Do you recommend supplements to your patients? I do and I always have. I also take supplements. Do they work? Absolutely! Sure. Maybe. Sort of. Do they? I don’t know. 

Seeing a Man About a Horse

My long-time doctor back in West Virginia did not really believe in vitamins or other supplements. At my last physical with him, I presented him with my typical big ol’ bag-o-pills. He looked like I had just handed him a year’s worth of stool samples.

Obviously disgusted, he asked, “Why are you taking all these? You are totally wasting your money!”

Me: “Is there anything in there that could hurt me?”

Dr.: “No, but you are wasting money!”


This guy spends more on hay than I could ever spend on my vitamins and my vitamins don’t need me to shovel out a barn every morning! 

We parted as friends and I truly appreciate the wonderful care he gave my family and me for almost three decades. We love you, Stephen! Oh, and ditch the horse. You’re wasting a lot of money. 

Something Smells Fishy

The tricky part in recommending supplements to our patients is determining how much of which ones. If you don’t watch out, you will soon be recommending 10 times your patient’s body weight in capsules full of sticks, twigs and strange and unusual powdery stuff.

And how much of each substance? I have an optometric friend who is very highly regarded across the country for his research on AMD and supplements. If I called him on Monday and asked how much lutein a patient should take, he might say “10mg, for certain!” If I called him on Friday, he might say “Definitely 100mg!” If this guy doesn’t know, how can I? 

The new trend is to actually sell supplements from your office. Having the fish burps with six different fish oils before I found out what worked for me has led me to believe that some of the high quality in-office products are indeed better choices for the patient. But you can’t just buy a bunch of bottles of pills and expect smiling patients to buy them all up. They will end up expiring on your shelf, or in your own stomach.

 You have to believe in the product enough to take it yourself after you’ve tried it with loyal (if gullible) friends and family; understand why your product is best; be able to explain the benefits to your patients in terms they actually give a crap about. I’ve found that difficult to do unless you actually believe that your 67-year-old ocular rosacea patient will take four strokes off his golf game for every 50mg of turmeric root extract he ingests. If that were true, I’d lower my own score from 170 to 160 based upon my turmeric intake. (I just found out that in golf the LOW score wins. Better late than never).

Crazy Pills

I’ve invented two new supplements: 

• Emesisdine: 400IU per day makes the patient vomit unless they throw their contact lenses away at proper intervals. Note: Some will just carry a bucket and still overwear them to save money. 

• Cannistaff*: Bake it into brownies and give it to your office manager every day. Trust me. Good for glaucoma suspects, too. 

*Check with state optometry board before prescribing. Check with state parole board after prescribing.