Why you shouldn't take vitamins I’m probably one of only a few natural health care providers who doesn’t push products. Truth be told, I’m generally not a fan of supplements, daily vitamins, shakes and powders. I’ve chosen not to sell any in my office or online. While my pockets could definitely profit, I don’t really think you will. And quite frankly, I care too much about you to push something on you that I don’t think will really provide you with a great deal of benefit or worse, could potentially harm you. Now, if you’ve been taking something that you truly believe helps you, I’m not trying to tell you that it doesn’t.

But for a lot of people, I think they feel liberated to finally hear an expert tell them that they can save their money and stop choking down “healthy” stuff that they feel obligated for one reason or another to take.

A little over decade ago, I experienced a health crisis. In an act of desperation, I tried all kinds of crazy “alternative” treatments. I tried supplements, vitamins, minerals, herbs and tonics with the hope of finding relief. In retrospect, the only thing I really found was indigestion and an empty wallet.

In my training years, I loved the idea that vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements could change the course of somebody’s health. I studied hard the studies that evaluated the effects of natural and alternative medicines. And I grew increasingly disappointed by what I read and was taught. Why?

Because most of the hype around natural products & supplements is just that. Hype.

That’s right, unsubstantiated hype. I definitely can’t say it’s all hype, but truthfully, most of it is. There’s a lot of evidence to support vitamin and mineral supplementation in the presence of deficiency (and lots of people nowadays are deficient in vitamin D) and there is some evidence for certain supplements, oils and herbs. But, across the board, there aren’t a lot of great studies to support most of the stuff that most people take.

Take multivitamins for example. For a while I advocated these. Now I don’t. Why? Well, there’s some good evidence now showing that they don’t really do anything amazing; they don’t improve cardiovascular health, prevent cancer or slow cognitive decline. And while a multivitamin with 100% or less of the daily value of vitamins and minerals probably won’t do much of anything (good or bad), it’s quite possible that a multivitamin with super high percentages or random herbs and supplements (which most contain) just might be harmful.

Likewise, I used to think omega-3 fish oil was a panacea. It first appeared this nutraceutical was all benefit and no risk. But then I started to really look into it and the studies were more limited and less promising than I first thought and worse, patients would report back to me with symptoms like indigestion, belching, nausea, loose stools, rashes and nosebleeds. With higher doses, there’s an increased risk of bleeding and the possibility for immune suppression. In a lot of cases, the benefit just doesn’t justify the risk.

And then there’s calcium. In school we were told that every woman needed to take 1200 milligrams of Calcium Citrate every day to prevent osteoporosis. I was sold. I took it and told everyone else to as well. Until, more research came out linking calcium supplements to increased heart attack risk in women.

I could go on and on. Here’s the bottom line; there is a time and place for supplements especially in the face of deficiency. But (and it’s a big but), I don’t recommend anything across the board for everyone. You’ve got weigh the risk and the benefit. And for most of the “natural” stuff in a pill or shake form, the benefit just doesn’t win out.

So now let’s get to that So What Moment. So now, what do you do?

Use real food as real medicine. I’m not talking about food put into capsules and marketed to you as medicine, but actual food.

Food like organic fruit, vegetables and sprouted grains for your multivitamin. Food like flax, walnuts, chia and cold-water wild fish for your omega-3s. Food like kale, collards, organic yogurt and turnips for your calcium. Eat real food, feel real good.

And the awesome bonus with high quality food is its synergistic effect. Unlike a high potency supplement, the nutrients in an apple all work together to promote health in the body. Win, Win. Little risk, loads of benefit.

Wondering if the supplements you regularly take actually have benefit? Jump onto my facebook page and join the discussion. I’ve put a link to this post there; if you’re wondering if it’s safe and effective, post a comment under the link, and I’ll respond to you there.

Change Your Meals, Change Your Life!
Dr. Kristen Bentson

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