If You Take Supplements...
Our bodies are designed to get their nutrients directly from food. When we follow a healthy diet and lifestyle, and we are careful not to damage our bodies with unhealthy fats, toxic levels of protein, contaminants in refined food and factory-farmed meats, high levels of stress, and environmental toxins in personal care and household cleaning products, then we rarely have any need for supplements.
If your diet and lifestyle habits are unhealthy, the solution is to fix the problem and not band-aid it with supplements. We should have little need for supplements unless we have a verified deficiency or a health condition, and when we have healed from that condition, we should then stop taking it.
Are you taking a daily multivitamin simply because you "think" you need it? If you are, you are selling your body short. If you fix your diet to include a variety of healthy foods and nix the pills, not only will this make them completely unnecessary and save you money, but you will be doing your body a favor. Why? Because over 90% of the supplements out there are synthetic. These synthetics can never cut it when it comes to providing your body with the nutrition it needs and do the body more harm than good.
A healthy body requires an understanding of the tools the body needs to stay healthy (namely the right diet and lifestyle habits), rather than a supplement obsession, teaspoons of this powder, or tablespoons of that oil. Buzzwords such as St. Johns wort, Hoodia, CoQ10, EFAs, vitamin C, multivitamins, and scores of other substances are casually tossed around, with dosages varying considerably according to what bottle you read and which expert you talk to.
Most Supplements Are Synthetic Chemicals
The majority of the supplements in health food stores and supermarkets are made of synthetic chemicals that do not belong in your body. These chemicals have been synthesized in a lab and have a very different biological effect on the human body as compared to the same nutrients that are naturally derived from whole foods.
In whole foods, elements such as calcium and magnesium are packaged beautifully in a symphony with thousands of other micronutrients, synergistically working together in what nature designed as a perfect package. We cannot simply extract a specific nutrient from its whole, make a synthetic version, and expect it to have the same impact on the body. It does not.
The vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, macro- and micronutrients are all in their correct proportions for optimum assimilation by our body in a whole food. Nature does NOT isolate chemical constituents because when they have been isolated, they no longer work as well, and are not absorbed as efficiently in the body. This is the reason most multivitamin and mineral supplements have extremely poor absorption rates and do the body little good.
Why Supplements Are Not the Holy Grail
Many people are in a rush to buy the supplement of the month. We enthusiastically believe the outrageous claims of supplement manufacturers (in the absence of any real long-term studies). We pop supplements every day even though we have no idea whether they benefit us or not, and just "assume" they must.
Selling supplements is a billion dollar for-profit industry, with manufacturers routinely making false health claims. Millions fall prey to false advertising and misleading statements that have no truth to them, with sports enthusiasts and those trying to lose weight as the biggest targets.
Taking supplements is a little like groping blind. We experience a health condition and search for a supplement based on internet research, recommendations from a friend, or more often due to flashy and convincing supplement labels. Worse still, many of us take supplements when there is nothing wrong with us for fear we may be deficient, or may become deficient if we don't!
Journal of the American Medical Assoc. Study
Supplements are a tricky subject and the wrong supplements can do more harm than good. Depending on whether they are synthetic or organic, where and how they were manufactured, whether they are from China (most are, including 90% of the US supply of vitamin C), and how much you take over what period of time, you can damage your organs and your health with supplements.
It is also not uncommon for traces of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals to be found in supplements, which then accumulate in the body over time.
Heavy Metal Contamination
Many supplements on the market have been found to contain alarming amounts of heavy metals. Because only a small quantity of supplements that arrive in the US are inspected, many formulations containing heavy metal contaminants end up in the general marketplace
Lead, mercury, and arsenic in Ayurvedic medicinal herbs...
- The prevalence of metals in products manufactured in the US was 21.7%, compared with 19.5% in Indian products.
- Among the metal-containing products, 95% were sold by US websites, and 75% claimed Good Manufacturing Practices.
- All products containing metals exceeded 1 or more standards for acceptable daily intake of toxic metals.
- 1/5 of all Ayurvedic medicines purchased via the Internet contained detectable levels of lead, mercury, or arsenic.(1)
Calcium supplements containing lead...
A Very Poor Food Substitute
Unfortunately, the standard American diet is a highly processed junk diet that happens to be deficient in so many important nutrients that many people are becoming supplement addicts in fear of this deficiency.
With a nation that is getting sicker and fatter, and a healthcare system that is failing miserably in both curing and preventing the steadily rising rates of chronic disease, people instinctively know that something is wrong. They are becoming aware that the answers do not lie with traditional medicine, and in its absence they are left searching for their own answers and cures.
The lack of confidence in traditional doctors has become serious, with patients instructing their own doctors on what medications they want based on popular pharmaceutical ads on TV. Supplements are now commonly thought of as a quick-&-easy alternative to taking medications or changing food and lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, they are not.
As traditional doctors are unfamiliar with many supplements on the marketplace today, patients are left to their own devices to choose which supplement they hope can help them. Often a doctor will recommend taking a daily multivitamin, completely unaware that synthetic vitamins are far inferior nutrients, and that some very common ones have been shown in studies to be unhealthy. Doctors are not supplement specialists.
Popping synthetic supplements has now become part of the health problem, not the solution.
The Problem with Self-Medicating
There are several concerns with taking supplements to self-medicate:
- When we take supplements, we may experience relief from one symptom, but have no idea what other imbalances we are creating. This often happens when we take large quantities of common supplements (or take them over extended periods time).
- Most supplements on the marketplace are synthetic chemicals. They affect the body differently than their natural counterparts do, and when they are isolated instead of within their original whole food, they do not function as they normally would.
- Many commonly used synthetic supplements such as folic acid and vitamin A are toxic to the body, and multiple clinical studies have concluded they can cause serious damage. More disturbingly, doctors and pediatricians recommend folic acid during pregnancy, instead of recommending the natural version of this nutrient (folate) from whole foods.
- Many people unknowingly use supplements to suppress symptoms (such as inflammation) just like drugs do, not realizing this does not address the root cause of the problem. It simply fights the body's natural immune response to heal. Instead of suppressing the symptoms of any condition with a medication or supplement, it is always a far healthier strategy to address the causes of the condition. True health is created from the inside out, not through pills and potions.
- More is not better. In large quantities, some healthy supplements quickly become unhealthy, and some deplete or affect the absorption of other nutrients causing nutritional deficiencies where none existed to begin with.
How & When to Use Supplements
In the world of restoring our body to health naturally, there are three types of nutrients that are an important aid to our recovery which I call the "Triple A" nutrients:
- Anti-cancer (if needed)
Where possible, we always choose these nutrients from whole foods. For example, it is very easy to get all of the vitamin C (antioxidant) and omega-3 essential fatty acids (anti-inflammatory) you need simply by eating the right selection of healthy food choices (in both plant and animal). In a double-whammy, there are foods such as walnuts that are high in both omega-3 AND antioxidants!
The only time we should be even considering taking a supplement is under the following 3 conditions:
For Health Disorders
While you work to restore balance in your body, supplements can be a wonderful and temporary friend in your journey. For long-standing, chronic health conditions, they can be an important part of the recovery process and are definitely preferred over toxic pharmaceutical drugs. But once balance has been restored, if your diet is healthy there should be little need to continue taking the supplements.
There are only a few exceptions when supplements may be required for either short-term or extended periods of time.
During Chronic Stress
Never underestimate the impact chronic and severe stress can have on the body. It depletes the immune system like nothing else can. If you are under severe stress, a high quality multivitamin with ingredients derived from natural food sources (NOT synthetic multivitamins!) is a great idea for the short-term to help give our compromised immune system a boost.
For A Diagnosed Deficiency Requiring a Supplement
No matter how healthy and varied your diet, there are some common deficiencies to be aware of such as vitamin D and vitamin B12. Vitamin D is a great example of a nutrient that millions living in northern climates are deficient in. Vitamin B12 is another common deficiency, especially among vegetarians and vegans who eat a highly processed diet. But before taking these or any other supplements, it is always important to take medical test to see if a deficiency exists and to what degree.
Depending on your diet and your age, a high quality probiotic may be a good idea, and is especially important after taking a course of antibiotics to help repopulate the microflora in your gut.
Need More Information?
To learn more about when and how to use supplements and about common nutritional deficiencies, check out the Body Healer Protocol. There, you will learn practical tips on how to choose high quality supplements that contribute to your health, and how to recognize and avoid the ones that deplete it.
The Body Healer Protocol...
View Sources & References
- (1) Lead, mercury, & arsenic in US & Indian manufactured Ayurvedic medicines sold on the internet. JAMA. 2008;300(8):915-923.
- (2) Lead content of calcium supplements. JAMA. 2000 Sep 20;284(11):1425-9.