Dietary Supplements: Fact or Fiction
By August J. McLaughlin, CN
I’ll never forget watching The Jetsons as a youngster. Two factors from the future-rendition Clevers’ world mesmerized me–the remote control closet that configured high-fashion looks with the simple push of a button (I still haven’t gotten mine) and foods in pill-form (I still don’t want them). My heart ached each time little Elroy Jetson had to gulp a pill at lunchtime rather than sink his teeth into savory bread slices smattered with raspberry and nutty-creamy-yum. “Poor Elroy,” I recall thinking. I would’ve offered him my lunch if I weren’t so set on devouring it myself.
Now, twenty years since the show’s syndication, it seems the Jetsons were more prophetic that we viewers perhaps realized. The latest i-Robot vacuum cleaners aren’t a far cry from Rosie, the robotic maid, children’s’ cyber-pets bare striking resemblances to Astro-the-dog, and food-in-a-pill? Check any grocery store, health food market and even gas station. I’d venture to guess that more stores boast them than do not–pills that supply nutrients we can and, in my humble opinion, should reap from healthy foods, packaged in neat little packets and bottles with guarantees ranging from increased energy and improved eye-health to heightened bedroom pleasure. (I mean…really? ) As a grownup/nutritionist/foodie/health-minded individual, I now aspire more than ever to trade the world’s multi-billion-dollar diet industry’s “food-pills” for that glorious high-tech closet. (At least we’d all appear cuter?)
Before you lash out at me regarding supplements that have changed your life, please hear me out. I’m not claiming that all vitamins and supplements are harmful or useless, nor that numerous advances in the natural health and pharmacological industries lack significance. I would like to point out, however, that most dietary supplements lack scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness. Worst of all, many are known to cause harm.
A few facts, for perspective’s sake:
B-vitamins are known to support thyroid function, metabolism, healthy blood sugar levels and numerous other aspects of human health. Who wouldn’t want bottles of all that? Well, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, excessive intake of vitamin B6 in supplement form can cause nerve damage and resultant numbness, paralysis, poor coordination and a sense of “heaviness” in the legs (symptoms of a condition known as peripheral neuropathy). Vitamin B6 intake that exceeds 100 mg per day is considered the maximum “tolerable intake level.” Correction: One can of Red Bull contain 2.5 a person’s RDA and a random B-vitamin supplement bottle I picked up today contained 50 milligrams per capsule with suggested dosage of 1 capsule, 2 – 3 times per day.
The mineral iron also supports thyroid function, blood health and wellness in people with various autoimmune diseases. The ODS calls iron toxicity through iron supplements a “considerable potential risk.” Since the body only requires trace amounts, or between 8 and 11 mg daily, and the body isn’t terrific at ridding itself of the excess, unused iron can easily gather in bodily tissue and organs and cause constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, excessive supplemental iron intake has proved fatal.
Hmm…I suppose this isn’t the cheeriest way to introduce myself to you all and the column (Hi, by the way! J) but I felt the need to express it. I’ll leave you with some cheerier points…
To reap sufficient amounts of B-vitamins and iron, make these foods staples in your diet:
- Whole grain breads and cereals (gluten-free grains if you’re sensitive or intolerant)
- Oatmeal (1 ½ servings hits your daily quota for vitamin B6!)
- Fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, trout, clams…)
- Sea vegetables
- Chili peppers
Are vitamin and mineral supplements ever helpful? Yes. Nutrient supplements can offer benefits for people who suffer from malabsorption of nutrients due to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other digestive illnesses. (Your doctor should’ve explained this to you if it’s the case…if you’re unsure, ASK.)
The American Dietetic Association also recommends dietary supplements as valuable options for people who are unable to adhere to a healthy diet, long-term restrictive dieters, pregnant women and strict vegetarians or vegans.
Food for Thought
The best nutritional advice I may ever offer is this: Eat. Second, eat food. Third, make most of your choices healthy ones. Fourth, seek pleasure in your food and learn to appreciate and honor your body…even when it isn’t functioning or appearing the way you’d prefer. (I’ll dip further into these matters in future segments.)
I’m a huge fan of fiction—writing it, reading it, viewing it—but I, for one, prefer to keep it off my dinner plate.
I’d love to hear your thoughts regarding dietary supplements and any other nutritional matters circulating your head, heart or belly. Please submit your thoughts and questions any old time! I look forward to getting to know you all.
Cheers to you and your wellness, August
Tags: autoimmune nutrition column, B vitamins affect on thyroid function, blood suger levels, dietary supplements, Dietary Supplements: Fact or Fiction, foods wtih B-vitamins, iron toxicity, iron vitamins affecting autoimmune patients, metabolism, thyroid nutrition, thyroid nutrition column, Vitamin B6, Written by August J. McLaughlin CN