One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, but will the “ingestible wellness” ones Lo Bosworth gives you do anything at all?
We’re always told there’s no “magic pill” to achieve our goals: you can’t safely short-cut a diet, meet your fitness goals, or up your IQ with a capsule, right? The pills that promise those kinds of effects are historically loaded with all kinds of dangerous substances we’ve been long trained to avoid.
But according to a growing number of brands (both celebrity-helmed and non), it might be possible to catch a solid sleep, boost your mood, increase your energy, and achieve an overall “glow” thanks to supplements that rely on boosters found in nature.
So have we finally achieved better living through science?
While there are a growing number of these ingestible wellness supplements on the market, we’ve paid close attention to a few particularly high profile ones.
There are the celebrity-helmed ones, led by Lo Bosworth of The Hills fame, supermodel Elle Macpherson, and makeup icon Bobbi Brown. Bosworth’s line, Love Wellness, features a sleep aid with magnesium and valerian root, a “Mood Pill” with “powerful mood-enhancing ingredients like organic St. John’s Wort, organic gingko leaf, vitamin B6, and GABA to keep you feeling steady all month long,” according to her site.
Macpherson’s line at WelleCo is led by a Super Greens Elixir, a “daily alkalizing greens supplement formulated by nutritional doctors using 45 premium whole food ingredients for nourishment at cellular level,” according to the brand’s website. Those whole foods include turmeric, horsetail extract, barley grass, dandelion, spirulina, and a host of other familiar and less common ingredients. The elixir is said to boost metabolism, and improve immunity, gut health, and energy.
Bobbi Brown’s Evolution_18 has just one pill: a Strengthen capsule, “formulated with a revolutionary new ingredient called Cynatine® HNS, a specially processed version of keratin, and essential biotin, your hair, skin and nails will get a nutrient boost that you can’t find in a typical diet,” according to the company’s website.
There are also the popular-among-the-wellness-set brands like Well Told Health which makes small batch “health boosters” including an Energy product (beets, rhodiola, maca, matcha) and an Antioxidant one (amla, cacao, cloves, grapes) and more, and gives customers the option to subscribe to a product on a monthly plan.
The Beauty Chef makes a “Glow Inner Beauty” powder with “24 superfoods for glowing skin” and a Cleanse Inner Beauty powder with “45 Certified Organic and bio-fermented fruits, vegetables, seeds, roots, algae, grasses, purifying herbs and digestive enzymes to help alkalise and detoxify your body from the inside out,” according to their website.
Moon Juice, which already makes an array of powders (“dusts”) for everything from beauty to sex, has a SuperYou pill for stress management, featuring four adaptogenic herbs and promising to “reduce stress, while enhancing energy, mood, focus & beauty,” according to the brand’s site.
So, is there Value in taking an adaptogen- or superfood-packed pill or elixir?
To find out, we consulted two of the Well TO Do Experts.
Rachel Molenda, Holistic Nutritionist: “I think there’s certainly value in them. It’s not the be all/end all, but of course, that’s what these supplements are marketing themselves as, knowing that consumers often look for that one quick-fix or pill to solve all of their problems. I’m a massive fan of adaptogens and superfoods as a whole, but there are many other things to be considered on top of simply taking them as supplements from diet, exercise, lifestyle, toxic exposures, stress levels etc. If you are going to take them, I would recommend taking them on top of a healthy balanced diet and high-quality supplement regime.”
Dr. Meghan Walker, Naturopathic Doctor: “They are called supplements for a reason. When indicated, they can supplement what is possible with diet and lifestyle. Often the supplements are helpful to dig you out of a hole; once you have positive health momentum, you should not aim to rely on them.”
Is there any danger in self-diagnosing or self-prescribing these kinds of supplements, even if they are marketed as all natural?
Molenda: “Definitely! The problem with supplements that market themselves as the solution to someone’s problems is that they may take them without knowing all of the implications involved. This is super common for cleanse/detox-related supplements which can contain natural herbs that have a laxative effect which obviously isn’t a great idea for someone who already had digestive issues. There is most definitely a concern for breastfeeding and pregnant woman as certain herbs are not recommended for them.”
Dr. Walker: “Yes. Don’t be tempted. The biggest culprits I see doing this in my practice are people in the health industry. Once you start feeling like you need one, you justify being on them all. They sequence of when you take things and aligning them to you unique goals is something you should work on with a trained professional and an objective vantage point. Without an objective view, you are wasting your money. I try to follow my own advice on this, but it I hard for all of us.”
If we do take these wellness supplements, what do we have to look out for on the label? What kinds of precautions should we take before taking a wellness supplement?
Molenda: “I would recommend working with a nutritionist, naturopath or your natural health care practitioner who can help you to find the right supplement for you. The reason why is because they will be able to recommend a supplement that contains the right form of a nutrient that’s suitable for you. For example, if absorption is an issue for you, you may be better with a methylated form of a specific nutrient (common for Vitamin B12). They will also be able to look to see if the synthetic form or real form of a nutrient is being used, like if folic acid (synthetic form) or folate (whole food-derived form) is being used. They will also be able to look to see if any binders, preservatives, colours or fillers are being used, like carrageenan, titanium dioxide or stearic acid are being used and be able to advise on potency to ensure you’re actually getting the amount you need to experience improvements.”
Dr. Walker: “Just because it is natural, doesn’t mean it is safe or indicated for you. There is no one-thing to look for on the label. You need to know who makes it, whether they are approved to sell supplements in Canada and the quality of ingredients they are using. I only recommend professional supplements for this reason.”
Ed Note: We recommend consulting with your doctor before taking any supplement or medication of any kind.
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