GENERAL TOPIC – Health supplements
Article by Dr S. Chidambaranathan B.H.M.S, M.D Homeopathy Doctor Madurai (Treatment avail for all people around the world)
Are they really useful?
Health supplements are useful – but not always. Nowadays they are replacing regular foods. This is 100 per cent not good.
Natural Foods are the real health providers
Hippocrates – Father of Medicine – says that there are some illnesses which can only be treated with nutrition. Undoubtedly, nutrition plays a major role in health. In many cases, food heals diseases and yields good health. Altogether, the entire thing is related to digestion. If you have a proper functioning digestive tract and utilise the food intakes by a good digestive process, you will be benefited or otherwise food will simply go waste. A good digestive process will make the intestines absorb whatever is important and needed. Also they eliminate many secretions, excretory products and others considered a waste, through faeces.
Digestion is a complex phenomenon which is not understood properly. If you consume more, you may make its absorption rate and process slow and this would cut short excess absorption. Also, each part of the intestine is specially designed to absorb selective vitamins or minerals. If that part of the intestine is in trouble then you may not get those vitamins or minerals, even if the food intake or supplements provide these in huge quantities.
Nature produces and provides everything indirectly. It will be automatically got into the required form. Nature cares and undertakes everything on its own. So, only natural food is very useful for good health. It is a good combination of all the required nutrients in natural form.
If we boycott natural foods with the help of health drinks or artificial synthetic tablets or syrup, then we are hindering the natural digestion and elimination process which may make our health collapse slowly. In ancient days, people used to take fruits, vegetables and spices for their healing properties. They felt that food itself could heal them. For example, garlic, onion, pepper, honey, apple, lemon, grains, nuts, seeds, etc., have good nutritional value and medicinal properties also.
Nowadays people are not aware of the value of food. They simply go by the label about the contents of the packed foods. Even though tin packed food shows good value, it cannot be attained in full if the digestive process is defective. In general, for healthy living,
- Natural foods
- Well balanced diet
- Do regular exercises or work to burn calories to increase the body metabolism, to strengthen your circulation, health, immune mechanism, etc.
- Vitamins or minerals or health tonics or health drinks only when required, that too with the advice of a doctor or dietician
- Multi vitamins or tonics or drugs for a prolonged time
- Soft drinks
- Fast foods
- Tin-packed foods
- Doctor’s advice – Don’t self-medicate or take vitamins or tonics
- Dietician’s prescription
People concentrate more on health and add supplements to their diet almost after every meal. Also parents are wrongly guided by the media, which feature robust, active and intelligent children. With overwhelming love for their children, parents buy whatever they see or hear. They keep on giving their children all sorts of tonics, minerals and vitamin syrups, making the children flabby. Usually, a flabby child looks like it is robust. But it is not real health. An active child is a healthy child. It is not really good for the child’s health to go on taking these tablets or syrup or gel near future. It may not be too long before take some capsules as breakfast, some more as lunch and some other capsules as dinner.
In this Modern Era, Modern doctors add multi-vitamins and minerals to their prescription. Sometimes doctors prescribe only multi-vitamins or zinc (minerals) as medicines. They substantiate supplements as substitutes. Due to this, from childhood human beings are made dependent upon supplements for vitamins or minerals. People also go on taking this for years together. Some people do this on their own without consulting doctors, and B complex tablets, iron tonics and calcium tablets regularly for tiredness, anaemia and arthritic problems respectively.
What is given in nutrition publications and dietician’s prescription cannot be easily followed in day-to-day life. But if followed, the health benefits will be priceless. While taking supplements, people think they are providing more to the body than it really needs. Yes, it is so. The usual vitamin or mineral tablets are 10-15 times more concentrated than the actual requirement of the body. During the digestive process, only 15-20 per cent of the vitamins are absorbed in the intestines from the vitamin- or mineral-rich food. So, to fulfil our bodily needs, tablets provide about 10-20 per cent more. Is this useful? No. Constant use of this excess amount will cause toxicity and diseases.
People using supplements of vitamins/minerals or tonics/health drinks usually quote various reasons for their constant use. They are
- Energy giving
- Improves health
- Prevents infection due to good health
- Recovery from disease or healing properties improves well
Other reasons are
- There is a lot of pollution nowadays
- Fruits and vegetables are grown in chemically fertilised soil
- Pesticides are sprayed on fruits and vegetables
- Food is not qualitative
- Life is filled with tension leaving no time to take selective nutrients
- The busy schedule leaves no time to spend time on cooking
- Hotels are more fond of fast foods than natural foods
So, you cannot make a synthetic formula to absorb all that you require as done by natural foods. Defective absorption or digestion may lead to deficiency disorders. Also, sometimes excess and constant usage of artificial vitamins or minerals will bring rebound sickness. At that time cure can be attained only by stopping those vitamins or minerals. Finally, improper digestion is responsible for the deficiency if the food is from a good source.
Nature reveals itself to us like a blind man’s imagination of an elephant. In order to maintain our health, we have used our knowledge of two centuries to invent synthetic artificial supplements with the use of machines in the form of tablet, powder or jelly in place of natural foods. Due to our mechanical lifestyle, we have started making duplicates and imitations of nature. Duplicates are needed only when one cannot get the original. Also, in no way can it match all the properties of the natural food. We cannot buy health like we buy supplements. So to reap a good harvest in health we should take natural foods and nutrients which contain vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, oils, etc. Artificial supplements are full of some or other vitamins or minerals, but they never get absorbed properly in our intestines. So, eating a healthy diet, low in fat, high in fibre, as in fruits and vegetables is good.
Natural nutrients are:
Vitamins are catalysts for our bodily functions. They work with enzymes in helping all body chemical reactions (named as co-enzymes). Vitamins are not synthesised in our body and so they have to be obtained from our foods. They are required in small amounts only, so a well-balanced or good diet usually meets all the needs in surplus. Liver plays a major role in digestion and works as a warehouse or reservoir of vitamins.
Vitamins are mainly classified as fat-soluble (Vit – A, D, E & K) & water-soluble (Vit – B & C). Fat-soluble vitamins are mostly stored in the liver (if in excess, they are excreted in the faeces), whereas water-soluble vitamins are used for the time being and excreted in the urine. Vitamin deficiency usually leads to specific disorders. Digestion plays a major role in absorption of these vitamins. If there is improper digestion or the intestine is diseased, the vitamins will not be properly absorbed. The uses of vitamins are exhaustive: their role in growth, defence mechanism and healthy living are often found to be excellent but the process is not understood fully. The vitamins which are often found to be useful are:
A) Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed along with dietary fats.
1.Vitamin A (A1 – Retinol) – Everyone knows this vitamin since it take cares of the eye. It helps in perfect vision like accommodation reflex and visual acuity. So, people often take vitamin A for any eye disorder. The rich sources of this vitamin are cod liver oil, liver, egg, cheese, butter, ghee, milk, carrot, spinach, etc. Its deficiency leads to night blindness, dryness of eyes, spots on eyes, etc.
2.Vitamin D (D3 -Cholecalciferol) is chiefly helpful in calcium absorption for forming or maintaining bones and teeth. The rich sources are from sunlight (through skin), cod liver oil, milk, etc. The deficiency will lead to bone disorders (rickets) or teeth disorders due to lack of absorption of the calcium.
3.Vitamin E (Tocoferol) works mainly for good health by acting as a biological antioxidant. It prevents cell damage. So old people show great interest in taking it and doctors, in prescribing it. Vitamin E in degenerative disorders helps in maintaining cell integrity. The rich sources are vegetable oils, egg, wheat, etc.
4.Vitamin K helps in synthesis of prothrombin which protects us by arresting bleeding and forming clots. The rich sources of vitamin K are spinach and green vegetables. The deficiency leads to prolongation of clotting time and promoting bleeding.
B) Water-soluble vitamins (Vitamin B and vitamin C) are not stored in the body except B12 which is stored in the liver. They are used then and there and remaining is excreted by the kidneys in the urine. So, water-soluble vitamins need to be taken daily. Also, since they are water-soluble, they get lost during the process of washing and cooking. The important water-soluble vitamins are:
1.Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) plays a vital role in appetite, digestion and utilisation of carbohydrates, brain development and its maintenance. The rich sources are un-milled cereals, pulses, nuts, oil seeds, yeast, egg, liver, meat, etc. Its deficiency leads to poor appetite, pain in calf muscles, tiredness, beri-beri (complaints of poly neuritis, cardiac pathology & odematous swelling), encephalopathy, etc. This is more prevalent in people using polished rice.
2.Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is mainly helpful in protein and carbohydrate metabolism. The good sources of riboflavin are liver, meat, eggs, milk, leafy vegetables and fruits. Deficiency of this vitamin leads to dermatitis, sore tongue and cracks in the corners of the mouth.
3.Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) plays a major role in amino acid metabolism in the brain and its development. Rich sources of this vitamin are liver, meat, fish, cereals, etc. Its deficiency leads to sore tongue, convulsions, dizziness, etc.
4.Niacin is essential for nerves, skin and digestion. The rich sources are germinating pulses, cereals, groundnut, meat, fish, etc. The deficiency leads to sore tongue, mouth ulcers and diarrhoea.
5.Folates or folic acids are essential for synthesis of DNA. Natural sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and citrus fruits. They play an important role in brain and nervous system development and fertility.
6.Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) is mainly helpful in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. Also, it is very useful in the synthesis of red blood cells and DNA. Rich sources of the vitamin are liver, meat, milk, egg and fish. The vitamin is stored in the liver and its deficiency leads to anaemia, neurological problems, etc.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) is essential for the body’s immune mechanism. The vitamin is found in abundance in green vegetables and citrus fruits, especially lemon, orange, etc. It is essential for metabolism of connective tissue, wound healing, iron absorption and immune responses. Its deficiency leads to scurvy (gums swelling and bleeding, anaemia, weakness, etc).
Minerals are substances which are very useful for our body in the formation of bones, teeth, blood, hormones, etc. They are absorbed in the cells or plasma with the difference in the osmotic pressure. They are helpful in utilising energy from foods. Some minerals are called trace elements, named so for their requirement in micro quantities. They are zinc, iron, iodine, copper, cobalt, selenium, etc. Mineral-rich foods are leafy vegetables, fruits, cereals, pulses, eggs and fish. Minerals are widely distributed in our daily foods. The important minerals are calcium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium, iron, iodine, zinc, etc. The body absorbs only small amounts of minerals from our food. Mineral-rich foods also decrease the mineral absorption rate, since too much absorption of any mineral or trace element will be harmful.
Calcium is the main constituent of bones. It plays a major role in nerve conduction, muscular contraction and coagulation of blood. It also helps in enzyme reaction and in all metabolic processes. Rich sources of calcium are milk, vegetables, fish, fruits and cereals. The mineral is better absorbed in the presence of vitamin D. The deficiency leads to bony disorders and nervous complaints.
Sodium is very important to the body. It helps in exchange of the substances between the cells and extra-cellular tissues. It works with water in maintaining the body fluids. It is excreted in the urine and sweat. Depletion of sodium will bring exhaustion. Sodium chloride salts hold more water and maintain more volume of the body fluids. It is present in all foods.
Potassium is helpful in cellular functions. This is also present in all foods.
Magnesium is useful in strengthening the bones and enzyme reactions.
Phosphorous is useful in the formation of bones and teeth. It helps in all tissue metabolisms. It is also distributed widely in foods.
Iron is very helpful in the synthesis of haemoglobulin and for its oxygen-carrying property. It is also useful in cellular respiration and enzyme reactions. Rich sources of iron are liver, meat, egg, fish, cereals, pulses, leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, nuts, dates, etc. Iron is seen to be better absorbed in the presence of vitamin C. The deficiency leads to anaemia and a weakened defence mechanism. Usually women suffer from this due to menses and pregnancy.
Iodine plays a major role in the synthesis of thyroid hormones. The rich sources of this mineral are fish, meat, spinach, milk, water, etc. Generally, cabbage and cauliflower suppress the absorption of iodine. In the hilly areas, where soil and water is less in iodine content, thyroid problems are more. The government has taken steps to make iodised salt to be dispersed throughout the country.
Flourine is useful in the formation and maintanence of teeth and bones. The source of flourine is derived from drinking water and foods. Its overdose leads to flourosis which includes losing the enamel of the teeth, strength of the teeth and bones.
Zinc is used widely nowadays for early recovery from diseases and maintaining good health. It is commonly distributed in all foods. Rich sources of this mineral are meat, milk and fish. Its deficiency leads to growth failure, weakened immune response, delayed recovery, sexual weakness, etc.
Selenium has gained importance recently due to excellent results in maintaining cell integrity and fertility. The rich sources of this mineral are corn, wheat and soya bean.
Proteins are essential for the formation of tissues and their maintenance. They also help in the synthesis of haemoglobin, enzymes and hormones which are very essential for bodily functions. Deficiency of proteins leads to loss of weight, anaemia and weakened defence mechanism. The rich sources are meat, egg, milk, fish, pulses, cereals, nuts and soya beans.
Carbohydrates are essential for oxidation of fats since it contains oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. The rich sources of carbohydrates are flour, sugar and cellulose. Even though we take plenty of carbohydrates in the diet, it is not stored well and so it is regularly needed in day-to-day life.
Fibre content of vegetables and fruits are very helpful in normal bowel movement. Recent research has not show any nutritional or energy value in these fibres. But obese, constipated, hypertensive and diabetic people get more benefits from this type of food.
Fat and oils are concentrated sources of energy by the combustion of their contents, carbon, oxygen and fatty acids. They are essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Rich sources of fats and oils are meat, fish, egg, milk, ghee, butter, cereals, pulses, groundnut and coconut oil. After being stored in the body, they help the body by acting as a reservoir of energy. They are rich sources of essential fatty acids (EFA) which can reduce blood cholesterol. Fat help the body by giving shape and thermal insulation to avoid losing body heat.
All these nutrients work well if they are sourced from natural foods only. If these are artificially substituted, the result may not be up to the expectations and may sometimes result in side-effects. For example – for stomatitis or gum bleeding or swelling, people take vitamin C & B complex tablets. Anyone suffering can notice that even though they keep taking these tablets, the apthae or stomatitis does not go off completely. But the condition will respond very well when they people take citrus fruits which are good natural sources of vitamin C & Bs. Likewise, scurvy cannot be treated with supplements.
Also taking vitamin and mineral tablets often can cause hypervitaminosis and become toxic in nature. Even though their benefits are endless in the case of lack of energy, it is not at all a substitute for natural foods. Requirements of vitamins or minerals or fats depend upon the person’s age, constitution and nature of work.
If you supplement what the body requires from artificial synthetic compounds, it is just like giving a poor man money instead of giving him a job or extracting work from him. What you gave will be enough for him for only one day. You will have to give him again the next day. You, in fact, form the habit of making him dependent on you. Likewise, routine supplement therapy spoils our digestion and our body by leading to dependency.
Nowadays, people even go for IV (intravenous) drips for simple tiredness. Does this help in the long run? No, it won’t work for more than eight hours. This short route of adding glucose to the blood can be preferred and used when there is digestive problem or when one cannot take food orally. If you can take oral fluids, simply going for healthy natural drinks can help more than IV drips. Likewise, children are now forced to take appetizer, tonics of iron, zinc and calcium for anaemia and growth. Does this cure them of anaemia? No, it works very temporarily. If you discard the course of tonics, they will surely recur again. Do menopause women or aged people taking calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin e always benefit from them? No, they are continue to suffer from osteoporosis, flushes, etc.
You may wonder why these supplements don’t work, even though they are provided artificially. There are lots of differences between man-made and nature-made vitamins and minerals, in its absorption, action and quality. Supplements can also be harmful since they are highly concentrated and the intake is selective. So, for natural good health, the deficit should be attained from natural foods only. You can easily get all the needed nutrients from right food, if your digestion and absorption are normal. You can take artificial supplements for a short duration, when you are extremely tired or for immediate or instant energy. Instant energy is becoming fashionable like instant coffee or tea. But for being and staying healthy, be and stay natural. Also, utilise the food by work i.e. work for food and take food for work. Everyone should cultivate a regular habit of taking a good diet and good exercise.
People mostly do not need vitamin supplements at all, but continue to take them because they are health conscious. This may sometimes lead to their getting distressed on getting recurrent complaints, even after taking vitamins and minerals in large doses. In large and continued doses, supplemented vitamins, minerals, etc. may act as toxic agents. Too much or too less of any vitamin or mineral will be harmful. Anything in excess is not good for health. For example, glucose is absolutely needed for our energy and life. But, if its level rises in our blood, it becomes diabetes and can cause diabetic coma. Likewise, white blood cells (WBCs) are necessary for our immune reaction. But if it becomes more, it reacts to every small or trivial discomfort and even leads to death like in the case of cancer.
If food contains large amounts of vitamins and minerals, either in natural or artificial supplementation, initially the body prevents itself from its toxic damage by decreasing its rate of absorption. Due to this, the body will not be able to get other important nutrients which are really needed for day-to-day living. Finally, the depleted condition leads to increased absorption to compensate for the low value, where toxaemia develops.
Toxicity of vitamins can develop as side-effects, when vitamin tablets are often used without doctor’s advice or otherwise used continuously for a long time, after prescribed by a doctor. The fat-soluble vitamins are more toxic than water-soluble vitamins, since they are stored in our body (in the liver). The water-soluble vitamins can also become toxic if taken in very large doses. Also, rebound sickness can also appear due to reduction in absorption in the intestines.
In large doses or continued doses,
- Vitamin A may lead to weight loss, dry itchy skin, nausea, headache, diarrhoea, bone and liver disorders
- Vitamin D may lead to bone deformation, arteriosclerosis, cardiac disorders, renal stones and failure
- Vitamin E can cause bleeding in the abdomen or brain, poor immune system and diarrhoea
- Vitamin K can make healthy cells deteriorate
- Vitamin C can enhance tumours and decreases vitamin B12 level and cause tiredness
- Vitamin B may lead to reduced iron absorption, leading to anaemia.
In large doses or continued doses,
- Calcium may lead to osteoporosis, renal stones and arteriosclerosis. It also suppresses the absorption of vitamin D and magnesium
- Sodium may lead to vomiting and ulceration of the gastro-intestinal mucosa
- Iodine may lead to thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism)
- Fluorine may lead to dental flourosis (loss of shining of teeth, pitting and discoloration of teeth) and skeletal flourosis and also formation of new bones
- Iron can cause a deficiency in zinc. It can also cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, dark or black coloured stools and abdominal disorders
- Selenium can produce selenosis which includes symptoms of abdominal disorders, hair loss, white blotchy nails, garlic breath odour, fatigue, irritability and nervous disorders
If you have difficulty in breathing, it means your lung is in trouble. If you have difficulty with your heartbeats, it means your heart is in trouble. Likewise, if you feel tired, you as a whole are in trouble. So prescribing multi-vitamins for those feeling tired is wrong. It is best to correct our body and make our body absorb vitamins and minerals directly from food rather than from a little pill: don’t fill your plate with pills. The apt method to correct it is with Homeopathy medicines. Complete cure reflects in every dimension of Homeopathy.
When all hope is given up, Homeopathy can open up a new avenue for cure. There may be many avenues for cure. One which is straight and short is Homeopathy.
Homeopathic Medicines should be taken under the advice and diagnosis of a qualified Homeopath.
(Disclaimer: The contents of this column are for informational purpose only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of healthcare professional for any health problem or medical condition.)