Most of us have taken vitamin supplements at one time or another. For some, they’re a fad that slowly drifts out of favor, yet for others they become a solid part of our everyday diet.
So who is right and who is wrong and are they really useful to us?
1 – Vitamin supplements can help fill in the gaps when it comes to nutrition.
What does this mean? Quite simply, many of the foods we rely upon are overly processed and nutrient deficient. Even if you eat relatively healthy foods, the foods that you eat are less nutritious than they were a decade or more ago.
While some in the medical profession argue that our foods, however nutrient deficient, are still adequate in providing the body with all of the nutrients it needs, there are those of us in the holistic profession who firmly believe that modern agricultural techniques produce foods which are alarmingly deficient when it comes to getting the right type and quantity of vitamins and minerals into our body.
So taking vitamin supplements, even alongside a healthy diet, can go some way to compensating for the missing nutrients in the foods that we eat.
2 – You can use vitamin supplements to focus on preventing future health issues based on age, gender, lifestyle or family history.
Some vitamins have become associated with very specific benefits to health. Support to the cardiovascular system, protection and boosting of the immune system, help with healthy bones, joints, skin or hair – there are supplements which you can add to your diet to try and prevent many of these debilitating illnesses from occurring. Likewise if you have a tendency to gain weight, there are a variety of natural products which might help you with weight loss and fulfilling the ultimate goal of losing weight and keeping it off.
So where you might have a history of heart-disease in your family, it may be worthwhile your incorporating supplements into your diet which have some evidence of heart-support, such as apple cider vinegar or dandelion root. If osteoporosis is a concern then perhaps a glucosamine supplement to promote bone density or a turmeric supplement for managing joint pain and inflammation.
3 – Taking vitamin supplements to help combat a current health issue.
Obviously there’s a big difference between taking supplements as a preventative measure and taking supplements in an attempt to try and treat a specific medical condition. (we do not necessarily recommend that you do the latter).
Since supplements are not ‘Approved’ by the FDA it isn’t possible in the vast majority of cases to claim that a particular vitamin supplement is a cure for any specific medical condition. So one must turn to the preponderance of evidence by looking at its medicinal use through the ages, then use whatever medical and clinical trials and data can be found on the substance to support the long-term use statistics. By collecting your own information in this way you can then draw your own conclusions on the efficacy (or otherwise) of a particular type of supplement.
Clearly this is far from ideal, but as it stands presently your options do not really extend much beyond the strategy of DIY research.
There are many such cases and in the alternative health industry we call this ‘common health associations’. For example, it is widely understood that bee pollen might be beneficial to weight management and weight loss and that royal jelly can help with energy and promote a healthy immune system.
There seems to be enough evidence around to support the theory that Vitamin C helps build and maintain connective tissue and that Vitamin A enhances immunity and helps with growth. There’s also plenty of evidence pointing to the benefits of B vitamins and vitamin D, for energy and bone health respectively.
Apple cider vinegar has been used as a health tonic through the ages and studies suggest it may be beneficial to cholesterol, heart health and even weight loss and weight management.
Where It All Starts to Fall Apart
The problems start when you begin comparing the sources of the ingredients in vitamin supplements with natural food sources. In many cases, man-made vitamins simply cannot be utilized by the human body in the same way as naturally occurring vitamins – those found in foods. In fact the Organic Consumers Association has issued its own findings into the efficacy of many of these synthetic supplements, and not only are they difficult to assimilate, they may actually do more harm than good.
The simple fact is that the vitamins and minerals in foods are part of a nucleus of many molecules which enable the body to absorb and to utilize them as aids to nutrition. Many synthetic substances are simply detected by our complex digestive system for what they are – synthetic, and excreted as waste.
Over-exposure to certain synthetic vitamins can also have negative impacts on our well-being. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that adults taking 1000mg of synthetic vitamin C (ascorbic acid) daily were shown to develop certain issues relating to the metabolism of energy. Other similar studies have cast a dark shadow over the use of many common synthetic vitamins, those found widely in multi-vitamin and other similar products.
So where does that leave you?
The first thing is to understand the different types of vitamins and how they’re assimilated into the body. It isn’t really difficult to do.
For example, I mentioned earlier that royal jelly is associated with energy and a healthy immune system. Most people know by now that royal jelly is a liquid substance removed from the beehive. It’s a natural substance, not synthetically made in a laboratory and mass-produced at a nutraceutical company.
Likewise with bee pollen (powder or granules), honey and the vast majority of single herbs such as Ginger Root, Green Tea extract, dandelion root etc.
These are not synthetic and can be assimilated easily by the digestive system, allowing access to their vitamins and minerals.
So it’s important to factor this into your deliberations when shopping for vitamin supplements. Just look at the long list of ingredients on some multi-vitamin products and try to determine their origin.
Are they entirely man made or do they occur naturally and without chemical processing?
As always it’s worth paying a little extra for quality supplements marked ‘all-natural’, though don’t assume that ‘all-natural’ means the ingredients are not synthetically created.
Taken by many of our customers to promote weight loss and a healthy immune system*