The most common mistakes people make taking supplements

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 27 July 2021

In my seventeen years of practice I have seen a lot of the same health problems over and over again. I have also seen the same mistakes people make over and over again while trying to reach to their health goals.

One area this shows up frequently is in supplementation. To set yourself up for success, and get the most out of your supplements, make sure you are avoid these common mistakes:

1. Choosing poor quality supplements

When companies make their supplements they need to buy their raw ingredients from a supplier. So raw ingredients are delivered to different companies and they have their own (or should have) quality control for testing. This ensures ingredients meet their standards. Companies with high standards for quality control will reject ingredients that don't make the cut.

But those raw ingredients don't just disappear. Companies that make supplements cheap buy up these rejected raw ingredients and pass on the low cost to the consumer. Think Costco, Walmart, and drug store chains.

That is why many naturopathic doctors use companies that distribute professional quality lines. We need to be able to trust the quality of the ingredients that we are giving our patients. I know for myself if I am not getting the outcome I want for my patients I don't want to be questioning whether or not it's the quality of the supplement that is the problem.

Here's a simple example. A patient needs fish oil. I want to use a company that has a high standard for screening out any heavy metals or other fat-soluble toxins that might be contaminating the oil.

2. Underdosing

When using supplements to treat disease you will only be effective at doing this if you are taking a therapeutic dose. That means if you need 400 mg of berberine to lower cholesterol you need to take 400 mg to lower cholesterol, not 200mg.

If I had a dollar for the number of times a patient was only taking only one capsule of something rather than the prescribed amount of two (or more) I think I might be retired by now.

It's very tempting to only take one capsule versus the prescribed amount because that is usually what you do with prescription drugs, the bottle will last longer, and it will cost you less.

But will it cost you less?

Consider the hidden cost when it takes you six months to feel better instead of three.

Consider the hidden cost of never reaching a therapeutic dose and thinking the supplement is not helping you but in reality you just weren't taking the right dose.

3. Treating symptoms not systems

With modern medicine we have been ingrained with the idea that there is a pill for every ill. And if you want to do things naturally, well just take the "green" equivalent for every ill.

This leads to a patient with a bag full of supplements who is treating symptoms and not systems.

The way I think about it is that all of your symptoms are like leaves on a tree. So we could go ahead and try and treat every single leaf OR we could look at the big branches, the systems that are out of balance, and treat those. Once you start treating branches all the leaves attached will get better as a natural consequence.

4. Using a supplement to compensate for something a supplement can't fix

Often we need supplements, or drugs in some cases, as a stop gap measure to buy us some time while we work on the underlying causes of disease. Too often what can happen is we use a supplement (or a drug) to avoid fixing the things with our lifestyle we know deep down we need to work on.

Here's a simple example. A young adult female who loves sugar, has a high carb diet, and doesn't eat vegetables is getting chronic urinary tract infections. As soon as one clears up with antibiotics within weeks it feels like she has another one. So her doctor has recommended daily antibiotic use for two months. Alternatively her naturopathic doctor as recommended re-building her microbiome with good bacteria and taking D-mannose powder daily.

But the underlying cause of her chronic infections is her crappy diet.

Lifestyle changes are what I like to refer to as the heavy lifting. It's not for everyone. It takes some commitment, some discomfort, and getting outside your comfort zone.

Here's a link to an article I wrote previously to help you start thinking about those lifestyle changes that require some heavy lifting: 10 Things a Supplement Won't Fix

Now I would love to hear from you! Which mistake are you most likely to make? Leave a comment below and I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

8 Replies to “The most common mistakes people make taking supplements”

Brenda Reid

You are SO on the money and talking to my heart…were you TRYING to make eye contact!?!? LOL

I learned so much from you, and then I did my best to follow but some things are just SO much easier … and therein lies my deep-dive into why I self-sabotage so much. Work in progress indeed!

Pat Dockrill

Thank you Michele. I look forward to your weekly publications.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Yes, I am Brenda…lol!

Jane Prudhomme

I hear you, we’re you looking at me too? Lol very informative as usual. Thank you Michelle.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Lol…you know it 🙂 You’re welcome Jane.


I can relate to getting comfortable thinking that things are under control while taking supplements, and forgetting the harder work (lifestyle changes) so I don’t have to take supplements long term. It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking “no big deal if I cheat today or slack off, the supplements will take care of that.”

Mandy Allen

so what brand of supplements do you recommend?

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

I use professional product lines that are designed for practitioner use only. Some companies include Metagenics, Orthomolecular products, Designs for Health, VitaAid, and Cytomatrix.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Do you like these posts? Sign up for Dr. Durkin's Apple a Day ....

Apple A Day is where you can find small, digestible, practical action steps to help you feel your best, one apple at a time.

Apple a Day

Quinte Naturopathic Centre

173 Church Street

Belleville, ON K8N 3C1


Hours of Operation:

Monday 10am - 7pm

Tuesday 9am - 6pm

Wednesday 9am - 6pm

Thursday 9am - 6pm

Friday 9am - 2pm


NOTE: Our building is not wheelchair accessible