September 7, 2023

3 Tips to Find High-Quality Supplements You Can Trust

Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the best supplements, plus five Healing Lab-approved supplements for chronic pain.

You’ve heard that the average American doesn’t get all the nutrients they need from their daily diet. Living with chronic pain, you want to do everything you can to support your health. So, you decide to add supplements to your daily routine.

Firstly, we want to congratulate you on taking a step forward with supporting your health from the inside out.

Secondly, if you’re feeling confused about which supplements to choose from, know that you’re not alone.

Finding high-quality, evidence-based supplements is no walk in the park.

A simple online search of “supplements for chronic pain” yields thousands of results.

You’ll likely find a few supplements with consistent positive reviews, like Omega-3s, Magnesium, Turmeric, Collagen, and more… 

But you’ll also be faced with many, many more options that can leave even the most science-minded of us scratching our heads.

Beyond that,  a recent study found that the labels on 89% of supplements did not match the actual levels of ingredients in the pills!

You may be wondering:

➟ “How do I know which supplements are right for my needs?”

➟ What supplements have consistent quality research behind them?

➟ How do I know which brands I can trust? 

These questions are essential for ensuring that you’re investing in supplements that a) actually include the ingredients on their labels, and b) have the best chance of yielding results for your healing journey.

(We’ll also tell you our three favorite evidence-based supplements and brands that we recommend for our clients with chronic pain and osteoarthritis to give you a jumpstart on your supplement journey.)

So, let’s get into it!

The Research on Supplements for Chronic Pain Care

When selecting supplements, it’s essential to look into original peer-reviewed research. If you’re reading a blog that cites studies, click the link to read the study’s abstract yourself. While writers are always well-intentioned, blogs are necessarily shortened and simplified, and writers sometimes omit or misunderstand details.

We’ve pulled together a few of the more commonly recommended supplements and some of the more compelling studies on their benefits. All the supplements we list below include links to research articles, so you can explore them for yourself. And in the next section, we cover how to evaluate research for yourself.

Here are some supplements where research has found moderate to significant benefits for those living with specific chronic pain conditions or arthritis:

  • Omega 3s 1

  • Vitamin K 2, 3

  • Turmeric/Curcumin 6, 7, 8

  • Devil’s Claw Root 9, 10

  • Magnesium 11, 12

  • Boswellia 13, 14, 15

Evidence of benefits is not as strong for these commonly recommended supplements:

    • Glucosamine with Chondroitin 16, 17

    • Capiscum/Capsaicin 18, 19

    • Willow Bark 20, 21

    • Collagen 4, 5

This is by no means an exhaustive list. We recommend continuing to do your own research, and taking a look at the studies we’ve linked to learn more.

Also, we are all unique individuals, and what works for some may not work for others. Some of these supplements may interfere with medications (for example, vitamin k interacts with blood thinners such as Warfarin), so please consult your doctor.

Tips for researching supplements

Doing research on supplements isn’t easy. Study articles can go on seemingly forever, and the jargon they’re usually packed with doesn’t make for a light read. Here are a few tips and tricks to follow when exploring the research on supplements.

1. Tips to find studies.

There’s a few ways to go about finding research articles. Of course, you can simply look up “research on [supplement]” or “[supplement] [condition] nih.” (NIH, the National Institute of Health, hosts many of the studies.) But you can also read top-ranking blogs and look at their citations and sources to find studies. You can also head straight to PubMed for access to peer-reviewed studies.

2. Look for review articles.

A review articles is when researchers review all the relevant studies on a topic and present the overall state of the field. They will consider sample size, citations, and study quality for you – think of it as a very scientific blog post about the research. This is the easiest way to get a whole picture of the research in a short amount of time.

3. Read recent articles.

Research uncovers new information over time. What was believed to be true ten or twenty years ago, may have since been disproven. Especially with review articles, look for one from the last five years, so it can take into account all the latest research.

4. Focus on the abstract and discussion.

You can read the whole study if you want to get into the details, but you’ll usually learn everything you need from the abstract and discussion. You’ll find the abstract at the top of the page. It serves as an introduction to the study, giving you the highlights. The discussion will be near the bottom, before the citations, and will expand on their findings, limitations, and areas for future research.

If you’re reading the original studies (not a review article), also consider:

1. Consider how many citations the study has.

When you look up studies on Google, you’ll typically see a subheader under search results that says “cited by [number].” A general guideline is the more citations a study has, the more reputable and widely accepted it’s considered.

2. Consider the sample size.

Sample size refers to the number of people involved in the study. The more people involved, the more data researchers could analyze to get really specific in analyzing their results. For this reason, studies with larger sample sizes are preferable to those with smaller sample sizes. 

This doesn’t mean you need to discount studies with fewer participants — the results can still be significant. It may just be wise to look at other studies to reinforce the results.

3. Check whether the study involved placebo-controlled testing.

The placebo effect refers to results that come from the mind’s expectations rather than a medication or treatment. High quality studies will typically split participants into different groups — some will receive the supplement while others will receive a fake supplement to serve as a placebo and help determine what benefits come from the pill alone versus from the power of the participant’s mindsets.

The Trouble with Selecting Supplements

You may think that once you choose the appropriate supplement and dosage, you just order it off Amazon, easy peasy.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. And not all brands are equal when it comes to supplement quality. In fact, a (frankly) disturbing study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed there are often inaccuracies between what’s written on the label and what ingredients are actually present in supplements.

Researchers tested 57 different sports supplements that included five specific ingredients on their labels. According to their testing, 23 of the 57 supplements (40%) did not contain a detectable amount of at least one of the ingredients on their labels. Researchers also found that 7 of the 57 products contained at least one ingredient prohibited by the FDA!

For the remaining supplements with detectable levels of the labeled ingredients, researchers found that 89% had labels that misstated the amounts of the ingredients within the product.

Other FDA inspections of approved products have found that manufacturers often don’t follow best practice standards when ensuring “purity, identity, or composition of the final product.”

This issue in inaccurate labeling can be partially attributed to the fact that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplement labels the same way it does for many packaged foods and medications. And yet, there are huge benefits from good supplements. What’s a person to do?

2 Tips to Find Safe, High-Quality Supplements

So what does all this information on label inaccuracies and supplement studies mean for you?

After you decide on your supplements, identify a brand with a reputation for quality.

Here are a few tips to help with your supplement and brand selection process.

1. Consult your nutritionist, doctor, or licensed professional

Care providers get to see first-hand how these supplements work. If you feel comfortable, speak with your nutritionist or doctor about your interests and goals with supplements. 

2. Check brands for third-party testing certifications

Manufacturers who truly stand behind their products often choose to undergo third-party testing to ensure the quality of their supplements. This can give you an extra degree of confidence in knowing that brands with these certifications have been tested for purity, identity, and composition of the final product. These certifications are called Certificates of Analysis (COAs) and will often be listed on the brand’s website.

Some high-quality third-party testers include:

  • U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention

  • NSF International

  • Consumer Lab

  • Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG)

Healing Lab-Approved Supplements for Chronic Pain

At Healing Lab, we specialize in personalized holistic care plans for people living with chronic pain and arthritis. Specifically, we offer energy healing, nutrition plans, and evidence-based supplements.

We’ve researched our supplements to ensure we’re advising only the highest-quality, most effective products we truly stand behind.

Our current supplement brand recommendations:

  1. Omega 3s (1000 mg daily) – Metagenics OmegaGenics EPA-DHA 500 or Iwi Life’s Vegan Omega-3 (for vegans)

  2. Turmeric (2000 mg as needed) – Thorne’s Curcumin Phytosome Turmeric

  3. Vitamin k (100% RDA daily) – Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Raw K-Complex

You can learn more about our supplement recommendations here >>

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Take the next step in your healing journey. Schedule your free 30-minute consultation with our founder and expert healer, Mike Sententia, and find out if Healing Lab is right for you.

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