Supplements: The Good, The Bad, And The Downright Dangerous

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Supplements: The Good, The Bad, And The Downright Dangerous

It’s no secret that I’m not exactly on the same side of the health fence as Big Pharma.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that I’m not a fan of your everyday supplements.  If your average one-a-day multivitamin is bad, what’s good?

The Good

My favorite raw foods blog is Kristen’s Raw. Kristen explains in great detail which supplements she uses and why.

So you’re not a raw vegan, but not sure you’re getting everything you need?  I totally understand.  I’m a busy mom with three kids, so I know what it’s like to try to balance good nutrition with time-saving measures.

Sometimes I worry that I’m not getting enough of what I need.  Right now, because I’m expecting another baby, I’m not 100% confident that my diet is supplying everything my body and baby require.

For that reason, I think supplementing with a daily multi and a couple of other products is perfectly fine.  Vitamin Code makes a raw vegan prenatal.

Beware of “whole foods” vitamins.  Sometimes the foods they use as a source are heated past 115 degrees, and therefore the vitamins become denatured.  Then they blast them full of synthetics to make up for the lost nutrition and slap a “natural” label on them.

That really burns my buttons, so just be careful.  Your best bets for whole foods vitamins are the Vitamin Code I mentioned above, or Dr. Mercola’s Whole Foods Multivitamin.

Other products that are whole foods based but do NOT claim to be raw are Juice Plus and Green and Purple Pops.  While these products may be great, I’m leery of spending that much money on something that’s not explicitly raw.  Why pay for dead enzymes?

For the rest of the population, here are a few supplements you may consider:

1. DHA.  Whether or not you’re a vegan, you might decide to skip the fish oil and go with the Omega 3s in flax seed instead.  Why?

First, the mercury content in fish is increasing, and that will be in your supplement.  Second, no fish burps.  Seriously.   Third, if the fish used is farmed, the balance of Omega 3s and 6s will be off.

2. Vitamineral Green.  I know that I’ve talked about it before, but I really think it’s important, especially if you don’t eat enough leafy greens and sea vegetables.  I have a hard time with kelp, dulse, and nori, so Vitamineral Green is really a life saver.

3. Vitamin D.  If you don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun, you should supplement.  Milk is often fortified with D2, which is fine for non-vegans.  However, if you want a natural source, I’d go with D3.  It’s a little more expensive, but I think that synthetics are worrisome enough

to pass by.

4.  Probiotics.  If you eat kefir (coconut, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or water varieties) or yogurt or drink kombucha, you’re probably fine here.  I like kombucha because it’s tasty (though it does smell a bit like vinegar) and fizzy, so it settles my stomach.

Kefir is my next choice because it has not only beneficial bacteria, but also natural yeasts to aid in digestion.

Yogurt is third, but only because it’s been so pimped out by the dairy industry that I highly doubt the efficacy of mass-market brands.

If you’re a vegan Mormon (or someone who doesn’t eat soy, dairy, or trace amounts of alcohol), a supplement is the way to go.  I’d recommend Ejuva’s Moflora.

Of course each person’s diet is different, and if you want a complete set of vitamin and mineral guidelines, please speak with your health care provider.

The Bad

I think synthetic vitamins are just bad.  Why?  Well, because at best, they’re ineffective in people who aren’t severely malnourished.

The body doesn’t recognize most of the chemical compounds these things are made from, and therefore works hard to flush them out.

I read a great report a year or so ago that spells out the dangers, and it’s worth a read.  It does a great job teaching you how to read labels so you know what’s natural and what isn’t.

Another recent article I mostly agree with is here.  It says that the $25 billion dollar a year vitamin industry is bunk.  Since 98% of the vitamins on the market are synthetic, I believe that.  Even those labeled “whole foods”, as we saw above, are mostly full of junk masquerading as health.

However, I DO believe that there is benefit in consuming the powdered, raw form of fruits, veggies, and sea veggies when your diet is lacking.

Most water-soluble synthetics are flushed out of the body with relative ease.  Not that you want to pay for a vitamin that’s just peed out instead of being absorbed, but at least it’s not going to kill you.

The Downright Dangerous

1.  Synthetic Vitamin C.  A study using synthetic C was begun with 22,000 pregnant women.  The study was halted because birth defects increased 400% according to the New England Journal of Medicine, 1995.

I’ve  also read research that it can contribute to the thickening of the arterial walls of the heart by as much as 2.5 times.  I’d say that’s dangerous!

2.  Synthetic Vitamin A.  This may contribute to lung cancer (especially in smokers), birth defects, and loss of sight.  Weston A Price has a great article on why plant foods are labeled as having Vitamin A but are ineffective in converting it to usable forms.

Want natural A?  Cod liver oil.  Simple as that.

3.  Synthetic Vitamin D.  This sucker is seriously dangerous in large quantities.  It can lead to kidney stones, high blood pressure and high cholesterol in adults.

Suite 101 says, “For children, it can cause diarrhea, nausea, frequent urination, loss of appetite, dizziness, weakness, calcium deposits in kidneys and excessive calcium in the blood”.

Want natural D?  Start with the sun.  If that’s not enough, that same cod liver oil will work wonders!

4.  Synthetic Vitamin E.  Want fatigue, hypertension, immune system suppression and excessive bleeding?  Go ahead and load up on Synthetic Vitamin E.

Want natural E?  Easy as (pecan) pie.  Nuts and seeds, whole grains, paprika, and lots of leafy greens will take care of your needs.

I don’t want you to be afraid of supplements.  As a general rule, I think they’re best used sparingly, only to supplement a diet high in whole, organic foods.   If you decide to take them, please stay away from synthetic formulations.

Read the links I’ve provided for more education, and see for yourself if getting what you need from fresh food isn’t the best course of action!

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