Soap Scum in your Supplements, Pills?

by Catherine Haug, June 25, 2012

You know what soap scum is – that white gluey stuff that appears in your bathtub, shower stall, kitchen sink and washing machine, especially if you have hard water, and it’s especially hard to wash off these surfaces. It can also leave a thin filmy coating on your hair after shampooing, or your skin after bathing.

But did you know that it is an ingredient in most encapsulated or tablet supplements and prescriptions? The manufacturers of these medications add magnesium or calcium stearate to the medication powders as a lubricant so the powders will pass more readily through the processing machinery. This additive isn’t removed before packing the powders in capsules or pressing them into pills, so remains in the product you buy.

What is magnesium or calcium stearate? Soap scum. What’s the harm? What can you do? Read on.

What’s the harm?

The supplement/medication manufacturers assert it is a harmless additive, but recent studies and investigations indicates otherwise. See Dr. Ron Schmidt: Additives in Supplements and Dr. Mercola: Does Your Supplement Contain this Potentially Hazardous Ingredient? for more detail.

  • Impaired absorption in your gut: You pay good money for your supplements; but if they contain stearates, your money could be going down the toilet drain. Magnesium stearate stimulates your gut to form a biofilm – a ‘sludge’ lining that acts as an effective barrier to the absorption of ALL the nutrients in the food you eat as well as of the supplement/medication itself. Anyone with impaired digestion (such as those with gluten sensitivity and other allergies) is already struggling to absorb the nutrients in food – a struggle that will only get worse from the biofilm.
  • Contamination: The manufacturer’s source of stearate comes from cheap hydrogenated oils such as cottonseed oil, which is likely a GMO product. But whether GMO or not,  this oil tends to have very high levels of pesticide residues.
  • Other potential contaminants in magnesium stearate include calcium hydroxide (slaked lime – very caustic) and Bisphenol-A (BPA) which result from the cleaning of the equipment used to make the mag stearate.

What can you do?

Read labels and limit use of supplements/medications that contain magnesium or calcium stearate. (NOTE: this ingredient is listed in the “Other Ingredients” section). Here are some soap-scum-free suggestions:

  • Most gel-capsules containing oils do not contain magnesium stearate. For example gel caps of flax, fish or cod liver oil, and oil-soluble vitamins like A, E and D.
  • Encapsulated ground herbal formulas are usually soap-scum free. For example, those from Swan Valley Herbs are free of additives of any kind.
  • Choose liquid multi-vitamin and/or liquid mineral supplements, or bulk powders (for example, vitamin C powders).
  • Look for brands that do not use stearates, such as and

Get your nutrition from locally-grown/produced whole foods, obtained from farmers who improve the nutrient quality of their soil through Organic methods, and from ranchers whose livestock are raised in pasture that is grown in top-quality, nutrient-rich soil.

Get mid-day sun exposure, at least 10-15 minutes a day, your best source of natural vitamin D.

Contact the FDA; ask them to ban magnesium/calcium stearate from supplements and prescription meds. While this additive makes the manufacture of these medications more efficient (more profit for the manufacturer), there are other, less harmful ways they can use to ensure the flow of the ingredients through their processing – they just cost more. Here’s the link to Contact the FDA.

Here are 2 more suggestions, that may help. Both of these help remove soap scum in our kitchen, bathroom and laundry, so they may also help in your gut before the mag stearate can stimulate your gut to form a biofilm:

  • Add 1 – 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the glass of water you drink to wash down the medicine. I squeeze the juice of 1 or 2 lemons into a quart jar, then fill the jar with filtered water and drink this throughout the day. I find it refreshing and thirst-quenching, and it has the potential added benefit of removing soap scum from my gut.
  • Take a dilute solution of borax supplementally (yes, that laundry additive). DON’T ingest the borax powder. Instead, you make a dilute solution with water and then take 1 measured tablespoon of that solution in water or juice (or in a smoothie) daily. It has lots of health benefits, but its use is also quite controversial. For more information on how to use it, its benefits, and the controversy,  see Walter Last: The Borax Conspiracy.

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