A rolling landscape made entirely of yellow and white pills.


Tips on self-experimenting with nutritional therapy


1. Don’t worry about proving anything to anyone.

If you’re hoping to demonstrate to someone else the validity of nutritional therapy, or prove that your health complaints were not imagined, don’t bother. Save that time and energy and use it on yourself instead.

2. Evaluate a trial not just on how you feel, but on what you find yourself doing.

More than a few times when I assumed a new supplement regimen was having no effect, I later realized I had run twice the number of errands that week, or checked three-year-old items off my to-do list.

3. Evaluate a trial based on how you feel when you stop a supplement, too.

It’s valuable info. You might consider repeating the stop-and-start a few times.

4. A bad reaction to a supplement is also good info.

If vitamin B6 makes your fingers go numb, your vitamin B12 levels might be too low. If zinc makes your sinuses swell up, your vitamin B6 levels might be too low, etc.

5. Remember that your deficiency symptoms might change over time.

Low zinc levels might give you acne now, but next year it just might make you irritable.

6. Heed that feeling that if you take one more supplement you’ll explode or go insane.

It’s your body/brain/liver’s way of saying “enough.” Take a break. (Remember, you gain info from stopping a supplement, too.)

7. Do what you can and don’t worry about it too much.

This advice from one of my acupuncturists has served me well. If you find you can’t tolerate a lot of supplements, if you’re getting nowhere, or if you’re overwhelmed by all the conflicting info or frustrated by the lack of it, join the club. We’re all flying blind, really.

8. Don’t feel pressured to self-track.

By self-tracking I mean choosing a certain number of parameters — e.g., mood, suicidal to ecstatic, or hair loss, none to fistfuls — and assigning a value to each on every day of your experiment. (As distinguished from just writing down your observations so you don’t forget them.) If you don’t feel like doing it, don’t. Whether or not you can illustrate day-to-day progress with a line chart has no bearing on the validity of your experiment. If anyone gives you crap about this, tell them to go back to their Dungeons & Dragons game.

Other reasons not to self-track:

  • If you have a longstanding, distressing health issue, it might be a psychological drain to focus on it every day. Writing down “15 minutes” on a sleep chart every morning for weeks will suck you dry.
  • If you’re experimenting to see what effects a supplement has, you won’t have parameters. What you discover might be completely unexpected.
  • In theory, self-tracking (aka quantified self) apps can be hacked and your data used against you by insurance companies and employers.


This content was first published in September 2013.

Marjorie smiling, wearing an orange shirt.

Marjorie R.

Marjorie is the creator of AvoidingRx.com, a record of her and her guest authors’ experiences with non-prescription health solutions. She is a third-generation nutritional-therapy self-experimenter.

2 thoughts on “Tips on self-experimenting with nutritional therapy”

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I wish I had found your blog sooner. I’m in the process of fighting my way back to wellness, and it is extremely reassuring to know that it is possible to take charge of my health one step at a time. Thank you.


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