While in spring cleaning mode, why not consider cleaning out that bin, or shelf, or drawer full of all those supplements! Who here is a victim of buying all kinds of supplements or protein powders and then not using them, or they expire? (This girl is raising her hand high!). I know we are all prone to look into natural ways to fight nutrient deficiencies or balance out our immune systems, but sometimes we go a little overboard. I have done some research and found safe ways to dispose of your supplements, and ways to determine whether some that you have, or want to purchase, are safe and reliable!
A little bit about supplements. Since they are not fully regulated by the FDA, labels are inconsistent and do not always contain the information needed to know what all the ingredients are, what their expiration dates are or how to properly dispose of them. Do know that the best buy dates on these bottles typically refer to potency levels of the supplements and doesn’t necessarily mean they go “bad”, which is the same for most over-the-counter drugs and prescriptions as well. However, certain products do have a shelf life and will lose their viability over the course of time so do not feel obligated to hold onto something if you’re thinking “maybe I’ll use this in the future” and have had it for over a year! Majority of supplements only have a shelf life of a few months to a year.
Also take into consideration the types of supplements you have on hand. Think probiotics, for example, which contain bacteria. If these are left out over time they could possibly grow mold. Other things to look out for are unusual odors, a bad taste, or if they’ve changed colors in any way. These are all signs that you should get rid of the supplements. Though most wouldn’t cause any harm if you were to start taking them again, you wouldn’t necessarily be getting the desired results from them.
First, let’s focus on cleaning out the supplements we have and want to get rid of. There are a few ways to do this safely so that you are not harming the environment and not creating hazardous waste. Let me just be clear right away, never, ever, flush your supplements or any medicines down the toilet! That is not safe disposal. But, according to fullscript, you can get rid of most of your supplements right at home with an easy 4 step process:
- Remove the supplements from their original containers.
- Mix the supplements with some kind of natural component like dirt, coffee grounds, or cat litter. Do not crush the tablets or capsules.
- Place the mixture into a compostable bag, mason jar, or empty can to prevent the contents from spilling out and others from ingesting them.
- Throw away the supplement mixture and recycle the original containers.
The EPA also gives similar recommendations here. Another way to properly dispose of your supplements are during drug take back days locally put on by the FDA. A lot of pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens will also take back your supplements and dispose of them properly and safely.
When you’re in need of some new supplements or powders, there are a variety of sources you can use that ensure you are getting quality products. One place I always like to check for a variety of different household items and specifically protein powders is the Clean Label Project. They offer reports on the best and worst products after testing for a multitude of protein powders, dog food, baby food and more.
Because supplements are not regulated in a consistent fashion, it is important to be able to tell what you are buying is verified and contains the products it claims on the label. There are many third party companies that test the validity of these supplements. In order to search for those things, I have turned to sources like the U.S. Pharmacopeia and Consumer Lab. Consumer reports put out a guide to help you choose supplements wisely that shows what some of these third party companies look for to certify specific supplement brands and breaks it down for you in a nice chart. U.S. Pharmacopeia also provides a source to allow you to purchase quality supplements and lists different brands that have been verified by them specifically.
Another source is the Dietary Supplement Label Database; however, this is going specifically by what is on the label. And, as we know, not everything on the label is always accurate so use this with caution. It can be used as a good starting point to find out which supplement brands to dive deeper into. Though scary, you can also look at a list provided by the FDA of supplements that are listed as “tainted” which have hidden ingredients used for other purposes (warning: a lot are inappropriately named and for inappropriate purposes).
Overall, when looking to purchase new supplements, do your research. You want to ensure you are purchasing products with quality ingredients (especially because this stuff usually isn’t cheap) and supplements that are safe for our bodies and the environment. Take the time to look into what you are putting into your body as well as disposing of supplements properly. All of these things will help our autoimmunity by ensuring we are not taking in toxins and instead building our fragile immune systems, all while helping the environment. So, Happy Cleaning ladies!