On Supplementation Part 1: Prelude To A Quaalude

People ask me all the time, “What can I take for [X] disease?”

First of all, I'm not a doctor. I don't treat disease. Instead, I work with you to help you identify and correct “dis-ease.” What's the difference?

A disease is a name given to a particular group of symptoms in order to make it more convenient to treat. In other words, if you have [X] disease, then you take [X] medication. Often times, (not always, but often) the disease is simply an arbitrary number applied to a lab result. Usually, that number has less to do with what actually constitutes good health, and more with being able to sell a drug. A good tip off to this is that arbitrary lab value being arbitrarily raised or lowered. Why? To sell more drugs, of course. You will rarely -if ever- be healed of a disease. You will manage it...along with an entire litany of side-effects that come from simply taking the medications themselves.

On the other hand, “dis-ease” is a state of impairment that upsets performance of one or more vital functions in the body. “Mal” is a French word for “wrong” or “bad” or “ill,” so when you have “mal”function, you have bad function, which causes you to be in a state of unease or dis-ease. The goal then becomes to restore good function so that the body can exist in a state of ease and harmony. This is the realm where I work.

I believe that the vast majority of dis-ease stems from poor environment. Correct your environment, restore function, restore ease. Sounds simple, but it requires a major shift in thinking and it requires action. It requires change. It requires work. Unfortunately, people fear change and are loathe to work because we already work so much.

Hence, the question - “What can I take for [X] disease?” We've been trained to “ask your doctor about...,” right? It's convenient. It's simple. Just take a pill? Sign me up! Here's the thing, though...your body isn't suffering from a Celexa deficiency. It didn't suddenly stop making enough Zantac. You do not have a malfunction in the Lipitor pathway.

Of course, these aren't classified as supplements, these are pharmaceutical drugs. They help you to manage the symptoms of your disease. They do nothing by and large to actually promote health. Unless of course, you consider absence of symptoms = health. (Hint, no.) By the time you start to experience symptoms, your body has been traveling down the sickness pathway for quite some time.

On the other hand, a supplement is something you use that provides the body with extra nutrients to make up for an insufficiency of intake from normal means. A supplement can also promote healing, ease a symptom, and provide wellness. In many ways, supplementing makes sense. If done correctly, it can provide a great benefit. If done wrong, at best can be a waste of money. At worst, it can be dangerous to your health.

I have some opinions on supplements and supplementation - not just as a part of a healing protocol, but also as a strategy for staying well. I have no ties to any supplement company. My only interest is in promoting good health.

As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I utilize supplements for three reasons:

  1. As intelligent allopathy – meaning, to provide quick relief from a particular debilitating symptom so that the client can focus on engaging with the rest of the protocol
  2. As corrective care – to stimulate the body's innate healing mechanism and correct a deficiency or insufficiency
  3. As maintenance care – to use as part of an ongoing wellness strategy to promote health and prevent illness.

Also, I rarely utilize supplementation at the outset of a program. I typically like for the client to immerse themselves in 30-60 days of lifestyle modifications first. It's amazing what your body will do when it's provided with the correct environment consistently.

Your body is amazing in that it is always seeking health. It is always trying to correct and maintain balance, or homeostasis. Give it what it needs and your body will take care of the rest. Your body is programmed to heal. As an example, if you fell and skinned your knee and did nothing for it, your body would know exactly what to do to heal. The problem is, we continue to do dumb things like rub sand in the wound so that it can never effectively heal, ultimately resulting in an otherwise benign injury potentially crippling us for life.

As a biological entity, you are designed to live in harmony – or be a part of - nature. You were never meant to live apart from nature. This is why I say, “Change your habits, change your life.” It's also why I don't like to start out with a supplementation regimen. I want you to experience first-hand the power of change without thinking the change came about because you took a magic pill.

As I have said many times, you will never supplement your way out of poor health. Blindly supplementing with [X] vitamin (or whatever) as a strategy for being “healthy” is foolish (and lazy.) Our current vitamin D obsession is evidence of that.

First of all, not all vitamins are created equal. If you think ascorbic acid = vitamin C, or folic acid = folate, you are sadly mistaken. Your natural system doesn't play well with synthetic vitamins.

Second, taking a supplement without knowing how the body utilizes that nutrient, or what co-factors that it needs, or how it works in conjunction with other nutrients and in what ratio, or whether your body can even effectively metabolize that nutrient efficiently, can be dangerous.

Finally, taking something without testing for whether or not you even need it can also be dangerous. Sometimes, if you are deficient in something, it is helpful to know why you are deficient in it. There's a reason. You need to fix that, or else you're just wasting time and money.

So with all this in mind, I thought I would start an ongoing discussion on supplementation to help clear up some “mal” informed thinking and hopefully keep you from wasting your money or damaging your health. I'll be taking a look at vitamins, minerals, herbs and botanicals, probiotics, enzymes, brands, potency, efficacy, dosing, fads, and anything else that may be relevant to the topic. If you have suggestions, please say so in the comments.

To good health