How Functional Medicine Clinicians Can Help Patients Understand Supplements

Read Time: 2 Minutes

Rates of dietary supplement use are on the rise, and many who use them know little about their provenance, or the data supporting their use. Clinicians, and especially functional medicine practitioners, are well positioned to help educate patients to get the most out of their supplements. According to a recent survey by the trade organization Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), 80% of American adults reported taking some type of dietary supplement in 2021.1 This is an increase of 7% over the previous year and the highest number seen in the 20-year history of the survey. People reported taking supplements for several reasons, including for overall health and wellness, for immune health and energy, and to correct nutrient insufficiencies.1

According to the survey, those who report taking supplements tend to be generally healthier than those who don’t and are also more likely to see a doctor regularly.1 This suggests that functional medicine clinicians are likely to encounter supplement users in their offices, and it also positions them as a key source of information on supplementation for our patients.

For this reason, it is important for clinicians to understand supplements themselves, and not just the science behind their potential benefits. Functional medicine clinicians can also play a role in educating patients about supplement quality and help ensure that patients are obtaining quality products. Since 2021, IFM has provided assets to educate clinicians on the topic of supplementation, including the Dietary Supplement Quality Guide and educational modules about the different aspects of supplement quality.

The first of these modules, Anatomy of a Supplement, presents the history of supplements and their legislative regulation, how supplement manufacturing works, and how to understand a dietary supplement label, while the second and third modules outline the potential issues with supplement quality and how to determine that a particular supplement or brand is of the highest quality.

These resources were produced by IFM partner Emerson Ecologics: A Fullscript Company, a trusted partner organization with expertise in the area of supplement education, and are available to IFM members, who can find them in the Membership Resource Center on the IFM website.

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  1. Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). 2021 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements. Published October 21, 2021. Accessed June 28, 2022.