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.
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!
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.