Supplements - Things We Won’t Carry and Why

Your health is our priority.

Unlike other retailers, when it comes to quality vitamins and supplements, we don’t just talk the talk—we research, take a fine-tooth comb to, and deliberate over each ingredient allowed in the supplements we carry on our shelves. We never take lightly the fact that you’ve trusted us with your health—and that’s why all the supplements we carry go through a rigorous screening process by our quality standards experts. If we won't take it, you won't find it here. In fact, what you won’t find on our shelves is as important as what you will find. We've put together a growing list of the most problematic supplement ingredients, many of which are still commonly found in supplements at other retailers and online—but never here.

Supplement Ingredients We Won’t Carry

There have been sporadic reports of people developing liver or kidney problems after taking chaparral, particularly in capsules. This herb should only be taken internally when under a physician’s supervision.

These plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances that are established to be hepatotoxins (toxins to the liver) in animals. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are present in comfrey have also been shown to be toxic to other tissues as well. There is also evidence that implicates these substances as carcinogens.

We do not carry any form of DHEA. This hormone produced by the adrenal glands has many regulatory functions in the body. These actions are best accomplished when DHEA is naturally produced. There are numerous potential side effects with using supplemental DHEA. For example, it can promote tumor growth, encourage liver toxicity, and disrupt hormonal balance, which can produce a wide range of symptoms including mustaches on women. Self-diagnosis of low DHEA levels and self-prescribed supplementation is inappropriate and can be harmful. A doctor trained in the uses of DHEA should regulate the intake of this supplement. Refer to What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause by Dr. John Lee.

EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid) is a synthetic amino acid used in chelation therapy. This therapy is done by administering repeated doses of EDTA to gradually reduce atherosclerotic plaque and other mineral deposits throughout the cardiovascular system. We feel the use of either should be medically supervised by a trained physician. Lab tests should be done to assess toxic levels and if the EDTA treatments are working. Taking the therapy when not needed may cause bodily damage. Furthermore, EDTA is a mineral chelator and it may remove essential minerals needed for proper nutrition.

Supplementation with germanium, a naturally occurring element, has resulted in kidney, liver and neurologic toxicities.

There are three glycols occasionally added to supplements: Polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol, and propylene glycol alginate. PEG is a product of petroleum gas or dehydration of an alcohol. Studies have shown that implants of large amounts of PEG in rats caused cancer. Ingestion of large oral doses has produced kidney and liver damage. Propylene glycol in large oral doses in animals has been reported to cause central nervous system depression and slight kidney changes. Propylene glycol alginate is similar to propylene glycol but derived from seaweed.

Graviola (Annona muricata) is a plant that is being promoted as having an anticancer effect but at this time there is no research or clinical trials available proving the safety or efficacy of this plant. Graviola contains a plant compound called acetogenin. Acetogenin, although found in small amounts in graviola, is toxic to rapidly divide cells and should be monitored for this effect as chemotherapy is monitored. Additionally, there is some evidence that consumption of the fruit and infusions of graviola is linked to an increased incidence of Parkinson’s. Providing a toxic plant for consumption as a cancer treatment is not the goal of Natural Grocers, instead, we provide products to improve overall function and promote optimal health so the body can heal itself.

This is a pituitary hormone involved in growth and repair of organs and tissues. It is being touted as an anti-aging therapy. However, there have been no studies on oral hGH products. Side effects of supplementing this hormone can include joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, bloating, edema, breast tenderness in men, diabetes, and possibly lead to prostate problems. However, we do carry homeopathic versions by Liddell and Renewal that are safe.

Oxygen, oxidation, and free radicals are essential to health. However, uncontrolled free radicals will lead to physical damage and disease. A common example of damaging oxidation occurs when oxygen combines with the element iron to create iron oxide, better known as rust. If iron supplementation is needed, non-oxidized forms of iron (e.g. fumarate, gluconate, glycinate) are recommended.

We have limited the number of weight loss and energy enhancing products on our shelves that contain ingredients that may be harmful to some individuals, such as kola nut, citrus aurantium extract, pseudoephedrine and guarana (due to high amounts of caffeine).

High dose iodine supplementation is often used to help with an overactive thyroid and may help protect the thyroid gland from the effects of exposure to radioactive iodine. High amounts of iodine may produce adverse reactions such as rashes, itching or lesions on the skin, gastrointestinal symptoms, or hypothyroidism, especially in people with a prior history of thyroid problems.  Because of such potential problems, the use of high dose iodine therapy should be supervised by a doctor.

This hormone is a precursor to DHEA and other hormones. As mentioned above, there are numerous risks involved when supplementing with DHEA. Minimal research exists on pregnenolone’s use in humans. Therefore, we do not feel it is safe to be self-prescribed. The chance of causing hormonal imbalance is high and could result in negative consequences.

This anti-caking agent is used in some dry powdery foods, personal powder products (bath, baby, face, etc), creams, and supplements. Prolonged inhalation of talc (magnesium silicate) can cause lung problems because it is similar in chemical composition to asbestos, a known lung irritant and cancer-causing agent. Talc is not considered food grade by the FDA.

Although some men may benefit from testosterone, the use of any steroid hormone should be supervised by a trained physician. Even bio-identical hormones can be dangerous in excess. Testosterone does not cause prostate cancer, but it does increase the growth rate of cancer that is already there. It is important to not take more than the amount recommended by a physician.

We have encouraged our manufacturers to change their formulations.  However, given some of the formulations, it may not be possible to change the preservative due to molecular interactions. Additionally, it is important to understand that all preservatives can be problematic and have health-associated risks. These risks and problems are necessary, as not preserving a product would result in even bigger problems such as life-threatening bacteria and/or molds.

References available upon request