocks of life and without them, you become susceptible to many conditions.

2. Not all nutraceuticals are created equal

Not all supplements and nutraceuticals are of the same quality. For instance, the fish oil capsules sold at drugstores, or even vitamin shops, aren’t just fish oil, but contain binders, fillers, dyes, excipients, or unknown substances. Many of these supplements aren’t under much scrutiny for quality and may be detrimental to your health.

There are three grades of nutraceutical supplements:

  • Pharmaceutical grade
  • Food grade
  • Feed grade

Pharmaceutical-grade supplements are under strict quality and purity testing (greater than 99% pure), contain NO binders, fillers, dyes, excipients, or unknown substances, and can only be prescribed by a physician. Your body can metabolize a pharmaceutical-grade supplement more efficiently, becoming more bioavailable. So while you may think you’re losing on cost, you’re gaining in quality and value—and possibly the load that’s put on your liver and kidneys when they have to deal with filtering out these other substances.

Common supplements that you see in most stores are either food or feed grade. Although they’re not all bad for you, it’s important to be aware that there is a difference and that you understand exactly what you’re putting into your body.

3. It’s important to take nutraceuticals under the care of a physician

We live in a time where nutraceuticals are actually the first line of defense against many illnesses. You can avoid the many side effects of pharmaceuticals if you’re under the care of a physician who has made a conscious decision to widen their focus to include nutraceutical therapy.

More and more doctors are using in-depth functional blood testing to see if patients have any vitamin, mineral, hormonal, or other imbalances before prescribing medications. There’s nothing wrong with using medications when needed, but with a little more investigation into a patient’s symptoms—take depression, for example—it might be discovered that a vitamin or hormonal imbalance is the cause. This is one of the important reasons to be under the care of a competent physician.

Another reason is safety. A physician will monitor your levels to ensure that you get the optimal dosages and avoid toxicity. Let the physician be your guide with the help of appropriate testing and you will more efficiently get to your goal with confidence, rather than going with the shotgun approach to medicating, be it nutraceutical or pharmaceutical.

4. You should be tested for optimal levels of nutraceuticals

Functional (nutraceutical) blood testing is now more common than it used to be. Science has moved in a direction where it’s more accepted in the mainstream. So, rather than matching up symptoms from reading random information online or from a publication, your nutraceutical levels can actually be quantified. For instance, a common test is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. You can very quickly find out exactly how much vitamin D is circulating in your system and, with the guidance of a physician, agree on a course of nutraceutical therapy, if needed.

Testing for optimal levels keeps the guesswork out of taking the best care of your health. Ask your physician to test your functional nutraceutical levels and if they won’t, find someone who will. You might be surprised at the results and grateful that you had the awareness to do it.

5. Nutraceuticals are nutritional medicine and can prevent disease

Today, many doctors find that chronic illness actually begins with a nutrient deficiency and by the time a patient comes in, it’s become a chronic disease. Many diseases and chronic illnesses are preventable by taking a proactive approach to our health. And this not only includes eating well, exercising, and reducing stress, but also making sure that you have a quantitative marker for your lifestyle.

We recommend not just paying attention to your symptoms, but also testing your nutraceutical levels before they get out of balance. It’s much easier to prevent a disease than to treat one. And if you’re suffering from any illness, consider supplementing with nutraceuticals before going for, or along with, any treatments that may have potentially serious side effects.

You might just save yourself some time, because if you’re not getting the results you want from trying other treatments, you may ultimately be steered down the nutraceutical path in the future. If you have a condition that allows you this opportunity, try giving nutraceutical therapy a chance.