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Friday, August 19, 2011

Supplemental Security


Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or even a licensed nutritionist or any other medical or para-medical person. I only know what I read and what I hear from my alternative medical practitioners. This is not supposed to be a substitute for medical advice from either allopathic or alternative medical practitioners.

I'm a long time vegetarian and vegan (34 and 22 years respectively). Though I didn't make either decision (giving up meat/poultry/fish/leather/fur first and then adding dairy/eggs/lanolin etc. to the list) for health reasons. But somewhere along the line I did begin to be interested in health and nutrition and, of late (within the past 5-10 years I suppose) I've been downright obsessed with it. Health and nutrition books populate my bookcases and I subscribe to several health and nutrition magazines and newsletters.

About the same time I "went vegan", I also stopped taking medications. I don't even take aspirin. Most people find this very surprising (many even find it hard to believe). There are situations where I might take medication (particularly if it would be to treat an acute infection or injury) but I would then have to deal with the "fallout" (for example, taking antibiotics causes an imbalance in the body of bacteria vs. yeast -- for the most part, they keep each other in check, but antibiotics kill all bacteria without regard for whether or not it is helpful to the body's function -- if I were to need to take antibiotics then after I would have to pump up my body on probiotics and prebiotics).

One of the reasons I read a lot about health and nutrition is that I need to read about supplements and herbs to know which ones help the body regain equilibrium (as in how to treat different health issues to assist your body in healing itself).

Toward that end, I read a lot about this subject. My Mom has even "jumped on the bandwagon" (not that she doesn't take any medication, but she also takes supplements, etc.) -- this began when she went to a doctor for some muscular pain she was having. The doctor asked her what she wanted him to do. All he could recommend is semiannual cortisone (or something similar????) shots, something that, thank goodness, she cringed over the very idea of.

I had just been reading in one of my health newsletters about vitamin D and how prevalent vitamin D deficiency is, particularly in seniors, particularly in people who avoid the sun and particularly in the Northeast (all three conditions apply to my Mom). And, as it turned out, one of the symptoms was muscle aches. So she tried increasing her vitamin D and within days, the aches went away.

A few days ago, she had a bit of food poisoning (she thinks, anyway) and I gave her ginger tea (hot water with a few slices of ginger root in it) and, voila! Within a short time, she was feeling better.

I myself take many supplements, including vitamin D, vitamin B complex, niacin and niacinimide, and iodine. Some I take on my own (though I run them by my alternative medical practitioner) and the others I take on the advice of my alternative medical practitioner. With the help of these supplements, I have lowered my blood pressure, my cholesterol (though I think my vegan diet made the biggest dent in the cholesterol since I eat precious little saturated fat and no cholesterol).

So I was pretty intrigued by an article about The 12 Most Dangerous Supplements. I was curious as to how many of them I had heard of (7) and how many I had ever taken (none). The ones I might have considered taking (and with herbal preparations one should always either do research or discuss with their medical practitioner (allopathic -- that's MDs -- or alternative -- naturopaths, osteopaths, chiropractors, etc.) or both (with me, I try to do both).

It's ironic, from my perspective, that they spend so much time and effort trying to make it seem as though thousands upon thousands of people are dying from taking bad supplements. But they ignore the myriad side effects of medications.

Just about every day I see commercials from some law firm trying to find victims of this or that medication (Avandia is the big one right now, but there are so many drugs with potentially fatal side effects that once Avandia isn't there another one will pop up). So why is there such a fuss made of supplements and herbal preparations?

Too many people just follow what their doctors say. But most of the doctors just take symptoms and make a diagnosis and from the diagnosis they pick a medication from the a list and write a prescription for it. Doctors get most of their information about drugs from the pharmaceutical company representatives, who convince the docs that these are the only solutions to these specific issues. So most people are putting their faith in the drug companies. And I think most of them are doing this without understanding the consequences.

Most drugs work by suppressing a symptom, whereas most nutrient supplements and herbal preparations work by helping the body heal itself. What happens with drugs is that they suppress a symptom (say high blood sugar) but they haven't been proven (and in many cases, as a matter of fact, they have been proven to NOT) to save lives. Oftentimes, they cause more deaths than they save. (An example is diabetes drugs -- there was a study to see what would be the ideal dosage of diabetes medications that would prevent heart attacks in diabetics. What they found -- they had to stop the study early -- was that the drugs themselves caused more heart attacks! Everyone was surprised even though this also happened in the late 1960s when they tried this with diabetes drugs from that era!

I think people need to remember that the doctors won't have to live with the consequences of their prescribing. Only the patient has to live (or die?) with the fallout. So it behooves everyone to take control of his/her own health. Do more research, read magazines and books. Be an advocate for yourself and your family members.

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