In the world of alternative health there are millions of potions, lotions, herbal remedies, vitamins and supplements that all claim they will help you achieve ‘optimal’ health, but how can you separate the good from the bad and do we really need these supplements at all? Well, unfortunately there is not one simple answer and I am in know way qualified to give medical advice, but here is what I have discovered/learnt/know so far:
1. Many doctors will tell you that vitamins and supplements are dangerous. It still seems crazy to me that doctors believe these supplements actually pose a health risk, although you can have too much of a good thing, even vitamins. Ideally in a perfect world we would get all the vitamins and minerals we need from a balanced diet, but of course that is rarely possible nowadays, especially as a lot of the soil that our fruit and veg are grown in is nutrient-deprived so the food never gets all the nutrients in the first place. Then we cook, process, spray and modify all of these natural foods and what we are left with is something that simply cannot satisfy our nutrient needs. Anyway, back to the doctors, many claims come out about the potential risks of taking vitamins and supplements, and of course you must consider the possibility of vitamins and supplements not being right for you, but I am sure that prescription medication comes with far more side effects, deaths and illness than any vitamin supplement will ever give you. For more on this prescription medication vs. vitamins I would strongly recommend watching Food Matters, as it is explained in great detail through interviews with many experts.
2. There are lots of dodgy operators in the vitamin and supplements industry. As much as I like to believe that all people are honest and good and would only sell products that can actually live up to their claims, this is not the case. There are many products out there which are full of some not-so-nice chemicals, preservatives and other unnatural things, especially when it comes to protein and diet powders, shakes, bars and meal replacements. I would recommend reading the ingredients list on such products or asking for assistance when selecting one so that you get the highest quality product available. I am fortunate enough that my Mum works as a health consultant and has a whole range of reputable (and yummy) protein shakes and bars made from whey protein, but reading up on the Internet will help you to narrow down the best option and sort the good from the bad.
3. When it comes to herbs and spices, they are all good. Traditional Eastern remedies have utilised the healing power of herbs and spices for thousands of years, but only recently have scientists begun to investigate the direct benefits of these. Herbs and spices are a wonderful addition to your everyday diet and can do amazing things, such as cinnamon for blood sugar and diabetes, turmeric for cancer and inflammation and parsley for detoxification and cleansing. Almost every herb and spice has its benefits, so don’t be afraid to use them generously. These herbs and spices also come in the form of potions, lotions and supplements, many from Chinese herbalists and naturopaths. If prescribed and given to you by a practitioner these remedies are usually pretty safe and can prove quite magical in their healing properties.
4. Some people have specific deficiencies that mean they need more than others. Some people, like me, take supplements to correct deficiencies in their bodies. Vegetarians for example may need to take iron supplements, whereas I need high doses of zinc and B vitamins due to a genetic condition which means I have a permanent deficiency in these particular nutrients. For people with deficiencies, supplementation is a great and easy way to get the extra nutrients that they need/are missing in their diets.
5. High dose vitamin therapy appears to have the ability to reduce the severity and even reverse cancer. The Gerson Therapy, which involves drinking A LOT of vegetable juice, is based on the idea of our bodies having the ability to heal themselves as long as they have enough nutrients to do so. This idea of high dose vitamin therapy is one that I am extremely interested in, and so far from what I have read and heard it is proving quite successful in treating cancer and other chronic diseases including depression. (Depression and vitamins is also explored in Food Matters).
So, when it comes to supplements and vitamins, I think they can be very useful in combination with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle but always do your research and make sure that, just like what you are eating, what you are taking is the best quality and is safe.
Do you take any supplements? What is your opinion on them?
Keep healthy, Erica.