Book Recs for the Nutritionally-Confused
January 6, 2011 5:32 AM   Subscribe

Book-rec-filter: I'm looking for a book for a friend, who has been a whole list of multivitamins, prescriptions and nutritional supplements for her condition. She is worried about several things: the effectiveness of taking all at once, whether taking them might cancel each other out, and whether the timing of taking these supplements would be an issue. Is there is a book out there that discusses this?

Yes, she has been to doctors and nutritionists, but she lives in a third-world country where doctors, while trained and "specialized", are not necessarily the best nor up-to-date with the latest developments. So she would like to do some extra reading of her own. She has no access to excellent healthcare. (I bring this up in advance because I know that some well-meaning folk will choose to say something like "What does her doctor say?" Hope everyone understands that not everyone in this world has the privilege of first-world medicine)
posted by moiraine to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You may need to elaborate on what her condition is - some medical problems and medications have particular dietary/nutrition issues. It would also be helpful to know if she has access to testing for things like iron levels and similar.
posted by Coobeastie at 5:38 AM on January 6, 2011

Prescription for Nutritional Healing. A doctor and a nutritionist recommend the best food and supplements for a large number of conditions, and also has sections for vitamins etc. that are very informational. No woowoo.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:10 AM on January 6, 2011

Not a book recommendation, but there was a very similar thread two days ago: Is it okay to take all of my vitamin and mineral supplements together, or should I split them up somehow? Lots of good feedback in the comments there, that could be informative for your friend. (Nota bene: the OP of that question does have specific health concerns that affect the recommendations, though many still apply to most people.)
posted by fraula at 6:19 AM on January 6, 2011

There's a website -- it's called

Seriously, your friend needs to know that these "natural" things (hey digitalis is natural, and so is morphine) are mostly ineffective, sometimes dangerous, and very poorly studied for things like interactions with each other or real medicines, not to mention a money drain designed to separate fools from their cash.

Did you see the big echinacea study that just came out? Once again, a long-accepted nostrum proves useless.
posted by spitbull at 6:31 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

I can't vouch for these books, but they seem to be what you're looking for:

The Essential Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interaction Guide

A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions

Herb, Nutrient, and Drug Interactions

And there are several more in this Amazon book search.
posted by amyms at 6:36 AM on January 6, 2011

My suggestion is to be very careful when selecting a book. In the field of nutritional supplements, the idiots, nutjobs, and snake-oil salesmen outnumber the experts by about 12:1. Look for authors with strong credentials who use careful and conservative language. For example: "studies suggest..." or "there is evidence to support..." rather than "x has been proven to..." or "for millennia, people have known...".
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:56 AM on January 6, 2011

Dietary research is exceedingly hard to do accurately, so I'd be surprised if there were many reliable studies, let alone an entire book, on the timing and interaction of nutritional supplements. Findings in this area are routinely negated or reversed. I agree with dephlogisticated about the perils of quackery here. Unless there your friend's condition is associated with a well-established nutritional deficiency or she lives in an area where food supplies are radically limited, I don't think you're going to find much solid support for one supplemental regimen over another.
posted by lakeroon at 8:24 AM on January 6, 2011

Am not looking for advice to change my friend's mind, thank you! (that conversation has been had before).

Looking for helpful book recs, keep em coming!
posted by moiraine at 9:12 AM on January 6, 2011

Two good online sources for information on herbs, nutritional supplements and alternative therapies:

NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Cochrane reviews

Both collect data from numerous medical studies on the safety and efficacy of different treatments, including information on contraindications.

Pharmacology is incredibly complex, so it's hard to recommend a single book, but you can find a great deal of information at these sites if you search.

Also, what is your friend's health condition? I may be able to offer something more specific based on what it is.
posted by abirae at 11:09 AM on January 6, 2011

Dr. Datis Kharrazian's Why do I still have Thyroid symptoms? talks a lot about supplements and how some stimulate the Th1 part of the immune system and some stimulate the Th2.

of particular interest to thyroid patients or those with autoimmune conditions, but the approach maybe of more general interest.
posted by egk at 11:32 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

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