Saturday, March 2, 2013


I grew up watching old episodes of "I Love Lucy" and one of my favorite scenes was the famous Vitameatavegamin stunt. In case you haven't seen the episode, Lucy is hired to star in a commercial for the product, and during the rehearsal has to drink the stuff, which has a very high alcohol content, so she gets drunk as a skunk.

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Though a made-up product, the idea of marketing about a person's need for all kinds of vitamins and nutrients is nothing new. It is extremely common for a person to be on some form of vitamin or supplement because at some point, they believed that they were in need of a particular nutrient, or a doctor told them to. There are many problems with that situation.

First, vitamins are not the best way for your body to absorb the particular nutrient in the capsule. Your body was designed to absorb vitamins and nutrients it needs from, duh, food. Taking these isolated nutrients in supplement form interferes with your body's natural process of absorbing nutrients. When a food naturally contains a vitamin, it also contains the proper co-factors that help complement your body's ability to absorb it. Vitamin supplements may be labeled as "natural" or "from food", but they are in fact highly processed and have been stripped of the necessary co-factors. This means that a vitamin capsule contains a highly concentrated dose of that isolated nutrient, but your body would not absorb that large isolated quantity as effectively as it would a smaller dose contained in actual food. As Pam Popper says in her Wellness 101 course, "The body does not need large amounts of any micronutrient, but it does need tiny amounts of all of them; this is impossible to accomplish through supplementation. You cannot take enough pills in one day to duplicate the broad array of nutrients found in foods."

Second, taking supplements does not improve one's overall health and can potentially lead to other health problems cropping up. Many times, people choose to take a supplement because they were told or believed on their own that they were deficient in some nutrient. But the real issue is that most people (eating a poor diet) are deficient in good, healthy food. They are likely consuming an excess of things like processed foods, fats, calories, etc. If a blood test shows you are deficient in a certain nutrient, it is likely due to a poorly structured diet, and is likely a symptom of other health conditions going on. Changing your diet to a varied whole foods, plant-based diet would not only clear up a variety of health conditions, but would eliminate the apparent deficiency.

Third, it is so common for doctors to merely treat the symptoms of health conditions, rather than get at the root cause of the issue. Again, if a blood test shows you are deficient in something, it could be another symptom of a more serious health condition. So instead of treating the symptom via a supplement, the doctor should strive to find the root cause of the deficiency.

Fourth and finally, the use of supplements can be misleading because the supplement-taker may feel better in the short-term, but I believe they are just delaying the inevitable. If a person continues to eat a poor diet, it will eventually lead to poor health, even though the use of supplements may delay that for a bit. In other words, a supplement may help you feel better, but will not help you get better.

I was at a point last fall, just as we changed to this diet, where I was taking a ridiculous number of vitamins, supplements, and other medication. If you asked me why I was taking each one, my answer would have either been "Because my doctor told me to" or "Because I read/heard somewhere that I need it". I was very misled. I kid you not, I was taking: a pre-natal vitamin, vitamin D, Calcium with vitamin D, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, and using a progesterone cream. I also took Clomid for one month (a fertility drug). And before that, I was taking Fertile CM three times a day, in addition to vitamin C by itself. Yikes! And just so you know about me personally, I hate swallowing pills. I'm a total 4-year-old and make a scrunchy face every time.

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After learning the above information from The Wellness Forum, we happily and easily made the decision to stop taking all this stuff. This picture was taken as I emptied out our medicine cabinet, dumped the contents, and recycled the containers. Goodbye pills!

Now, I want to end this post with the point that there is a role for supplementation, but not in the way that most people use it. There may very well be a reason for a person to take a supplement for a short-term period of time until a particular health issue is resolved, but this should only be coupled with the person's efforts of striving for a healthy diet and lifestyle. For example, Michael and I both take a probiotic supplement because we each had a history of GI-tract issues. I will take this supplement for two years and then stop, because the general rule of thumb is take a probiotic for one month for every year you've had an issue (which for me, was most of my life, and I'm 28, hence about 24 months). I'm so glad to save the time, money, and scrunchy faces by stopping all the supplements above.

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