I find it surprising how “normal” being on medication has become. People are constantly swallowing these chemical compounds during everyday life for headaches, heartburn, depression, ADD, trouble sleeping, stuffiness, etc. etc. In fact, I’ve had plenty of times when people have asked me what I take and when I say “nothing”, they seem surprised. The “more natural” route of vitamins has the same sort of following, with people taking them for everything from more energy to better skin. So what’s wrong with this picture? Here’s what I think.

Medicines

Let’s start with medicines. Now don’t get me wrong, I do think there is a time and place for them especially when it comes to medical emergencies. The issue here is that they have become the crutch that people lean on to avoid facing the real problem. ‘Have a headache? Take a pill and keep going!’ Says the ads, but did that person ever stop to think that maybe they have a headache because their body needs to slow down, de-stress, and get more hydrated?

Even when people do realise that, for example, they need to rest even after they have taken something, they often don’t rest as long as they should, because their body’s way of communicating how it’s doing has been muted.

Ever hear of the rare disorder where a person is born without the ability to feel pain? Sounds great, right? Not really. That same person is in risk of serious injury all their life, because their body will not warn them if they start to accidentally damage themselves.

Medicines often treat symptoms rather than causes. Which means relying on them often means not giving the body what it really needs to get healthy. Continually doing this means not only are you risking more long term damage, but you are also creating a continual cycle of needing more medicine.

More because you are still doing what caused the problem in the first place, and because the body is smart. If you start giving it strange substances that mess with it’s system, it doesn’t like it, so it adjusts. This is why, for example, you shouldn’t take sleeping pills. At first it will work great, but then over time your body will work to counteract the effect until you’re not much better off then where you started. So, you have to take more to get the same effect or you can stop. However if you stop, you will now have even more trouble sleeping than when you started, because you’re body is now compensating for the medication it’s expecting, yay!

Finally my last concern with medicine, it’s unpredictable! Yes, it will most likely do what’s advertised on the box, but did you ever read the list of potential side affects, or hear of other disastrous health issues that have cropped up from taking x drug? This is because the body is complicated. And while we like to pretend we understand it, there is a lot about it we still don’t know. Then of course, there’s that fact that everyone’s body is different!

Vitamins

So what about vitamins? Surely taking vitamins, which we need in everyday life anyways, couldn’t be bad? This is the way I thought until I met my husband. He doesn’t trust vitamins. ‘Why?’ I asked, puzzled. To which he answered, ‘because they come out of a factory.’

This got me thinking. What exactly are these pills I’m taking? They’re not exactly natural. I did a bit of research and realised that for one thing, vitamins are not pure. They’re mixed and encapsulated in various other components in an attempt to make them go down well, taste right, and be digested in the right manner. Some of these ingredients have been listed as harmless, others untested, and still others have been marked for concern. Then of course there is the vitamin itself.

When I was pregnant I got a lot of pressure to take the right balance of vitamins. Take folic acid they said, but avoid vitamin A. Why avoid vitamin A? Because it can cause birth defects! Eek!

So, being the natural person that I am, I started looking up what foods had vitamin A in them so that I could avoid an overdose. The answer? A lot. Dairy, fruit, vegetables, and meat; foods from all of these groups have significant amounts of vitamin A in them. With few healthy foods left in the list, I felt like there must be something missing to this picture, and there was.

Vitamin A is actually quite important for your body. It helps with eyesight among other things. Upon digging a little deeper I found that what doctors are actually concerned about is pregnant women taking too much vitamin A in the form of supplements.

Eating foods with vitamin A naturally in them is for the most part (excepting say, liver), just fine, since in these natural food sources the body is accustomed to taking just what it needs and leaving the rest. Vitamins in the form of food supplements are given in a much more concentrated form and digested differently, so an overdose is much more possible. Moral of the story? If at all possible, get vitamins in the way they were meant to be acquired: through food!

Besides, if you aim to get the vitamins you need in food, then you are also giving your body lots of other good stuff you might be low on otherwise – minerals, antioxidants, fiber, etc., and you’ll be leaving less room for those empty calorie foods which add other problems.

Ironically, when I asked my midwife what foods I could eat to make sure I got enough folic acid for the baby, she didn’t have an answer for me. (The answer, by the way, is a lot of green leafy vegetables, among other whole foods.)

It’s sad to me how the natural solution seems to be often not even mentioned in modern medical teachings. Which brings me to a word of warning I have said before: learn what you are eating!

There have been various government policies put in place, at least in the US, to encourage various types of food manufacturers to add supplements to their products, for example iodized salt, and vitamin D in milk. This is an unfortunate solution to the problem that too many unhealthy food items are being sold to the public in the first place, leaving citizens vitamin deficient.

Unfortunately for us, this means things like overdosing on vitamin A or other fat-soluble vitamins can happen much more easily, so do watch for ingredient labels for what supplements might be added.

The More Natural Way

Vitamin deficient? Unfortunately to date there is no magical gruel like they have in The Matrix that has everything the body needs all perfectly balanced. But really, who wants that? Personally I would much prefer a nice energizing salad that tastes great and leaves me feeling great.

And medicine? Give your body rest, nutrients, exercise, and emotional boosts in self confidence and relaxation, and the rewards will be much greater and more long lasting.

So this is my recommendation to you, next time something isn’t right in your body, ask this, “what is my body asking for? What does it really need to fix the balance?” You’re body will reward you for listening.

 

When I was a preteen I took my first dive into the world of healthy but unpopular choices. I gave up all processed sugars, sugar substitutes, and caffeine, along with foods that had unusually long lists of unrecognizable ingredients in them.

Why? Well, as is a common motivating factor for dietary changes, I was overweight.

Luckily I had some guidance. My mom, like many members of my family, has struggled with weight her whole life. As a result of this and her love of reading, she has read probably every book out there on nutrition, diets, and everything in between. And luckily for me, she loves talking about it.

There are many diets out there. In fact, in my opinion it’s the new religion because everyone out there has their own opinion of what people should be eating. The choice for me felt obvious though. Eat food that the body was evolved to eat, in a form that your system already knows how to deal with, and your body will take care of the rest.

Sugar for example, eat sugar in the form of fruit and the body is happy and healthy. Eat it in the form of table sugar and you run into all sorts of problems.

‘Oh I’m not eating that much,’ you might say, but a word of warning for sugar and all food additives: READ LABELS. When I first gave up sugar etc. and started reading labels, I was shocked at what they put sugar in. Bread? Canned vegetables? Salt?? All yes. What a joke. If there is anything you take away from this post, it must be this: Learn what you are eating. Reading labels has been a godsend for me, even when I went back on sugar etc. for a while, because it meant I was in control of the quantity of those substances.

Anyways, so what happened when I gave up eating food that had been through a lab and back? I lost 55 pounds in a matter of months. I was very skinny then, and over time 10 pounds of that came back to leave me at the nice healthy weight of 135 pounds at the height of 5′ 7″, but I was fine with that, because that was where my body was most comfortable.

Where to Compromise

I did my diet for 10 years before taking a few years off, and now I’m back on it again with my daughter. Whenever making a change to your diet, I recommend making changes for the long haul, because fast fixes are temporary.

I actually feel lucky that I have genes that cause me to gain weight at any slight slip in routine, because it’s a reminder to me that I’m doing something that will affect me negatively in the long run. For all you never-gain-weight people, remember, there are many worse problems that come from eating poorly than weight gain.

That said, just because I’ve chosen a life of no processed sugar doesn’t mean I haven’t found ways to enjoy a wide range of foods and sweets. I totally recommend learning how to cook/bake if you don’t already, because being able to make things like BBQ sauce, muffins, and even chocolate (well, carob) éclairs with all natural ingredients makes life amazing.

For those wanting to join me, a few notes to help you get started:

  • Sweeteners I trust: Maple syrup, maple sugar, honey, stevia (pure green powder form preferably!), date syrup, date sugar, fruit juice.
  • Sweeteners to stay away from: sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, brown sugar, dextrose, maltodextrin, aspartame.

Note: This is by no means a complete list. When in doubt, look it up. I recommend checking out both how they make or acquire said sweetener, and the sweetener’s GI (Glycemic Index).