Healing, Health, Holistic, Nutrition, Supplements

The Problem with Supplements

The subject of vitamins and supplements has been a controversial one for several decades. It seems that many trusted news outlets and websites are publicizing the idea that most supplements out there are dangerous and one better be safe by sticking with natural sources of vitamins like coffee and donuts. I am being facetious about the donuts, but what you may find in sites like WebMD, which stated in a recent article that drinking large amounts of coffee can prevent liver problems, while consuming Turmeric, Milk Thistle, or Green Tea can cause liver complications, seems to be nothing more than baseless propaganda. This is why I always encourage people to do their own research and try things out for themselves before believing the hype churned out in popular sites like Wikipedia (just because a site is popular and omnipresent, doesn’t mean all the information you find there is true or accurate).

There certainly are many products out there that get marketed on completely false and outlandish claims unsupported by any verifiable evidence. We must of course be cautious and engage in due diligence before purchasing any product, especially the ones we consume on a daily basis, be it food or supplements of any kind. My purpose here is to make the case that certain herbs and vitamins have been known for centuries to be extremely beneficial, if not essential, to human health and well-being. It should also be noted that not all vitamins and supplements are created equal and there are differences in purity and quality. Not to mention that certain health conditions having to do with the endocrine glands and hormone production may affect the actual usage of certain nutrients by cells and organs. In other words, there are a variety of factors that may influence the effects and benefits of vitamins and supplements in the human body.

There are also some detractors of vitamins that are much less insidious, as they mean well for their children and family, arguing that they can get all the vitamins they need from fruits and vegetables. This may be partially true if you live in the tropics, get plenty of sunshine, and have no health issues. But unfortunately this is not enough for most people living in major U.S. cities who mainly consume factory farmed produce grown in nutrient depleted soil that once, many decades ago, may have been rich enough to make fruits and vegetables the most reliable source of vitamins and minerals.

There are hundreds of studies on the health benefits of Green Tea, mostly from international institutes and universities. There are also hundreds of studies on the benefits of Turmeric, mostly from India, where Ayurveda is an accepted discipline that has used this root to treat a variety of illnesses for a very long time. And there is also the synergistic effect of combining substances like Turmeric and Green Tea to strengthen the immune system and even fight cancer. “Green tea can triple the cancer fighting power of Turmeric, and Turmeric can increase Green Tea’s cancer fighting potency by up to eight times”, says Tammy Kohlschmidt, a Certified Clinical Thermographer and Licensed Dental Hygienist.

Combining Green Tea with Ginseng also has a synergistic effect, as does combining Vitamin D with Magnesium to maximize absorption. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of Iron, so if you are deficient in Vitamin C it is very likely that you may have an Iron deficiency. Vitamin D is one of the most doctor-prescribed vitamins at the moment, even though NPR recently reported on a low-quality study claiming little or no health benefits from Vitamin D.

But it seems they have chosen to disregard the rest of the alphabet when it comes to vitamins, be it on purpose or sheer ignorance. I would call it ignorance since most physicians will admit they receive very little training on the use of vitamins and herbal supplements, and much less the use of nutrition, for healing. (Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, famously said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” almost 2,500 years ago. I’m sure he would be appalled).

There are some physicians out there that do take the time to research topics that may have been ignored or glossed over by their professors in medical school. These are usually the type of holistic and homeopathic physicians that I would recommend to my clients. There are a variety of health professionals doing quality work trying to help and educate the public about the benefits of natural products, including vitamins and herbal supplements, but unfortunately their voices are drowned out by the ubiquity of the accepted sources of information on TV, radio, print, or online. I have read articles in various popular publications clamoring for tighter regulation of supplements and vitamins of every kind, using scare tactics and fear mongering to highlight the extremely rare possibility that a person may need a liver transplant due to the ingestion of too many Green Tea capsules, or that taking Vitamin C has very little benefit and can only result in “expensive urine” (if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one!).

The problem with most of the studies quoted in these articles is that they are poorly designed and either use very small population samples or a minuscule amount of the substance being studied. In most low-quality Vitamin C studies, for example, the dosage used is less than 500mg (the adult RDA for Vitamin C is less than 100mg/day), which is not enough to have a therapeutic effect on the body. High-quality studies, on the other hand, which use at least 6,000mg of Vitamin C per day, show positive effects that are readily observable. An article published in March 2017 in the website Medical News Today has the headline “High-dose vitamin C makes cancer treatment more effective, trial shows”, where doses of 8,000 to 10,000mg were used on patients. For these extreme cases, such as dealing with cancer, intravenous (IV) drip is the most effective technique. The National Cancer Institute website (www.cancer.gov) states: “Some studies of IV high-dose vitamin C in patients with cancer have shown improved quality of life, as well as fewer side effects”. This is the type of information that is usually withheld from the public in popular mainstream news and propaganda outlets.

I find most egregious the type of defamation flaunted by sites like Wikipedia when describing the practice of Orthomolecular Medicine, for example. As they correctly state: “Orthomolecular medicine, a form of alternative medicine, aims to maintain human health through nutritional supplementation.” But then they place the practice under a negative light by stating that it is “not supported by sound medical evidence and the therapy is not effective”, which is a blatant lie as there are many studies proving the efficacy of the practice in the mitigation and reversal of common diseases. As if this kind of character assassination is not enough, they include their article in what they call “part of a series on Alternative and pseudo‑medicine”, using their favorite derogatory descriptors like “food faddism” and “quackery” in the hope that the reader will instantly loose interest and not even try to explore the matter further.

Did I mention there have never been any fatalities associated with the use of vitamins? Try saying that about the most popular pharmaceutical drugs on the market. While it is possible to achieve toxicity from high doses of certain metals like iron and zinc, the symptoms can be easily controlled and corrected. That is why I never recommend multi-vitamins (like the ones average doctors would recommend), because the amount of each individual element cannot be easily controlled if one takes more than the prescribed dosage.

Another important aspect in understanding how vitamins work is that there are differences in composition that can make a specific combination more bio-available, easier to absorb, or more potent than others, a factor seldom taken into account in most industry and government funded studies. One obvious example is the exclusive use of Tocopherols in low-quality studies analyzing the effects of Vitamin E, while completely ignoring the much more powerful and beneficial Tocotrienols. Both are components of Vitamin E, but for some reason the latter is usually disregarded.

Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1954 and Nobel Peace Prize 1962) coined the word “Orthomolecular” in 1969 to denote the use of naturally occurring substances, particularly nutrients, in maintaining health and treating diseases such as cancer. In the future I will be writing an in-depth article about the myths, facts, and benefits of Orthomolecular Medicine, as well as my list of most recommended supplements. I will also report about studies such as the most recent one conducted by the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, School of Public Health, on Intravenous Vitamin C and Infectious Mononucleosis, where they state in their conclusion that “Our case provides evidence that high dose (50 grams) intravenous vitamin C therapy has a positive effect by reducing illness symptoms, disease duration and viral antibody levels.” One could hardly call the use of this particular vitamin to improve health “unproven” or “ineffective”, much less “expensive urine”. In fact, Vitamin C is incredibly cheap, considering its wide range of benefits and lack of adverse reactions on the human body.

The real problem then becomes the lack of expertise of the individuals publishing these disparaging headlines without pulling back to see the bigger picture and the interconnectedness of all the elements in nature that can work together to effectively bring health into the human body. Most of these reporters have never even tried these supplements for themselves, and most likely have never interviewed or spoken to those who have used them for years with extremely positive results and no adverse effects.

It seems logical that in the face of such negative publicity, if these supplements really were so ineffective and dangerous, people would not buy them at all. Why then is the supplement business a multi-billion dollar industry? Why are vitamin stores still open and thriving? The self-proclaimed supplement and nutrition experts at these popular news outlets will say it is some form of deceptive marketing scheme playing on the ignorance of the public, who are desperately looking for something new or an alternative to the current healthcare system.

Perhaps they should be asking the question: why are so many people looking for an alternative to our current healthcare system? Maybe it is because the system we are being forced to use is patently flawed, and in most cases simply does not work. Most people ignore the fact that iatrogenesis, death caused by medical treatment, is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. There are of course certain things that modern medicine does very well, such as emergency care or reattaching appendages due to accidents, but when it comes to preventing disease its track record is dismal.

Be that as it may, the evidence being presented by supplement detractors is flimsy at best and downright deceptive at worst, specially when one looks at the amount of money that multinational pharmaceutical companies pour into these mainstream publications that do everything in their power to get the public to look away from the benefits of vitamins, minerals and herbs that have been proven, some for millennia, to do a great amount of good for the health of the human body and mind. The only conclusion one can reach after doing the proper research and being involved in the actual practice of using supplements to prevent and correct health issues is that there really is NO PROBLEM with supplements, only benefits, when used in the correct way.

This article took much longer to write than I anticipated because the subject is so vast and has much potential for expansion. Perhaps it could become a book eventually. As I daydream about becoming a famous author, I invite you to do your own research and always continue to expand your knowledge about health and healing. I do not sell or promote any products, my only goal is to inform based on evidence, not propaganda. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Godspeed, be healthy, and be well.

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