Attention all vitamin hoarders!
It’s that time of the year again when the birds chirp, flowers bloom, and your supplement cabinet starts to resemble a hoarder’s stash. Get ready to face the music, because spring has finally arrived and it’s high time to declutter your supplement cabinet.
Don’t worry, though, because you’re not alone.
It’s easy to get carried away when buying vitamins and supplements; we all tend to think that each new purchase will be the one that magically fixes our problems. But if we’re honest with ourselves — and we always are here in Woodstock World — half the time we forget what these supplements are supposed to do.
The other half of the time, we forget we forget they exist altogether.
Hanging on to musty minerals and expired supplements is pretty gross, but it doesn’t have to be. We asked our founder and resident medical myth-buster, Dr. Neal Smoller, the best way to deep clean supplement cabinets, strategize wellness practices, and hit the ground running this spring.
In this article:
- Understanding vitamin and supplement labels
- Supplement expiration dates
- Potency decline vs. expiration
- Will expired supplements and vitamins hurt you?
- 4 steps for deep cleaning your supplement cabinet
Luckily for all of us, he went full Marie Kondo. Read on to learn how to properly read vitamin labels and play the supplement game to perfection this season.
Understanding Vitamin and Supplement Labels
Ah, yes, the thrilling world of vitamin and supplement labels!
Who doesn’t love deciphering tiny font sizes and arcane ingredient lists, all while trying to decide if the product is even worth the price of admission? It’s like a puzzle where the stakes are your health and wallet – what’s not to like?
Except for the deceptive practices and marketing tactics of the health and wellness industry, that is.
The first step to strategizing your supplement approach is to, believe it or not, understand what your supplements do and how to use them properly. It shouldn’t be a difficult process, but with loose regulations and even looser industry ethics, it gets complicated.
Listen: Multivitamins: Whole Food? More Like Whole Fraud | Wellness Upside Down Podcast Ep. 17
Supplement Expiration Dates: Myth or Must-have?
Do we really need expiration dates on their vitamins and supplements anyway? It’s not like those pills go bad or anything, right?
Vitamins, like foods and memes, can pass their prime in the blink of an eye. Mold and muck aside, though, there’s another reason why expiration dates should be respected and, dare we say, even appreciated.
Expiration dates are not actually required to be on a supplement bottle or even determined by a manufacturer. If that seems a little nuts, it’s because it is. Legally, the manufacturer is only obligated to provide a manufacture date to the consumer, and there’s a big difference.
In order to nail down an expiration date, a supplement manufacturer would have hoop after hoop of tedious and expensive testing to jump through. With no pressing legalities requiring this costly performance, most chose to opt-out.
Basically, if a manufacturer goes through the trouble of determining an expiration date, you’ll want to alley-oop that sucker into the trash when the day comes.
(Except, don’t actually do that, listen to this episode of the Wellness Upside Down podcast for safe medical disposal practices instead.)
Potency Decline vs. Expirations
Boiled down, though, supplement expiration dates are simply a measure of potency. In fact, many manufacturers will arbitrarily assign an expiration date as a result of a cost-benefit analysis.
So, even with expiration dates, it’s not all black and white. Isn’t that just fantastic?
A supplement legally expires when it no longer contains at least 100% of the labeled claim. So, if a supplement says it has 3mg of Melatonin, then it needs to have 3mg of Melatonin right through the expiration date.
This expiration date is actually very strict. Technically, if a product has 99% potency, then it is expired. We can all rest easy knowing that our supplements are legally required to contain at least 100% of what they claim.
To complicate things further, however, companies often put in more than 100% of the labeled claim since it can have more, just not less.
Does that mean it’s bad to take expired supplements? Or is it just pointless?
Will Expired Supplements and Vitamins Hurt You?
Short answer: No. Expired products will not spontaneously morph into something harmful.
When a supplement product decays, it just becomes less effective. It’s that simple — your supplements won’t turn into some kind of mutant monster and attack you in the middle of the night.
With that said, there are other variables to consider. Expiration dates are a measure of potency over time, as we now know, but supplement storage can play into the lifespan of your vitamins as well.
- Storage conditions – Can you guarantee that your medicine cabinet is in a controlled temperature and not in humidity exceeding 40%? Temperature and humidity are the two main things that break down drugs and pharmaceuticals.
- Storage container – Have you moved your supplements into another container? While this is okay, try avoiding having them sit there for more than two weeks or so.
Since expiration date tests are run in ideal storage conditions under controlled temperatures, it’s important to take that into consideration when reading them.
4 Steps for Deep Cleaning Your Supplement Cabinet
We all know the horrors of precariously stacked, mismatched Tupperware collections, but the real danger lurks in our supplement cabinets.
If you’re tired of peeking behind the door and being bombarded by a sea of expired bottles and half-empty containers, it’s time to implement a supplement strategy.
Because, just like a good skincare routine or a workout plan, your supplement routine deserves some TLC, too. Take these 4 easy steps to hear, and you’ll have a beautifully organized cabinet to call home about.
1. Let go.
It hurts, we know. Especially when you’ve spent cold hard cash on valuable vitamins. Was it all for naught?
It was not — pun intended. The first step is letting go, decluttering your space, and making room for the simplified strategy you’re just about to implement.
2. Create a supplement strategy.
If you want to play the game, you’ve got to have a game plan.
According to our whole-picture health approach, built by Dr. Neal after 20 years as a practicing pharmacist, there are 3 tiers to supplements. Organized by priority and evidence, they are:
- Vital 5 – the 5 nutrients most people are low in and almost everyone would benefit from (omega-3, probiotics, bone support, protein, and multivitamins).
- Supplements that you need (allergies, reflux, or any other supplement that would prevent a personal or real health issue).
- Supplements that you want – things that you heard were good.
3. Weed out the flops.
Don’t just add all vitamins you learned about on TikTok or Goop to your cart! Do your research and weed out the suspect supplements.
Even the best, most carefully curated branding can’t compete with genuine quality and effectiveness.
Listen: Supplement Strategy | Wellness Upside Down Podcast Ep. 4
4. Launch your strategy, commit, and get support.
Vitamins and supplements work best when we actually take them. Follow through with the momentum created from your deep cleaning, and commit fully to your supplement strategy.
But first, get in touch with a professional to review your supplement plan.
A Need for a New Standard
Essentially, the supplement industry is the Wild West when it comes to regulating quality. As consumers, we’re left to navigate the misinformation and hype on our own.
It’s confusing, overwhelming, and time-consuming.
It might even feel downright impossible to know if you’ve made the right choice when it comes to stocking — or cleaning out — your supplement cabinet. In order to unlock the real power of supplements, we need tools that break through the double smokescreen of sloppy regulations and slick marketing.
Learn More: The Supplement Quality Standard
So let’s build a supplement strategy for you, together, based on evidence instead of hype. Schedule a free Counterside Consult for all the one-on-one guidance you need to welcome a healthier, more organized you this season.