"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Friday, November 4, 2011

Baby Step #10: To Supplement or Not To Supplement: That is the Question

Everyone has an opinion. Of course, the ideal is to get all the vitamins and minerals one needs from one’s food, every day.

But the argument is that our food isn’t as nutrient-dense as it was even a hundred years ago. Our produce and grains are grown in depleted soil; our animals are full of synthetic hormones and antibiotics and who-knows-what-else. No one really knows if, even on a 100% organic diet, it is even possible to get the necessary nutrients for good health from food alone.

Then again, just like pharmaceuticals, vitamins are Big Business. Someone stands to gain by convincing you that popping pills (‘natural’ pills, this time…) is the solution to a poor modern food supply.

So- to supplement or not to supplement, that is the question.

Do you have plenty of energy for the things you want to do? Do you sleep well and feel fine once you drag yourself out of bed? Do you bounce back quickly from a bad day? Do you rarely experience cravings for junk food, candy, or coffee? Do you eat a wide variety of foods in as close to their natural state as possible? Do you get sick once a year or less and recover easily? Do your bowels move easily and regularly?

If you said yes to all of the above, then you may not need supplements. The main reason people supplement, and stick with it, is that they feel better with the supplements, and worse when they stop taking them. I, personally, will not go without my high-potency multi-vitamin. I have a (medically confirmed) chronic zinc deficiency, and I could never eat enough green peas to provide the zinc my body needs. So I have no qualms taking it in pill form. If you are against vitamins, and you feel good, that’s wonderful. I hope you are extremely careful to eat a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables, and that you studiously avoid foods that rob your body of vitamins and minerals- caffeine, white sugar, and white flour.

If you answered ‘no’ to several of those questions and suspect that you could be helped by supplements, I suggest that you gather lots of information before buying a single bottle of anything. My most trusted source for supplement facts, what to take, and safe ceilings (maximum amounts) for all different vitamins and minerals, is Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition 4th Editionby Marilyn Shannon. The newest edition also contains safety data on many herbs and other ‘natural’ supplements. It is also the best source for safe supplementation during pregnancy and lactation.

Other resources I have used in designing my own safe, energy and health-promoting supplement regime are:

Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, this book is especially useful for people who are against all synthetic vitamins and want to enhance their health or overcome health issues using only nutrition and herbs. Rosemary Gladstar, depite being one of the most famous herbalists of our time, is very balanced in her approach, never an extremist, and has a lot to say about combining natural and allopathic (mainstream medical) therapies. And her teas and other recipes will give you whole-foods, all-natural solutions at a FRACTION of the price of the “alive” vitamins and supplements on the shelves at the health food store!

Another source I use is Let's Have Healthy Children -please note that a portion of the information in this book is quite out of date. However, there are so many useful suggestions in this book for pregnancy and more, that I hate not to mention it. ****************Just be sure, as with any self-help book, that you cross-reference any nutritional, herbal, or other type of treatment in at least 3 published (i.e. NOT internet-only) sources. (This is, in fact, the herbalist’s rule of thumb- never use a remedy with finding it in at least 3 trustworthy places!)******************

Marilyn Shannon does suggest that supplementing the adult(s) in a household is far more important than supplementing children, provided the children’s diet is high-quality whole foods. I agree. It is very hard to find an all-natural, sugar-free, iron-free vitamin for kids. And if sugar and white flour are mostly avoided, children’s systems tend to absorb nutrition from their food far better than adults’ systems do.

One more note: regular grocery stores and drug stores are no place to buy supplements. The iron in drug-store variety vitamins, and ESPECIALLY in prescription pre-natals, is particularly damaging to the body’s intestinal flora. Most drug store-type vitamins are difficult or impossible to digest. One chiropractor I know suggests that people who feel they can’t afford good-quality health food store vitamins should buy an iron-free multi-vitamin and ***chew the tablets.*** This, at least, helps with their digestion. It’s really gross, though.

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
~J.R.R. Tolkien, "Three Is Company," The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954

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