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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Doctors and Supplements

It is amazing when a patient asks his or her doctor if a dietary supplement is all right to take. MD’s, with very rare exceptions, do not have adequate training in the therapeutic use of dietary supplements. They often know less factual information than some of the general public. It is never surprising when a doctor, who has no clue what a supplement really is or what it does, tells is or her patient no to take the supplement or says it could be harmful. Don’t ask a plumber how to fix your roof. Ask about your MD or DO’s level of training in natural supplements before asking them or advice in those matters.

Medical doctors are taught objectivity, but for some of them it seems to be selective. MD's are people, exceptional people, but people nonetheless. They cannot be expected to know absolutely everything that relates to health. Some rare MD’s do take additional training in natural therapies. ND’s (Doctors of Naturopathy) or NMD’s (Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine) are trained specifically in the therapeutic use of dietary supplements, as well as all the other natural therapies. Some, but alas, not all Chiropractic doctors are trained in the use of natural therapeutics, but on a limited basis in line with their health philosophies. Yet Chiropractors recommend more dietary supplements than any doctors, except ND’s and NMD’s. Some ND’s and NMD’s have both allopathic (medical) and Naturopathic training and some do not. All Naturopaths have training in the use of dietary supplements but the levels of knowledge can differ considerably.

More medical schools are realizing that the public demands natural therapies. Among Americans over 50, for instance, 65% surveyed say dietary supplements are a necessity. More courses in integrative, complementary and alternative medicine are being taught in medical schools. MD’s who can talk nutrition are in demand and are fast becoming prosperous, even famous. ND’s and NMD’s for the most part struggle to make a living. The ideal doctor of the future will understand both allopathic and naturopathic medicine. Hopefully Naturopathy survives and allopathic medicine converts. Only time will tell.

In 1989 the National Academy of Sciences did a full and complete re-evaluation of all vitamins and mineral and their requirements.

Then, in 1998, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) commissioned a study that resulted in the now familiar, but rarely followed, recommendations for minimum antioxidant support from food. This study told us that we should be eating two to four servings of fruit, and three to five servings of vegetables every day to get the minimum antioxidant support from our food. Five to nine servings daily of fresh raw fruits and vegetables wasn’t terribly realistic. Of course, almost no one followed those recommendations. They were not only inconvenient, but the majority of Americans simply didn’t want to eat that much food each day. Even if they wanted to, it simply wasn’t economically feasible for millions of Americans.

Too often, refined food packages, with so-called nutrition facts labeled on the package, led people to think that they were getting more nutrition than they actually were. Our system of medicine has also conditioned people to think that as long as they are symptom free, they are well. Because people have no obvious symptoms and they believe they are getting adequate nutrition from refined foods, there has been no motivation to eat fresh fruits and vegetables in the levels recommended by USDA or NAS.

In the year 2000, the National Academy of Sciences evaluated only those nutrients that are known to be either antioxidants or catalysts for antioxidants. An antioxidant is a substance, which can neutralize and render harmless a free radical. Free radicals, which are not neutralized by antioxidants cause damage to your cells. These free radicals left unchecked, cause free radical oxidative stress disease such as cancer and heart disease. They also contribute to other illnesses such as diabetes, as well as the aging process itself.

The National Academy of Sciences issued a statement in January 2001. This statement said that Americans were getting approximately 50% less antioxidants from their food than had been previously estimated. They did not recommend a dietary supplement but recommended that Americans simply double their intake of fruits and vegetables. We were originally told to eat two to four servings of fruit, and three to five servings of vegetables daily. Do they want us to eat 10 to 18 servings of fruits and vegetables daily? Even if you wanted to become a cow grazing all day long on your 18 servings, can you afford to do that? Who has the time to do that? You’d spend so much time eating there would be no time for anything else. Foods have become so deficient since the fifties that some natural foods have to be consumed at more than 50 times the previous levels to get the same nutrition we got back in the 50’s. The foods may look the same but the similarity ends there.

All medical health care practitioners at every level are taught that we should be able to get our basic nutrition from food. This is based on outdated information that does not take into account the full spectrum of the threats and stresses to human health in the 21st century. I want all people to eat right, fresh raw and natural as much as possible. Realistically, we know they won’t. But if they do not, their health will be compromised without essential nutritional support from scientifically validated dietary supplements.

Right now, the only thing that makes sense is to use dietary supplements to provide adequate antioxidant protection. Not all dietary supplements are created equal.

“Only 1% of the US population consumes a diet meeting the five food group recommendations that are the basis for the food pyramid in the Dietary Guidelines for America.” Am J Clin Nutr, 1997

Even the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finally entered the modern age by publishing an article that stated “Most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone…It appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.” JAMA. 2002

That JAMA article was a huge step forward for medical doctors everywhere. There can be no doubt that dietary supplements are no longer a luxury. In the 21st century they are a necessity!

Dietary supplements need to be in everyone’s monthly budget just you budget for food, fuel for your can, water, and all the daily necessities.

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