#278: Can Health Coaches Recommend Supplements?

episode 278 can health coaches recommend supplements - Michelle Leotta smiling

Sooner or later, the topic of supplements is going to come up in your health coaching practice. So why are so many health coaches avoiding having this conversation? In this episode, Michelle shares perspective on what it’s like to discuss supplements and stay within your scope – based on her 13 years in private practice. Learn more about supplements at https://healthcoachpower.com/supplements

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Can Health Coaches Recommend Supplements?

I take a bunch of supplements every day. Do you? For many, they’re an important part of our routine and an extension of (or “supplemental to”) the food in our kitchen.

That’s why it’s natural for the topic of supplements to come up when working as a health coach. We talk about food and different diets, so it makes sense to discuss vitamins, herbs, etc.

However, over the past few years, many health coaches have been hesitant to talk about supplements with their clients. After all, we’re not here to diagnose, prescribe or treat.

There’s fear of going beyond our scope of practice and potentially saying something that may not be safe or appropriate for a client. It’s true that the wrong supplement (or wrong dose!) can be dangerous.

But does that mean avoiding the topic altogether? Heck no.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that health coaches should talk to clients about supplements.

Otherwise, clients may get their information solely from friends, ads on Instagram or choose vitamins at the grocery store based on the product label. (And goodness knows most doctors don’t always have much to share, or the time to do it.)

So, can health coaches recommend supplements?

The short answer is no.

We cannot recommend specific supplements as health coaches. However, we can discuss supplements with clients and guide them in finding what may be right for them. We can provide information about different supplements, their potential benefits, and even help brainstorm a few options.

But ultimately, the decision of what to take should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider, such as a doctor.

Think of it this way…

We don’t tell clients what food to eat or what exercise routine to follow – and we don’t want to tell clients what supplements to take either. Same same.

Here are 3 scenarios where health coaches can discuss supplements without crossing the line into recommending:

One-on-one coaching

When a client asks about a specific supplement or brings up a recommendation from a friend or an advertisement, we can engage them in a conversation. We can ask questions, provide facts, and point them toward reliable sources of information. It’s important to remind them to discuss any supplement with their doctor before starting, for proper dosing and to ensure it won’t interfere with anything else they’re taking.

Group coaching or online courses

In these settings, we can provide general information about supplements related to the topic at hand, such as stress relief or immune support. This content is educational and not personalized to any individual. We can share facts, examples of good brands, and encourage clients to explore further and discuss with their doctor.

Content creation

If you have a blog, newsletter, or podcast, you can publish information about supplements, their benefits, and different options available. This content is publicly available and not personalized to any individual. It can serve as a resource for clients and prospective clients to learn more and start a conversation about their troublesome health issues.

Remember, our role as health coaches is to empower and support our clients in making informed decisions about their health. We can provide information, share resources, and encourage them to seek guidance from licensed medical professionals.

By doing so, we can help navigate the confusing world of supplements and prevent clients from falling prey to misleading marketing tactics.

If you want to learn more about supplement quality, choosing the right brands, and even setting up your own free online dispensary, go to: HealthCoachPower.com/supplements

And always consult your local laws and regulations to ensure you are practicing within your scope as a health coach.

Full transcript:

Hello there, health coaches. You know what? This morning I was rushing. I was trying to get my kids their vitamins before they ran off to the bus stop, and so I yanked a jar out of the cabinet and my entire pillbox came flying out with a week's worth of supplements just scattered across the kitchen. Can you imagine them just rolling around? You got magnesium and fish oil and Vitamin D, you name it. They're just all over the place. I was thinking at least my probiotics were safe in the fridge, and I bet if I know health coaches and I think I do, you probably also have a shelf full of supplements in your house, yes or no? I mean, if not vitamins, maybe it's herbs. Maybe it's your collagen powder. I have that too. If you're here live. Hello. Tell us in the chat, what are some of your go-to supplements?

What would've been rolling all over your kitchen if you dumped your whole pill box this morning? Supplements are a part of my daily routine, right? Yours, and we give them to our kids, and it's an extension of the food in our kitchen. That's why we call them supplements, right? They're supplemental to the food we're eating. So with that, of course, the topic of supplements is going to come up when you are a health coach. We talk about food all the time, different diets, different healthy food items that you could buy at the grocery store. So yeah, vitamins, herbs, et cetera. It's going to be a natural part of any conversation. Supplemental to that, can health coaches recommend supplements? We're going to get to that in just a moment. First, I want to let you know that our much anticipated annual fast track semester will be happening this spring.

If you're interested in getting hands-on support building your business, this is a project based experiential program, and for the very, very first time ever, I'm going to be walking you through a 12 week marketing campaign every step of the way. Fun, right? The wait list is open now at healthcoachpower.com/waitlist. And listen, there's no obligation, but if you're on the wait list, you get best crack at all bonuses, best pricing. So even if you're even just a teensy bit interested in joining us for Fast Track, go put your name on the list. Again, it's healthcoachpower.com/waitlist. Additionally, for the fourth year in a row, we're offering scholarships this year. It is the equity scholarship available to health coaches of marginalized communities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ, and those living with disability. If that's you, please get details and apply at healthcoachpower.com/equity. If that's not you, please help me spread the word to all your health coach friends and networks because the goal here is to bring more diversity to the world of health and wellness.

I want to thank you so much for supporting this effort year after year. We've given away tens of thousands of dollars and scholarships over the past couple years and looking forward to awarding more this year. So again, that is health coach power.com/equity, but today, we're all about supplements. Let's see, Erin's saying she's got magnesium and digestive enzymes and collagen, and Karen's taken vitamin D and calcium and magnesium. We are magnesium loving people, aren't we? When I think back to my 13 years in my private health coaching practice, my clients were always, not even just my clients, my friends, my family, everyone's always asking about vitamins about herbs, things that they hear about in an article or they heard about from a friend. And in some cases I knew a client in my own head I was thinking this person could probably benefit from a certain supplement even if they didn't bring it up.

But these days, I'm hearing from so many of you that you're avoiding talking about supplements with your clients. If you're here live, yes or no, do you have this conversation with your clients? And if no, why not? I think this is a really important topic for us today. I think over the past couple of years, the fear of God has been put into health coaches. We are terrified of going outside our scope of practice because, and these are all true things. The wrong supplement for your client could be dangerous, right? Because there could be interactions with the medications that somebody is taking because we are not here to prescribe or treat unless of course you do have a credential beyond health coach. And I just want to point that out because a lot of health coaches do. We have health coaches who are also rds, who are also nurses or doctors, and then you all can recommend supplements to your heart's content and all the rest.

But assuming that you're a health coach like me, I'd never want to tell someone what supplements to take or what dose to take. Just like I wouldn't tell them exactly what food to eat or exactly how much of it to eat or exactly what exercise routine to do. And that's really my, if you don't take anything else away from today's episode, that's my biggest takeaway for you today. If you think about supplements, just like you think about food or exercise programs, we coach around these things in the same way we talk to clients about their diet, but we don't tell them what to eat. We talk to clients about choosing a movement or exercise practice that they're drawn to. I think health coaches should also be talking about supplements. Not only that we can, but I'm going to go so far as to say that we should because who else can a client turn to for this conversation?

Doctors, in my experience, I don't know about yours, doctors rarely mention supplements, and if they do, it's in passing with very little information or guidance. You really have to be proactive in talking to your doctor, and that means being armed with some information, with some ideas, and you know where people get most of their information? I from ads? Yeah, advertisements popping up in their Instagram feed luring clients to buy those gummy probiotics or some pink hormone balancing pill with 12 mystery herbs or whatever brand has the most compelling label at the grocery store when someone's shopping and they decide maybe I'll pick up some vitamin D. In other words, it's really the wild west. It's not really that different from making food choices or knowing which exercise program somebody might want to follow. Supplements are just another area where our clients are confused, overwhelmed, and easily succumb to marketing, and that's exactly where health coaches come in.

This is where we can really shine and be helpful. Now, by the way, if you would like to learn more about supplement quality and choosing appropriate brands and how to turn supplements into a passive income stream, we have a free event coming up just a few days. You can register at healthcoachpower.com/supplements. And even if you're listening to this after the event is over, we're still going to have information listed for you there. So go to healthcoachpower.com/supplements for today. I want to outline three example scenarios where I have personally talked about supplements as a health coach, and I feel really, really good about all of them. I am going to say regulations on what health coaches can and cannot do varies by location. So please consult your local laws and cross-reference with what I'm sharing today, okay? Scenario number one, and let me know if you've ever been in this situation. I'm working with a private client. They say something like, Hey, my friend said I should be taking X, Y, Z. What do you recommend, Michelle? Anyone ever asked you that? Or they'll say, I saw an ad for X, Y, Z supplement. Do you recommend it? Or they'll say, I'm still having whatever symptoms. What do you recommend for that? Right? They always want to know what we recommend. Now, in any of these cases, I'm never going to answer with a recommendation. We cannot recommend supplements as health coaches, period, but I am going to allow that to open the door to a conversation, ask questions, and allow my client to explore this idea. So I can't recommend anything specifically, but I can ask, well, what do you know about that X, Y, Z supplement? Or would you like more information about X, Y, Z supplement? Or I can share facts. Here is what I know about X, Y, Z supplement. Not telling them to take it or not take it. I'm not telling them how much to take or how often to take it. Just here's what I know about what X, Y, Z supplement can be used for, is known to help with, et cetera. Or here's some information about supplements that you might be interested in, and I can point my client in the right direction.

I can say, talk to your doctor. I can say, not in a dismissive way, We're not going to talk about this. Talk to your doctor, but here's some information that you can bring to your doctor, that you can call your doctor about - arming them with what they need to have a productive conversation with their doctor. I can also say, okay, you're interested in whatever it is, vitamin D, magnesium, okay, here are three or four brands, or here are three or four forms that that supplement comes in so you can compare, look them over and talk to your doctor about it. So I'm never pushing a particular supplement, a particular brand, which I always think is super sketchy because as soon as you're like, oh, you should buy all your supplements from this one, brand. A, not a great idea. B, people see right through that.

They're like, oh, you are only telling me this because you're making money selling that brand. I have always thought that was super sketchy, so I'm never going to be like, oh, you should always buy this brand not recommending anything. Now, even when it comes to buying supplements, you'll get questions like, where should I go? Who should I ask? Allison's saying here, but doctors don't know much about supplements. How can they help? They are within their scope of practice to talk to their patients about supplements and give dosing. We are not, so some doctors are fantastic, others not so much. Same in any profession, but just in terms of guiding people to those who are licensed to help them with such a thing, it has to go to their doctor. If they're looking at a supplement that's going to interact negatively with a medication that they're on, that's something that their doctor has to catch, talk to them about, provide options. That's not your job as a health coach. So really important there.

When clients are going to go buy supplements, and people do this all the time, they just go rogue and it has nothing to do with how they're working with you, but even someone who does not have a health coach can just walk into the grocery store. And so you might have clients who are like, should I be getting stuff from GNC? What about the vitamins at Trader Joe's? What about? And you can say, okay, well what options exist? I might say that to my client, listen, you can buy supplements, you can find this brand or this, whatever it is that we're talking about, you can order it through Instagram. That's such a common one lately. You can find it at the grocery store. Okay, what else? The local natural food store. Yep, that's another option. Amazon, you found it on Amazon, great. That's another option. Hey, and you can also let them know about an online dispensary. We can discuss the pros and cons of all of those options, and the client can choose where to go. I have often shared a link to a particular supplement or a set of supplements, a variety from my online dispensary and said, here's some links so you can check it out, buy them wherever you want. Because again, I never want to say you have to order from me. There's just no integrity in that. Go to the natural food store, talk to your doctor. Get these. If you decide to get these, you can buy them wherever you like. I'm providing these links for your convenience. So that's with one-on-one clients, we can give information. We can be an excellent source of information.

To Allison's point, if the doctors don't really know anything, your clients don't really have anywhere to turn. We can provide peer reviewed research for our clients. That's not something they're probably going to look up on their own. We can be an excellent source of information. We're just never telling them, here's what you should take this much, this many times a day. Nothing like that. Just providing info. Alright, let's say instead of doing one-on-one, you are running a group coaching program or an online course. Does anybody have a group coaching program here or running some kind of course. I've done this in my coaching practice and one of the resources that you can provide, and again, I've done this within a group experience, is a list of supplements related to whatever's going on in that group coaching program. Again, this is simply information. It's by its very nature, not personalized to the individual.

That's important, that's helpful. It's much more general. I can say in this, maybe it's a PDF that I'm giving out some kind of handout. I can say what each supplement is known to help with. I can share a few examples of good quality brands that are available. Now, I remember doing this inside a program that I ran for women dealing with chronic stress. Alright, pop quiz you guys. Can you guess which vitamins and herbs made the list of supplements that can be supportive of stress relief? So you have a topic for your program, for your coaching program, for your online course, and you can say, here are supplements that are known to be helpful with that topic. You're not saying take this. You're not saying, okay, everyone's going to take two of these a day. Nothing like that. We are just giving examples of supplements that are related to this topic.

All right, what do we see here? Ashwagandha, A couple of you said that that was definitely on my list. What about our favorite magnesium from earlier, right? Nature's chill pill and a few more. But the point is, my group clients or my online course clients, they can choose to explore further. I have provided information. They can check it out, they can take it, they can leave it, they can talk to their doctor. And at the bottom of a list like that, I always, always make a note to discuss with your doctor before taking any supplements. So we've got one-on-one coaching. We've got group coaching, which is it's always a safer bet for those of you concerned about scope of practice and what you're allowed to do in one state or another. Again, check with your local state laws, but practicing within a group environment immediately makes it so you are not speaking to any particular individual just by the nature of the group.

So that is always a safer bet. And I want to talk about a final example of how health coaches can talk about supplements all day long. And this has nothing to do with clients that are paying you, at least not right now. This has to do with content that you're creating. So let's say that you have a blog or you have a newsletter or you have a podcast and all of these mediums, we are providing information. We are providing inspiration, and this is a place where prospective clients can find us, see what we're all about. It helps people get to know us. And you could be creating something like let's say you have a blog, you could have a blog post. In fact, I have on my old health coaching website, I have a blog post. It's like supplements for stress relief, very, very similar to what I gave my clients in the group program.

But now think of it as an article. So you can publish information where you're sharing again, more about these vitamins, more about these herbs, and it's something that anybody can read. It's not prescriptive in any way, shape or form. Just like you might publish a recipe or talk about whatever the benefits of flax seed, it's not personalized to anybody in particular. Again, there can be a note to discuss with your doctor. Of course, this becomes a way to open the conversation with one of your blog readers or many of your blog readers who might want become a client, get more help with this particular area of their health. And it can also be a resource that I share when somebody asks about supplements. So if you're in a one-on-one conversation with a client, you never want to be misconstrued as telling them what to do.

But by pointing them at that blog post, oh, hey, I actually have a blog post all about this, sharing that blog post with them. Again, that is information meant for the masses. It is in no way personalized to that person. And I feel like that's a good cushion, a nice workaround. So there's no way that that client thinks you are telling them to take that magnesium. And as a bonus, imagine that that blog post or that newsletter or your podcast episode included links that make it very, very easy for the reader to find various brands, and then they compare them side by side. So can a health coach recommend supplements? Do it with me, shake your head. No, we're not recommending unless you have other credentials, of course, that allow you to do that. But health coaches can discuss supplements and coach a client around finding what's right for them.

Yes, we can do that. Can we arm individuals with information to take to their doctor because that is the person who is licensed to talk to 'em about these things? Yes. Can we give them options that they previously hadn't known about? For example, I remember one of my clients wanting to take one of those mystery Herb Blends products that are way overpriced because it had ashwagandha in it and they had heard about ashwagandha. It also had a bunch of other stuff in it. So I let them know, if you're interested in ashwagandha, did you know you can buy it separately? Did you know you can get it in these different forms? And look at, there's such a price difference and presumably a quality difference depending where you're ordering it from. So we can do that. Can we give them again, just options and open their minds to ideas that they hadn't had before?

If they're getting all their information from an Instagram ad, we got a lot of work to do, even where they're buying their supplements from, they probably don't know that it matters where they get their supplements, they probably don't know that what they're ordering off Amazon may not be great quality. So yes to all of that. We have so much work to do here. Ellen says, what happens when the conventional physicians honestly don't know even interactions or side effects? There are plenty of clients who don't go to functional medicine, physicians who do know, and it's frustrating. This is inconvenient. And also, remember, that's why you're pointing them at their doctor because it's their responsibility to catch something like that. It is not yours. You don't want to get involved with, oh, tell me your medications. Oh, this does this, or You should take this, or Don't take these together.

Don't get involved with any of that, right? That is the responsibility of their prescribing physician. And if that prescribing physician stinks, that's a different problem. But you don't want it to be your problem. You want it to be that person's problem. That's where the line has to be just to protect yourself. Now, again, you can always provide information. So if you have something that you can share with your client that shows possible drug interactions, great. Share the information. Ask them if they would like to know more about it. Yes, we can always provide information, but just be careful with that line. Their doctor is there for a reason, and I know doctors are not what we want them to be like 70, 80, 90% of the time, but we can only fix so much, right? We can only arm our clients with what they need in order to go find the answers.

And if they say, my doctor doesn't know, my doctor just shrugged the shoulders at me. Hey, what do you think about getting another doctor? Have you thought about looking for a doctor who listens? Have you thought about looking for a doctor who does know about these things? Right? That could be a really interesting conversation to have as well. Now, again, if you would like to learn more for yourself and your own pill box that hopefully doesn't go rolling across your kitchen floor, and also for your clients and also for everybody in your life, you'd like to learn more about supplement quality and choosing the right brands for various supplements, and even having your own entirely free online dispensary where get this, you can earn up to 35% of each sale or just save on your own purchases. That's what I do. I want you to go to healthcoachpower.com/supplements, and hopefully we'll see many of you at our live event in just a few days where we can continue talking about this. Thank you so much for joining me today. Everybody go put your pills somewhere safe so you don't lose them on the kitchen floor like I did, and I'll see you next week. Take care.