A chemistry teacher once introduced the class, saying that everything on earth is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Science can synthesize chemicals. Pharmacies, supermarkets, and online resources offer hundreds of non-prescription health remedies and dietary supplements. Health remedies are usually under some government scrutiny but dietary supplements are not. Conflicts over the integrity of those supplements, that many people rely on, arise regularly. People believe supplements offer alternate routes to health and wellness. Many articles support those beliefs but there are also many that don’t. Diseases and health conditions have always existed and remedies have always been sought. From magic natural potions to scientifically synthesized chemicals, challenges of nature and nurture have been fought for the last 150 years. Are supplements healthier than meds?
Judging from the size of pharmacy stores, we are a pill popping society. There are pills for anything from analgesics to weight loss. While traditional medicines are seen a scientific approach, supplements are being promoted. Is one better than the other?
Last weekend, the New York Times ran an article advising readers to Skip the Supplements in relationship to the amazing amounts of nutritional supplements available. Supplements are used around the world and in the USA as a form of alternative medicine or4 complementary medicine. In the USA, supplements are NOT approved and tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for therapeutic use or for possible side effects. Unless advised by a medical professional or unless you’ve taken (and excelled) a course in pharmacology, you should not use supplements on small children.
Supplements, like vitamins, herbs, and other natural nutritionals, have been used for thousands of years for general health and as cures for illnesses. Possible negative side effects were unknown or not scientifically tested. Vitamin D3 is excellent for structural support and cardiovascular health and supplements of D3 are recommended but how much is good for you? Vitamin B3 (Niacin) may improve good cholesterol levels but overdose can harm your liver over time. Drugs like opium and marijuana were once seen as supplements, and marijuana (to some degree) is now seen to help some medical conditions. Did you know that Aspirin was once considered a supplement? There are benefits and consequences with everything. For the average person, taking supplements as a substitute for medicines may not always be the better choice. That’s why the Nation Institutes of Health see supplements as complementary – able to help support medical approaches.
Historically, many of the diseases humans encounter today were seen in communities thousands of years ago, as evidenced by occurrences in less-civilized areas in Africa and South America. Medicinal leaders of various tribes attempted to find remedies to these conditions but effectiveness was a gamble, an unscientific one. Science has provided faster and more efficient ways at preventing and eliminating dreadful diseases. But are traditional medicines better than supplements? In some ways, yes. In other ways, no.
There is a war among traditional medical therapies and alternative, complementary therapies that has been waging for the past hundred years. Early medicine came from alchemy, the non-medical but serious study of medicinal naturals. Prior to that, complementary therapies were the mainstream. For the previous thousands of years, using Alchemy was one of the major therapeutic paths used to aid and restore wellness. It was a skillful art passed through generations by way of children and apprentices.
Alternative therapies weren’t just derived from leaves, vegetation, and flowers. There are those that came from human contact, such as massage and acupuncture.
Science evolved in the 1800’s trying to prove the unproven. What diseases were once considered Candida, science identified as mold, fungi, and bacteria. In the 1900’s, medical researchers aimed at developing antibiotics to treat diseases resulting from these phenomena. Telescopic observation demonstrated that mold had all sorts of adaptive behaviors to infect other organisms. These were akin to Darwin’s observation of survival of the fittest. Antibiotics are natural substances that are released by bacteria and fungi into the their environment, as a means of inhibiting other organisms. Antibiosis was how mold survived over the ages.
Infectious diseases and antibiotic treatments weren’t new concepts. The ancient Egyptians, the Chinese, and Indians of central America all used molds to treat infected wounds. A 19th-century researcher, Louis Pasteur found that cooking milk helped eliminate some of the disease causing effects coming from natural milk. Pasteur lived in an era where many early medical researchers were exploring diseases like cholera and smallpox, previously identified as forms of candida.
The spread of cholera, due to poor sewage systems, were once attributed as plagues in the dark and medieval times. Churches saw these as holy curses of the unholy. Alchemists were blamed and suffered tortuous death. Yet, cholera still exists in many parts of the world. Pasteur, however, was one of those 19th-century thinkers, that helped identify treatment.
We are told that Julius Caesar and many other historic leaders suffered from epilepsy. In the 1920’s, researchers found that a ketogenic diet helped reduce epileptic symptoms, as well some other conditions.
Polio or poliomyelitis (which comes from the Greek words for grey and marrow) has stricken many through the centuries. Polio reached epidemic proportions in the early 1900s in countries with relatively high standards of living, at a time when other diseases such as diphtheria, typhoid, and tuberculosis were declining. Indeed, many scientists think that advances in hygiene paradoxically led to an increased incidence of polio. There are theories that chemical toxins used on plants may have triggered the epidemic. President Franklin D Roosevelt was a major figure with this mobility-challenging disease. Scientists postulated that Polio is caused by one of three types of poliovirus (which are members of the Enterovirus genus). These viruses spread through contact between people, by nasal and oral secretions, and by contact with contaminated feces. Poliovirus enters the body through the mouth, multiplying along the way to the digestive tract, where it further multiplies. While there is no authentic medical treatment, Jonas Salk is credited with bringing a Polio vaccine that virtually eliminated onset of this disease. The idea of that vaccine is reported to have come from a virus found in a moldy orange fruit.
But even medicine has its flaws. Some FDA approved medicines have been removed because of previously unknown harmful effects. There are discussions that antibiotics are being over prescribed for colds and misused by physicians and patients. Antibiotics are used to combat bacterial infections but some common diseases may be the result of viral infections. Overuse of antibiotics reduces effectiveness as bacteria eventually adapt to the drug.
Some believe that supplements go beyond pills and supplements. Ancient ideas targeted paths of energy and created a science beyond any science we might know. But is it scientific or complementary?
The goals in pursuing healthy approaches aren’t chemical alone. Massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic are seen as popular therapeutic complementary approaches. In some ways, these non-chemical disciplines may offer healing therapy when there are no traditional therapy. Moderate exercise, Yoga, Pilates or just walking briskly may complement health and wellness. A crucial element is diet and getting proper nutrition. The George Mateljan Foundation or WH-Foods is a comprehensive and beneficial resource. Most times, people don’t have the time or the money or the taste to pursue a healthy nutritional diet. Supplements are not substitutes for food. They are designed to complement what you’re not getting.
Based on your diet, skipping supplements may actually be dangerous to your health over the course of years. The fee becomes the inconveniences and high costs of medical care, in many situations.
The average diet does not provide all the vitamins and minerals that the human body needs. Vitamin supplements are actively advertised and find their way to store shelves. Years ago, it was found that sailors, who had limited or no access to natural fruits, developed scurvy
, a disease known to cause anemia, debility, exhaustion, edema (swelling) in some parts of the body, and sometimes ulceration of the gums and loss of teeth.
There are many relationships between nutrition and health. How do consumers know the difference from synthesized nutritional supplements and those that are naturally derived? How can people be assured that the amount on the label is what their body is getting?
There are multiple vitamin supplements that seem to offer large amounts of practically everything. How are you sure that these many substances interact well with the others? How are you sure about proper absorption?
We are a naturally pill popping society. Recently, there were warnings that Bufferin has a toxic chemical in their pills. Scientists, when creating marketable pills, add inert (inactive) ingredients that allow the creation of the pill with long-term shelf storage. In the case of those popular over-the-counter drugs, the inert mix was toxic. In inexpensive vitamin supplements, those inert pill ingredients can actually mar the performance of those nutritional supplements and (possibly) your health.
Tinctures are a way to get around those inert ingredients found in pills. These are in liquid form and are dropped beneath your tongue. Why beneath? Some of these may not suit your tastes.
When taking herbs or spices, these supplements may not be as effective in pure forms as they are in their natural form. Phytophenolic combinations in natural foods may lose some properties in the conversion process.
If you are really leaning toward using supplements as a guide to health and wellness, seek out a competent nutrition practitioner or Nutritionist. Seek out one who is a Registered Dietician (RD) and fulfills the requirements of the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). There are undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered by many universities.
In New York City, medical facilities feature nutritionists as a way of providing integrative, holistic approaches to balance traditional medicine and supplements. Lenox Hill Primary Care, Beth Israel Center for Health and Healing are two very good places that help you find medical and nutritional health. The use of Integrative Medicine is spreading across the country, combining both traditional and alternative-complementary health care. Choose and check health insurance policies that offer this.
Standards and purity effect medicines and supplements. FDA or some other organization shouldn’t be your guide. Your life and sense of living is your primary path. While all things may not make you happy now and after, pursuing health and wellness is your responsibility. Fortunately, you live in a society that offers many choices. Whether you want to trust traditional medicine or supplements is your decision. Integrating both may be wiser but there are no guarantees. No one thing may treat what ails you. The methods may seem unorthodox but healthy aging is a good thing as life expectancies extend.