I have ended up a cabinet full of bottles of all kinds of supplements! Every time I learn about something new — methylfolate for MTHFR polymorphisms, hydroxycobalamin for MTRR polymorphisms, vitamin A because I don’t convert beta carotene, etc – off I go to order online.
My latest deep-dive into the world of emulsifiers, surfactants, and the intestinal microbiome has me questioning not only the ingredients in my previously “healthy” diet but also the excipients included in all of my supplements. For all the talk on the internet about leaky gut and how good health starts with the microbiome, I had missed the boat on the fact that a lot of medications and supplements contain ingredients designed specifically to increase intestinal permeability. The pharmaceutical industry calls them permeability enhancers and publishes lots of studies on how to loosen ‘tight junctions’. While I understand the necessity for life-changing drugs, I don’t think that I personally need to take a handful of permeability enhancers in the form of vitamin and mineral supplements each day.
While I’m convinced that carboxymethylcellulose (aka croscarmellose sodium, cellulose gum, CMC) is something that probably needs to be eliminated from everyone’s diet, I’m not yet sure about some of the other things in my supplement capsules. For example, I haven’t been able to verify if hydroxypropyl methylcellulose affects the intestinal mucosa in the same deleterious ways that carboxymethylcellulose does. Big words and chemistry was a long time ago… So why do I care? Because hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (aka HPMC, vegetable cellulose, hypromellose, E464) is in the majority of my supplements in the form of vegetarian capsules.
Cleaning out the supplements with cellulose gum, carboxymethylcellulose, croscarmellose, polysorbate 80 (plus a few more excipients that I have reservations about but few studies to back up) left me with an almost empty cabinet.
One way around the extra additives in supplements is to buy the powdered version of the vitamin or mineral and create your own using gelatin capsules (or just mix the powder in some juice). A couple of brands that I’ve used and liked so far are Bulk Supplements and PureBulk.* They can be ordered through online vendors or through their own websites.
It is also a good idea to know what the supplements you take do in your body. Take N-acetylecysteine (NA/C) for example; It is a well known mucolytic (mucous thinner) that is used in studies to cause intestinal inflammation. This study on how injury to the gut mucosal layer causes distant organ failure used NA/C because “a 10% NA/C solution is sufficient to injure the mucus layer by increasing gut permeability and decreasing gut mucosal hydrophobicity”. I’m in no way advising you not to take NA/C as a supplement if it works for you, but do take the time to look at the effects of NA/C plus a surfactant and think about what you are combining together in your supplements.
I will read the labels before I buy another supplement!
Not A Doctor:
Do not take anything here as medical advice. Read, learn, and think for yourself.