This topic is one of huge debate and confusion for lots of people. I thought I would write my experience with this in hopes that others will share their experiences as well. I don’t believe anyone will ever come to a consensus on this and other health topics simply because each person’s system is unique in it’s own way and with that we will have constantly shifting results from one person to the next…and that’s OK. If something makes you feel better, why not go with it?
Millions of people are believers in the power of popping pills every morning to help them deal with symptoms or diseases. Hard medications with serious side effects. We take a lot of risks with our health liberally swallowing anything our doctor puts in our hands, but many of us do it anyway. Doctors are often rewarded and coerced by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe medications to patients, even when they know little about the medication and it has just recently come onto the market. MDs receive everything from gift baskets to vacations in exchange for their prescribing power. This is, in essence, the blind leading the blind. I could go on about this topic, but I’m going to focus on a different type of pill; over the counter vitamin and mineral supplements. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is big business at it’s best. The supplement business in America is a trillion dollar a year industry. Vitamin manufacturers have a lot to lose if people stop believing in the power of supplementation. That being said, I have never had a life changing experience with a prescribed medication. I have had life changing experiences with Vitamin use, and I would like to hear if others have similar stories. I’ll tell you a little about mine.
Now, I research everything and anything I put into my body, and I encourage readers to do the same. There’s a whole lot of whack info on the net today. Being that I have a research background academically, I have been trained to properly scrutinize data sources to determine their true validity. Others may not have that luxury. The sources I take seriously come from academic databases and have large sample sizes with statistically significant outcomes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about right now and would like to be better informed, check out this resource. You too can become a research nerd and stop believing everything you read on theonion.com;-). In other words, the stuff I say in this article and any article I write is coming from reliable sources, some of which I may cite.
So, vitamins and minerals. Everyone knows you need them. Our bodies use these precious building blocks to repair and restore each and every cell we own. They are one of the reasons that we are required to eat. If we are deficient in any given vitamin or mineral, our system can not work optimally and we may experience side effects. Some deficiencies I have experienced over time include Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Iron, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Zinc, and Calcium. These deficiencies have caused me chronic fatigue and hyper-somnolence, extreme hair loss, chronic ear infections, digestive issues, acne, sluggish metabolism and thyroid function, & the list goes on. I have had my Vitamin D test results come back at levels as low as 5. The effects of this are unquestionable, as I have been on prescription strength vitamin D and have noticed immediate changes in energy level and ability to regulate weight. Now, I pride myself on a diet rich in organic, quality plant and animal matter. I am careful to try and eat a wide variety of foods and would say 70% of my diet consists of fresh vegetable matter. I also have dabbled with juices and smoothies that have included a great variety of plants. I try to buy my food locally and use shares. I have been careful to get enough iodine, which supports thyroid function. And supplement? Do I ever. My daily regimen includes a variety of high quality vitamins in high doses. That being said, I am still forever low in some vital areas, and I feel the results of that daily. You may be asking yourself, why so many deficiencies? The answer is three fold.
1) There may be an undetected issue with digestion and vitamin absorption (being investigated now). You yourselves should never rule this out as a possibility if you have a deficiency.
2) This one is more complicated. Way back when, families grew the food they needed to live, and that was that. Farms were small and sustainable, and soil was far richer in natural vitamins and minerals than it is today. Due to overcropping and factory farming on a world wide scale, fields are used over and over and over again through harvest seasons. This depletes soils of their natural richness and in turn provides us with vegetables that no longer pack the nutritional punch they once did. Add in our own high heat cooking methods which even further deplete the plant, and add a layer of toxic pesticide, and you’ve got a recipe for deficiency. Organic vegetables and fruit usually boast a bit of a higher nutrient content, but it is nowhere near 100%. Most of us do not eat a wide enough variety of plants and animals to get what we need to begin with, even if our current foods were at 100% richness.
3) We are super duper clean. What I mean by that is, back before factory farming, fruits and veggies were a little more “rugged” than they are currently. They were pulled out of the ground and dirty and a bug or two might have slipped in there. They weren’t perfectly polished and plump as they are today. People didn’t have the luxury of using the little water they had to perfectly clean every food they ate. With this came consumption of an array of excellent soil minerals and needed probiotics that help us to better absorb nutrients and stave away unwanted gut bacteria. Ever heard the phrase, “If God made dirt…dirt can’t hurt”? I’m pretty sure that phrase was authored by some guy right after taking a bite of a dirty beet. At least I hope so. For all of the reasons listed, it seems we’re between a rock and a hard place with getting what we need from our food. So, in my opinion, SUPPLEMENT WE MUST!
Some words on vitamin supplements:
1) They are not all created equal. It is important to look for a high quality supplement made with only natural food based ingredients. Unfortunately, most brands of vitamins that are common have added ingredients that are toxic. If you are taking 5-10 pills daily, these substances add up. Avoid any vitamin or supplement containing Magnesium Stearate or Stearic Acid. Basically, these ingredients are a form of liquid metal lubricant coating pills so that they do not stick to manufacturing machines and each other. This substance causes cell damage, including your T-cells, which are key players for your immune system. No point to supplementing if your supplements are ruining your immune system:-) Luckily, there are lots of excellent vitamin brands that do not use this product. Just check your labels and be sure to purchase only supplements with very few and all natural ingredients.
2) They must be taken a certain way to be absorbed and work properly in your system. This is one reason I encourage you to do your research when beginning a new vitamin schedule. Some important ones to remember include Vitamin D and Calcium. It’s always a good idea to take these two together. Another tip is to know whether or not your vitamins are fat soluble. Fat soluble vitamins should be taken with meals as some fat is needed to properly absorb them. Hint, hint: A, D, E, and K!
3) They may contain allergens. For some off reason, lots of vitamins contain either soy or wheat based fillers. Watch out for this if you have a sensitivity, and always read the ingredients list before a purchase!
Some of my favorite supplements:
Zinc: Zinc is my absolute favorite. I take 50mg of chelated zinc daily to support my immune system and when I am just beginning to get sick, I will take it up to 3 times daily. It will shorten and weaken a cold and sometimes if you catch symptoms early enough will keep you from getting sick. Note that all of those cold medications like airborne and Zicam have a main ingredient of zinc. However, pure zinc is much, much cheaper and more potent. Do not take on an empty stomach, or you will be immediately nauseated.
Vitamin C: Great taken with zinc for illness as well.
Iron: I simply do not eat enough red meat consistently to support my iron levels correctly, and most of you probably don’t either. Iron is very important and without it your red blood cells suffer. I recommend taking a probiotic with it, as it can cause some constipation.
Probiotics: Though not technically a vitamin and more of a supplement, this is my number 2 all time favorite. Probiotics are actually good bacteria. Like I mentioned earlier, we just don’t eat enough dirt nowadays to get our fair share of these guys. We also take a ton of antibiotics, which kill not only bad gut bacteria, but good gut bacteria as well. Acidophilus is my favorite, be sure to get high counts. It helps to keep you “regular,” improves digestive upset, and is excellent for your immune system and fighting anything that enters your gut that can make you sick, such as food borne illness.
Vitamin E: Can be taken orally, but also be broken open and used topically for burns, cuts, and stretch marks.
Borage Oil: Another supplement. Excellent for acne and skin texture issues.
Evening Primrose oil: Great for premenstrual symptoms such as breast pain, and acne.
Fish oil: Supports brain health, great for hair, skin, and nails.
Biotin: Makes your hair and nails grow healthy and strong
B Vitamin Complex: Excellent for energy, and even ridding yourself of a hang over.
I’m really just scratching the surface. Vitamins and minerals are also effective mood regulators. They have been shown to impact and improve depressive symptoms. Before turning to a medication like Wellbutrin, it’s importance to get your vitamin levels checked. If you have deficiencies, try getting your levels up before turning to an anti-depressant. Vitamins impact our reward centers. Chemicals like serotonin can be heavily impacted, which can in turn cause us to feel better or worse emotionally. For a comprehensive list of vitamins and minerals, what they do in the body, and some interesting research on how they can impact mood, check out my favorite article on the topic, Vitamins, Minerals & Mood.
I am interested in other’s experiences with this topic, and hope you will share your thoughts or questions. Supplementing has worked great for me and helped me to gain energy, regrow lost hair, and say goodbye to chronic ear and sinus infection. I hope some of this introductory info will encourage you to try out a new vitamin or supplement and see how it works for you.