Be Nice To Yourself and Don’t Buy Supplements Online

Buying supplements online seems like a good idea, a cheap way to get supplements we want or can’t get in our country. I’m Canadian and some stuff just isn’t available here. I admit, I used to be a bit of a diet pill junky, or collector. I’d buy the stupid things and take a couple, get sick, and throw them all out when I got busted by my mom. I did that for 8 years. I wasted a lot of money. I admit, I still scour the Internet for diet pills. Bad habit. I don’t use them anymore, but I find them interesting.

simpsons

I am a very pro-treatment and pro-medication kind of gal. I’ve never found that naturopaths or homeopaths have worked for me, but I know those they’ve worked very well for. I’ve tried over the counter stuff for my bipolar disorder and it hasn’t worked. If it’s worked for you, great. Feel free to share experiences. I won’t deny that over the counter stuff works, it has helped me with other problems (pain, PMS, cramps. I hate painkillers, for example). I also won’t deny that it isn’t as tightly regulated as it should be, and that it can be dangerous. People need to see their doctors before taking it and follow precautions, especially if they mix it with meds. These are medications, too, just not as tightly regulated.

People are wary of prescription drugs. In the US, in one year, they spent $26.7 billion(1) on non-prescription supplements. I’m making a guess at this, but there is less guilt in taking something over the counter, less embarrassment than asking your doctor? It seems the world is split, some avoid prescription meds, and some overuse them. The happy medium isn’t big enough!

The FDA and a subsection (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act DSHEA) have found:
– Some supplements found in stores and online can cause heart, kidney and liver problems with no warnings.
– There is little to no quality control and toxic substances such as pesticides, heavy metals or (for some strange reason) even prescription drugs are being sold with no knowledge to the customer.
– China is a major supplier of raw ingredients, which are often contaminated, have never had their factories inspected by the FDA.
Many products also exaggerate their claims, meaning, they say the supplement can prevent, treat or cure a disease. This is harmful advice, and this is illegal.
Consumers of the products often have no idea
A lot of the users of the supplements don’t know what they’re getting. It’s like a surprise, but it can hurt or kill you! A lot of vitamins and supplements purchased online contain very little nutritional value and can kill you, your kids or your pet. Seriously, if they get into them. There are a few reasons why buying online is a bad idea(2).

counterfeit

1. A medication can be “counterfeit” and dangerous. (I’m picturing a pill in fake Adidas with an Ak-47)
2. The product has probably expired, if it is real, and the seller has repackaged it for resale.
And for the best one 3. It’s stolen. No quality control.

If you can’t get it at home, don’t order it online. This includes even Amazon.

Counterfeit?
Counterfeit basically means “fake”, or “ripped off”. This is different from medications where there is a brand name and a generic, because the generic actually has real ingredients in it. A counterfeit mediction just looks real. It doesn’t act real. It’s never going to have as much active ingredient as it claims, and if you check out the link to where I’m getting this info, you’re literally paying a lot for a little bit of sawdust, according to the FDA.

roundup

Note: The criminals rarely get charged because it’s too hard to figure out who to charge, where it began and so on. Sad. This is costing a lot of money, $600 billion, to be, well, estimated, which is almost as much as terrorism costs. Cheap is so tempting, but it’s not legit.

Expired
All medications expire and can do weird things after they do. They can become more potent, less potent, or make you change colours and see things (or make you see yourself change colour?) It’s a bad idea to take that expired cough syrup. You’ll probably cough it back up into the toilet, for example, if you’re lucky. Generally a medication or supplement is good for 6-12 months after being filled at the pharmacy. Sometimes longer. Selling an expired product is illegal, its dangerous, because the product may or may not work, it could make you sick, and all the criminal has to do is slap a new date on the package.

expired

They can get any amount of $ they want. The pills aren’t counterfeit. If someone complains it doesn’t work, the “seller” and throw them a few good pills, or ignore it. Nobody knows exactly how effective this stuff is anyways. It’s a dangerous game when you buy online. Here’s a link on expired medications: http://www.rxlist.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=87599

As for stolen, well, that’s self explanatory. You could get a good product once, a bad product another time. Hit or miss.

When In Doubt
If you’re going to use supplements:
1. Don’t buy them online. Go to a local health food store.
2. See your doctor and pharmacist. Check for interactions. Get that physical every year, or every other year. Some doctors are very open to supplements. I know many that have a few concoctions for PMS and cramps!
3. Don’t take anything for weight loss, sexual ehancement or building muscle.
4. If it’s from the US, or you’re living in the US, it has a “USP Verified”(3) mark on the bottle. Their website is linked below with everything they verify.
5. You CAN overdose. More is not better.
6. If something feels wrong, tell your doctor. If it’s really wrong, go to an emergency clinic, or the ER.

Safely Buying Supplements
1. Buy from the manufacturer or a reputable operation in your own country. Try not to cross borders. Do not import things illegal in your country. (For example, ephedra, easy to get OTC in Canada, is illegal in most USA States)
2. Reputable companies supply a lot more information, ingredients, quality control info, and websites with more info, and even have phone numbers.
3. Avoid really cheap stuff.
4. Avoid sites like ebay and amazon, this is your health!

1. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/05/dangerous-supplements/index.htm
2.http://www.garyshealthtips.com/why-you-should-never-buy-supplements-on-amazon-or-ebay-a-must-read-by-former-fda-special-agent-gary-collins/wn

3. http://www.usp.org/usp-verification-services/usp-verified-dietary-supplements

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TrueHope EMPowerplus: True or False?

TRUEHOPE EMPOWERPLUS
First I’ll give the basic rundown on how I found this product, what it was supposed to do, and what happened to me. TrueHope EMPowerplus is an all natural, controversial, remedy for bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, such as ADHD or depression.
This is what the main website for TrueHope EMPowerplus has to say about it’s product. Pretty vague, eh?

EMPowerplus™ is a unique, micronutrient formula proven effective in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of bipolar, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. 19 medical journal publications, plus many individual doctors’ observations, have shown significant reductions in the symptoms of bipolar and other mental disorders.
These 19 publications plus several more current and ongoing studies make EMPowerplus™ the most studied micronutrient formulation in the world for mental conditions. Studies in animals also suggest EMPowerplus™ can improve brain-cell health and cognitive functioning.

The unique technology used in the micronutrient formulation of EMPowerplus™ allows the body to rapidly absorb and use these essential elements for optimum physical and mental health. EMPowerplus™ is a safe, effective, all-natural formula for common mood disorders.

First, what is a unique, micronutrient formula? They use some interesting words we haven’t heard much before: Micronization and Chelation, followed by two that we understand more: Balance and Quantity.
What is micronization?

Particle size reduction is achieved through the use of fluid energy jet mills. The material is drawn into a confined, circular chamber by way of pressurized nitrogen gas or compressed air. The powder gets suspended in a high velocity fluid stream in the milling chamber. The mill operates on the principle of impact and attrition due to the high velocity collisions between particles suspended within the nitrogen gas or compressed air stream, causing them to breakdown into smaller particles. Centrifugal force causes large, heavy particles to separate from smaller and lighter particles. The smaller particles are carried in the fluid stream towards the center of the milling chamber, where they are discharged into a collection bag. Larger particles remain in the milling chamber where they recirculate, causing them to breakdown. Operational parameters are monitored throughout the process and are documented in the batch record.

Now, in english: Jet mills are used to pull in a material and it is broken down into smaller pieces, then collected, repeat.
But why do we want micronization? Well, it seems contamination is less of an issue, which is a good thing. It has a (no source cited) proven history. It works with a lot of products. It’s accepted and regulated by most agencies. There’s no heat used, so it’s eco-friendly. Okay, so they’re taking big particles and making them smaller. The pills are freaking huge though, so I guess micronization is a good thing.

Chelation, however, yields very few results that have anything to do with the production of these pills. From the TrueHope website,

“Minerals are difficult for the body to digest in pure form. To overcome this, EMPowerplus™ minerals go through a rigorous process that wraps them in organic molecules and binds them to proteins the body can easily recognize and digest. “

But where’s the proof? Most of the results were about chelation therapy, used for coronary diseases. It seems like they enjoy using big words that are hard to describe, even when broken down to basic chemistry.
As for Balance and Quantity, if you see the ingredients list, well, this gives you up to several thousand X’s the amount of certain vitamins, minerals and supplements, which can be dangerous.
My personal experience was through the TrueHope website and over the phone. I ordered the pills and stopped seeing my psychiatrist except to repeat my medications until I was completely off of them (I never completely got off the benzos though, withdrawal was harsh and I had to stop the EMPowerplus “therapy”)
At first, they tell you to take 1-3 pills a couple of times a day. It’s definitely a booster (and makes you pee neon yellow, sometimes green, from all the B-vitamins) and you can see an increase in your mood. If you want your doctor to get you on to this they have to order a DVD and book, at a cost to you. They have professionals on the phone to tell you how much prescription medication to take every week, and I don’t recall any of them being doctors, or even naturopaths.
The pills are big, they smell, and they’re hard to swallow. I got the initial boost and slowly tapered down on my medication. But then it happened, I was unable to sleep. I would get so frustrated in the night, I would be pacing around my room, yelling and screaming at nothing. I got angry, and frustrated. This is for bipolar disorder? I was in a mixed state most of the time I was on it. If I got anxious they told to take up to 24,000mg! Of inositol a day, to counter the side effects. I went to the health food store all the time to buy more remedies to help with this remedy.
The final straw was when I was upped to 15 pills a day and had several breakdowns, wanting to drop out of school. I was throwing up a half hour after taking the pills and not sleeping. I was irritable, I couldn’t concentrate (how does this work for ADHD?) and I found out I was allergic to something in the pills, which was causing the vomiting reaction. I consulted professionals and went back on my prescribed, psychiatric medication and don’t plan on doing that again. It was a waste of several hundred dollars and time.
I was taking approximately 4x’s that a day. That’s 16,000x’s my daily needed vitamin B12 regimen!
There are 11 or 19 studies saying this works, plus a book “A Promise of Hope” (where I heard about this remedy) pushing this remedy. It is supposed to “cure” 85% or more of treatment resistant bipolar patients.
According to TrueHope, to balance the serotonin and dopamine (they use “brain chemicals”, not the technical terms) we need to have proper vitamins. Proper, sure, a daily multivitamin won’t kill you, but do we need 16,000x’s our daily needed vitamin B12? And I was on a low dose! But mood disorders aren’t caused only by brain chemistry (more about that later). What about a placebo effect? EMPowerplus says that a placebo effect eventually “wears off” but they don’t cite their resources. Plus, they’re wrong. Placebo’s can work for ages.
So, in conclusion, as a treatment resistant sufferer of bipolar disorder type 1 who had been through ECT prior (I started TrueHope EMPowerplus in late 2009, and had ECT in July 2008, which helped more than any medication had in the past) this stuff is about as useful to my mood as a normal multivitamin. It just costs a lot more and doesn’t have FDA approval.