When Good Pills Go Bad


I really like buying nutritional supplements. In fact I find the entire naturopathic shopping process to be downright riveting! I'll be out drinking sparkling ginger mint juleps with friends, when a boo will casually tell me, "Pumpkin seed extract is changing my life! My magnesium levels are finally where they should be!" Magnesium? Oh God! What foods have magnesium? Am I already taking something with magnesium in it? Will my lack of focus on this element become my undoing? Eugh! Cue Irish exit! Commence emergency magnesium research!

Now, you may think at this point in your life that you are pretty good at Google-ing. Madam, I can assure you that you are no match for me. Did you skim that research paper by a university in southern Thailand about kelp extracts' promising results in hair growth? I did. Minimal side-effects seen in rats in a study from 1974. Send it to my veins! A pre-cursor to serotonin? Why stop at 5000mg?? If you can find me a blog post about a culture who has been consuming [INSERT PLANT HERE] for thousands of years and ended up with low blood pressure and luminous heads of hair, you have my attention!

But don't get me wrong, I'm not a pill head or anything. In fact, I've cut my routine down to around three supplements taken with any regularity, and I think they work! But if they don't, at least I get to feel proactive about my health. Which is all well and good, but this post is about when self-medicating blows up in your face (...or stomach).

So about seven years ago, an off-again-off-again girlfriend told me she was thinking about starting the Master Cleanse. If you aren't familiar, the premise of the Master Cleanse is that you stop eating food and start drinking lemon water (along with cayenne, maple syrup, salt water, and a laxative tea). Truly an evolution in human consumption and dietary thought! As a scientific person (I took AP Biology in high school), I deemed the entire premise unfit for Mick-sumption... But the cayenne part piqued my interest! Which quickly led to some Yahoo-ing (remember, this was seven years ago) and an eventual purchase of a large bottle of cayenne pepper pills. High five!

I'll just cut to the chase and tell you that if you are going to take cayenne pills, you need to eat first. But the good news is that if you are wondering what happens when you don't, I recorded my experience in my LiveJournal:

Just took some cayenne pills!
I feel healthier already!
Type type type type click type click
Click type type type click...(pause)
Hmmm, getting a little toasty in here!
Click click click type type type
I'm sweating. Jeez! I think I need to lie down.
Yikes! It tastes like burning.

Since this is the abridged version, I'll just tell you that those exclamation points went on for two more hours of burning pain.

I'm hopeful that relaying my experience here can save at least one person the trouble of melting their stomach. To put on my "ITG Dad" hat for a moment (I'm neither a father nor a hat-wearer), sometimes it really is best to talk to a medical professional about the diet you're trying, the oil you're pulling, or the pill you're swallowing. *nods head* *takes off hat*

With that out of the way, let's continue the tradition of non-healthcare professionals talking about medical issues on the internet*! Have you had a cayenne-tastrophe? A webMD inspired oil-lergic reaction? DO TELL! I'll be watching the comments all day!

*Consult your primary care physician before following any medical advice found below (or above). Additionally, if a commenter identifies themselves as a doctor, assume they are at best a Spin Doctor and at worst a 13-year-old.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • ITGLacey

    I challenge you to a Google duel, sirrah! LAPTOPS AT DAWN

    • mickharper

      Is this because I complained that no one was commenting?

      • ITGLacey

        No, it is because you think you're a better Googler than I am & that mortally offends me. I was born Googling, bro.

        • mickharper

          You were born Lycos-ing.

          • ITGLacey

            Dammit, Harper

          • http://suddengenesis.blogspot.com/ Adam’s Eye

            Excite-ment at this Alta Vista!
            Here MySpace is blessed by my sista
            My Tiger's Direct
            While Infoseek's wrecked
            By Darwin Awards who have dissed-a

    • llama

      i literally scrolled down just to comment "GOOGLE CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!! BRING THE LAPTOPS!"

  • Clone7

    Cayenne pills? Wimp! Try BhutJolokia pills! :-)

    • mickharper

      here is a video of when i did that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZstObB4RVsQ

    • Mohrorless

      The last time I used cayenne pills without eating this was the result:

      • Clone7

        (grin) I have a couple of good chili stories that I'll have to share on the Tank someday. They'll take a bit of creative editing to get them by CWHNE though.

  • http://www.o2birish.com O2BIrish

    Need a cleansing? Please read this epistle.
    You'll feel better, as clean as a whistle.
    Cayenne, maple and tea -
    You be fresh as can be.
    So if nothing else works, I'll bet this'll!

    • mickharper

      Don't mean to be rude,
      but some people need food
      and just can't get by on the tea.
      When you hit day three with no calories
      I think we'll agree to agree.

      • http://suddengenesis.blogspot.com/ Adam’s Eye

        Biology's sure overrated
        They say that our needs it has fated
        But one thing's for sure
        I cannot stress more
        This diet was made to be hated

  • Sienna

    Not really a mishap, but I've been taking two biotin tablets, 5000 mg each for almost five months with little to no difference in my hair (bad haircut with weird short layers, long story). They're still in my "hair growth palooza" vitamin cocktail, though. Anyone have any hair supplement recommendations?

    • mickharper

      Biotin actually worked pretty well for me in one of those Hair, Skin, & Nails combo pills! A number of people on this site have also said good things about Viviscal.

      • Sienna

        Yeah, I probably need to replace the biotin with one of those combo pills...trial and error, trial and error.

    • Kate

      I started taking Phyto Hair & Nails when I decided to grow out my pixie cut and would definitely recommend it - I've been growing it out since the beginning of December and now it's probably a month out of being a chin-length bob. Plus when I went in for a quick maintenance trim last week the woman who cut my hair said it feels & looks really healthy (not something I usually hear) so I'm happy with the results.

      • Sienna

        I've heard of this one before, too! It sounds good, maybe I'll pick it up later this week. Do you take one or two tablets daily?

        • Kate

          two every morning (I take them with food, but I don't know that you need to)

      • Olivia

        Agreed! I was only able to afford one bottle (thanks to a gift card to sephora), but it gave me enough of a boost to zoom from that point where a pixie is gamine and chic to a bob, without lingering too long in that weird, shaggy place in between.

        • Kate

          Ugh I so don't miss the weird shaggy in-between - I loved having a pixie and would encourage anyone considering it to definitely try it, but the grow-out is not for the faint of heart. So many bobby pins!

    • charlopher

      Biotin did hardly anything for my nails & hair but did make me break out in big, cystic acne on my forehead, which I never get. I had no idea what was causing it and then I googled "biotin acne" and stopped taking it.

  • M.

    My favorite part: "As a scientific person (I took AP Biology in high school)..."
    You're doing everything right.

  • Mohrorless

    HA! I have googled google!

    • Big Brother

      Who googles the googlers? Who comments the commenters? And who trolls the trolls? In this world of constant threat, Big Brother must keep ever vigilant for the next pill that may bloom into a threat to Citizens of good intent.

  • Mady

    Having completed AP Biology, you're likely still leaps and bounds ahead of a classmate of mine from high school who didn't make it quite so far in the sciences, but recently finished some sort of 1- (?possibly 2-) year natural health course and is now dispensing health advice.

    • mickharper

      RNA, mitosis, meiosis, trisomy, respiration, and... I'm done.

      • Mady

        still leaps and bounds ahead of "natural supplements aren't chemicals!"

  • Gabriel Bedoya

    Hey Miguel!! I never heard that story seven years ago! Is Katie your off again gf?? Miss you. Let's hang soon.

    • mickharper


      • Gabriel Bedoya

        No to Katie? Or no to hanging?????

  • Andi

    i fell victim to the cayanne pepper pills, orange juice and coffee breakfast one morning - thought i was dying - but lucky enough to think to douse the fire in my belly with some crackers...the moment is burned into my memory.

    • mickharper

      eating food? interesting! my solution was to moan for two hours.

  • Jenna


  • Allie

    I don't take supplements because I am far too forgetful. I mean, overshare here but I switched to an IUD because I kept forgetting to take my birth control pills even with an alarm on my phone.

    That being said, I really love whenever you write articles, Mick. The fragrance one was great. Please do it more

    • mickharper

      Thanks so much! I'll try!

    • Courtney

      I agree. If Mick wrote a book, I would totally buy it and read it and not just download it off torrents.

      • mickharper

        People torrent books?



    • mickharper


    • Louise

      This wins everything. Well done.

  • http://brushandbullet.com/ Teresa

    Not supplements-related but friends of mine drank ten shots of espresso each for their uni magazine feature and I'm pretty sure they broke a toilet.

    • http://www.irememberjfk.com Trappp

      Have you ever read the Amazon reviews for sugar-free Gummy Bears? The funniest dialog I've seen on the webs in the lasst year. :-D

  • Balsam Elajouz

    I am very weary about supplements ever since reading that, especially in the US, there is little to no regulation on over the counter supplements. They could literally be selling a capsule with nothing of nutritional importance within. A study showed that only 3 out of 10 otc supplements actually contained the substance advertised. There is very little quality control...so I opt to get my nutrition from my food and try to have a varied diet.

  • Balsam Elajouz
  • http://byalicexo.wordpress.com/ Alice

    really great piece!

  • ITGLacey

    Not censored—just waitlisted so we get a good balance of Tank & regular commenters, ya see

  • scab

    yall need to read up about psyllium husk

  • megm115

    I do not know why or how it works, and of course can't even remember which google rabbit hole I was diving headfirst into whence I stumbled upon this information, but I've been taking evening primrose oil because not only is it supposedly good for your skin, but it's said to have the amazing property of making females less grumpy/crampy/generally horrible leading up to and during lady times. Aside from leaving a slightly oily coating in the back of my throat, I am seriously into it. This has GOT to be some form of wishful-thinking-placebo effect, but I feel like since taking it I am about 50% less irritable ALL the time. It has even seemed to relax my trendy resting bitchface. Is this possible?. And my skin truly does look plumper and more hydrated - that's not imagined. I've been trying to convince a boy to take it and report on whether they experience the same miracles, or if you must be a female to reap the benefits. Any volunteers? As far as I can tell, it's pretty safe and doesn't have any major drug/diet interactions to note.

    • http://brushandbullet.com/ Teresa

      something something essential fatty acids = good

    • scin

      it can possibly lower the seizure threshold for people who are prone to that though, sadly

  • Alison

    I've gotten most of my supplement inspiration (it's a thing) from itg, followed by massive googling. My favorite discovery from itg was silica (hello awesome skin), with bilberry (bright eyes) trailing right behind.

    Has anyone tried a vitamin B complex capsule? You'll know if you have- they have that vitamin-y smell x 100. I keep them in the back of my closet in a zip loc bag- and my bedroom still smells like a gnc. They do give you nice sustained energy, though, and they're one of the few things that has helped me with a hangover.

    • mickharper

      maybe i don't read the site enough cause i havent even heard of bilberry! i used to take these sublingual b-12 dealies that tasted delicious. But now... I just drink more coffee.

  • Brittany

    ugh AP biology. I just took that exam yesterday.

    I take biotin but its more of like a 'internet people say this works but I have no clue if it's actually doing anything' situation.

    By the way, please write more! You make stomach-related catastrophes amusing!

    • mickharper

      thank you for stomaching!

    • Erica Rae Deutsch

      i swear that biotin and folic acid have made my hair grow, but it could be different for other people!

  • Jin


  • Olivia

    I'm up to six supplements a day, and I'm not entirely sure it's doing anything other than turning my pee an aggressive shade of yellow first thing in the morning and giving me a false sense of supplement superiority. Sigh. Someday I'm going to die of kidney failure and the doctors are going to be like "it was all the vitamins."
    P.S. Mick, you produce all of the laughter. Please write more.

  • Katrina

    I just learned that my neighborhood was designated as the most radioactive place in NYC - Ridgewood, Queens. About a mile away is a thorium-tainted auto body shop, newly branded a Superfund site by the EPA. I have already been taking sea buckthorn berry oil, which is supposed to be full of antioxidants, but does anyone else have any more suggestions?

    • http://www.jacquelinefonte.com/ Jacqueline Fonte

      suggestion: leave ridgewood? :)

      • Katrina

        I grew up here. I have a life here. My family is here, my love is here, and so is his family. This is not Chernobyl-level radiation where people have to be displaced from their homes. This is rather similar to the Gowanus Canal, and that didn't even stop the area from gentrifying. I don't know if you've spent time in New York at all, but it's currently going through an affordable housing crisis, and the homeless rate has risen 13% this past year, so it's not as simple as moving. I feel lucky to be a local in an up-and-coming hood; I don't want to move, I'm just looking for a supplement!

      • Katrina

        I grew up here. I have a life here. My family is here, my love is here, and so is his family. This is not Chernobyl-level radiation where people have to be displaced from their homes. This is rather similar to the Gowanus Canal, and that didn't even stop the area from gentrifying. I feel lucky to be a local in an up-and-coming hood; I don't want to move, I'm just looking for a supplement!

    • softy

      i put a shot of acai liquid concentrate into my smoothies every day.


  • fooddoctor

    I am a doctor... a PhD type in Nutritional Sciences... and that is the honest truth! I advise you all to NOT Google these things and instead talk to a Resisted Dietitian. These supplements are not always safe, often just make vitamin/mineral rich pee, and are a complete waste of money!

    • mickharper

      Hey there! If you want to shoot me an email: mick at intothegloss.com -- we would love to get in touch!

  • Layla Corcoran

    I take biotin and silica for hair/skin, magnesium powder mixed in water for calming/stress, omega 3s for inflammation, vitamin d (i'm chronically low), and vitamin b12 for energy. I take the b12 one from Trader Joes that dissolves in your mouth. Sometimes it is like a shot of caffeine without the caffeine effects.

  • charlopher

    Another supplement I started taking in the past few months which has DRAMATICALLY changed my skin (especially hormonal acne around my chin) is called Estro Block. I found it through a natural beauty blog called The Love Vitamin, and she uses/used it. The vitamin is DIM, which is supposedly equivalent to like a pound of broccoli. It stabilizes the three types of estrogen in your body so that nothing goes out of whack. It is also supposed to help with weight loss, maybe? But I haven't found that to be the case/not why I took it. It has maybe made my periods a bit more erratic, but I don't care because the black heads and clogged pores I used to have weekly have vanished! Read the reviews yourself. And no, I am in no way affiliated with Estro Block, just can't stop extolling the wonders of this supplement.