Back from my writing-coma, I wanted to share my newly found skepticism for natural, herb-stuffed pockets of gelatin-encased alleged goodness. That’s right, I’m going after the herbal supplement. The horror.
My nutritionist would turn red and shake her head, but I wonder if she really believes that taking 20 pills a day in your twenties is a good idea. She probably does, because her claim is that the food we eat cannot provide adequate nutrition, even if we eat “right.” I say, bull honkey. Those who lament that our soils are depleted of nutrients and that spinach 50 years ago had twice as many vitamins and minerals as today’s miss the mark. Fifty years ago everyone cooked their food to almost complete nutrient death. Today, many more people, well, those who eat vegetables anyway, eat them raw. So even spinach with less nutrients probably has more eaten raw than it would have been boiled or sauteed. The issue is those who eat no veggies, refined grains, and cart loads of corn-fed meat. But that’s for another post.
All of this is based on my personal experience with herbal supplements. Which lasted longer than it should have, since it shouldn’t have happened at all. Our friendly little pills with dried or powdered or liquid something or other in them are a huge market. Billions of dollars type of stuff. That’s quite feat, since they are not regulated by the FDA. Which means that we don’t really know what’s in some of those pills, how potent they are, or whether those ingredients react negatively with something else you’re taking, FDA approved or not.
For instance, they say that women on birth control shouldn’t consume too much ginseng because it increases the effects of estrogen. That’s not what I would call “common knowledge”. There are plenty of other natural and manufactured drug interactions that could make you feel bad, put you in the hospital, or just plain kill you. Yet people read an article online, or hear something from a friend, and here they are, swallowing a pill or two to help them out. Usually, this shouldn’t be so bad. But unless you’re taking one pill for a day, or two, you’re probably doing more harm than good.
I say this because a study came out that essentially showed most alternative medicines, especially pills, were no better than a placebo. I was knee-deep in my delusional pill-popping at the time, and it was a rude awakening. So I asked my accupuncturist this question, “Since the body is designed as a self-maintaining system, wouldn’t it just take care of itself as long as you ate well?” He explained that yes, that was the case, but that they had really good pills to sell me anyway. This is when I stopped taking anything on a regular basis.
This isn’t to say that pills can’t help, especially those that are meant to fix a problem. Like aspirin, for instance. I become wary when you have to take a pill for the rest of your life, a pill that will have side effects, ones that you will probably have to take more pills to mitigate. It’s an endless cycle.
That is, until you stop. I stopped, mostly because the pills weren’t making anything better. In fact, they were making it worse. I understand that the alternative market is searching for ancient knowledge and blah blah blah, but the fact is, our bodies are more complicated than we can grasp. We are a whole system, engineered to deal with rogue cells and deficiencies in its own way. One pill, or a barrage of them, aren’t going to make anyone a perfect being simply because our science is reductionist. There isn’t a way to shove some dried roots in a capsule and clean house. Isolating one or two nutrients fails to see the whole picture. Our food, for instance, has hundred of compounds in it, most of which we are clueless about. It doesn’t make sense to pull one out and call it a miracle cure, because there’s a good chance there’s a missing link, or maybe an entire missing chain.
In fact, most of our problems that are not genetic, are lifestyle based. Too much drinking, too little sleep, too much crappy food. It’s really an easy fix. Actually, that’s not true. It’s a long fix, that will take time and dedication and big changes. Changes that most people are not willing to make. So instead, in our ever-impatient world, we pop a pill and hope for the best. Even if that means nothing changes.