Why Supplement? The Real Threat of Disease
Most Americans do not think they are going to become ill with a serious disease until the very day that it happens. When the heart attack happens or the doctor utters those terrible works "you've got cancer" the average person thinks these things only happen to someone else. The following facts fly directly in the face of this prevailing public opinion.
· The Center for Disease Control reports that 50 years ago 10% of the population was chronically ill and today that figure is over 40%.
· One person dies each minute from cancer and one in three Americans will die from some form of cancer.
· Heart disease causes one million deaths annually and one in three men will develop some form of cardiovascular disease by the age of 60.
· Over half of women over 55 have some form of osteoporosis.
· More than 50 million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis.
· Diabetes affects more than 16 million people with many millions more having high blood sugar on their way to diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease and amputations.
· About 43 million people suffer from high blood pressure.
· A new case of breast cancer is found every 3 minutes and 75% of men over 60 will have a serious problem with their prostate.
These are very serious statistics that are reported on a regular basis and yet a majority of people chose to ignore them and persists in the belief that it just won't happen to them. The patterns of poor health habits and behavior are firmly entrenched in our culture as can be seen by the following additional statistics.
· The percentage of overweight adults in the U.S. has reached an all time high of 55% and 30% of children are overweight.
· Obesity cost our Country over $60 billion last year in terms of the health consequences of being overweight (diabetes, heart disease, etc.).
· The USDA found in a recent survey that only 1% of Americans meet the minimum daily requirements for dietary adequacy.
· Many people continue to use tobacco even though it has been clearly shown that smokers have a 70% greater overall mortality rate from disease than non-smokers.
· Less than one in six Americans get even the minimum aerobic exercise necessary to keep the heart healthy.
When someone loses their good health their whole life changes for the worse. Disease is a serious distraction in our lives and drains us of time, energy, the ability to perform many desirable activities and of financial resources. Over 50% of all personal bankruptcies are due to medically related expenses.
How does poor health and disease happen?
We don't start out each day trying to become less healthy and yet many of the choices we make or conditions we accept as normal lead us in that very direction. Consider the following lifestyle and societal patterns.
· Stress continues to creep into our lives at work and at home.
· We eat on the run and get food where it is available.
· We eat too many fried foods and too many sweets.
· We give in to our addictions to caffeine in coffee and soft drinks.
· We skip meals when life just becomes too hectic.
· We eat foods that are grown in depleted soil.
· We eat foods that have been over treated with pesticides.
· We eat foods that have been over cooked, processed or microwaved.
· We eat too many carbohydrates.
· We don't take enough supplements to keep our bodies nourished.
· We don't drink enough water.
· Some of us drink too much alcohol.
· We don't pay attention to health patterns in our family (genes).
· We consume too many antibiotics, which deplete our immune system.
· We consume too many prescription drugs that aren't necessary.
· We don't exercise as much as we should.
· We don't practice relaxation and stress control everyday.
· We allow harmful environment conditions at work to persist.
· We often don't nurture our relationships as we should.
· We don't read enough about how to protect our health.
In other words we go through life paying very little serious attention to the consequences of our unhealthy actions and then are shocked when we become ill. It would be more appropriate to be shocked if you did not become ill.
My genes are good.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say "I have good genes" and that person was seriously ill within the next few years. If people read more about genes and disease they would know that only 5% of cancers can be directly attributed to being passed on genetically and about 30% of all diseases can really be blamed on bad genes. That means that about 70% of our illnesses are due to things we do to ourselves, our so-called lifestyle choices.
In Jeffery Bland's book Genetic Engineering, even the apparent connection between our genes and the probability of becoming ill is attacked.
· People with poor genes can neutralize them to a significant degree by taking specific steps to overcome their inherited tendencies. Through diet, exercise, supplementation, meditation and other natural health actions begun at an early stage in life, there is a very good chance that genetic health problems can be delayed or even eliminated.
· Conversely, if you have wonderful genes it is also possible for you to override them through a series of bad lifestyle choices. If you eat too many cholesterol-laden foods, don't exercise and fill your life with stress you can have a heart attack even if none of your parents or grandparents ever had any type of heart disease. You are not immune from illness simply because your parents and grandparents lived to a ripe old age. Consider some of these changing conditions.
· Our parents had employment that was more stable and less stressful.
· Our forefathers were not subjected to the thousands of carcinogenic pollutants with which we must contend every day.
· Our parent's jobs required more physical labor. (This is a good thing.)
· Our parents and grandparents engaged in more physical recreational activities (no computers or television).
· Due to various scientific break throughs, like polio and smallpox vaccine, we are living longer than previous generations and are more susceptible to diseases related to old age such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and some cancers.
· There was less junk food available to our forebear's.
As an excuse for not paying more attention to our health, genetics is certainly not as reliable as most people believe it is. However, it is only one of the many excuses put forward to avoid taking action to improve our health.
Everyone Will Die Sometime.
This is another one of those casual comments people make in trying to dismiss the call for better diets, a cessation to smoking or some other bad habit that people don't want to give up. Consider the cases of a few people I have heard utter those words.
T.F. is a friend of mine who lived the high life all through his twenties and thirties with plenty of parties, lots of alcohol, a few drugs, a pretty bad diet and no vitamins. He always said his father only made it to age 65 and that would be fine with him. In his late 30's, T. F. was informed he had Hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver. Now he must be on a special diet, take many drugs and vitamins, go to bed around 8 p.m. because he has no energy left and lives with constant pain and discomfort. He may live to age 65, but the last 25 years will not be what he was hoping for and he has humbly eaten the words he spoke as an impetuous young man.
W. F. is also a friend of mine who would delight in teasing me about the many vitamins I was taking, the food I brought with me to replace the unhealthy fare he offered, my unwillingness to drink alcohol and my insistence on exercising every day when there were so many other more enjoyable things to do, in his opinion. When W. F. was about 40 he had his first bout with stomach ulcers and he got over it with medication and thought he could just carry on as before. About 5 years later he had a more serious bout, which now included jaundice and a near death experience. I think this experience got his attention. Gradually, he has begun to change his diet, stop his consumption of alcohol, add vitamins and herbs to his daily routine and read health journals about his multiple health problems. The quality of his life is a mere fraction of what it used to be as he must carefully watch everything he consumes, has much less energy than he used to, has lost much muscle mass and has aged well beyond his actual years. Instead of teasing now I get inquires about how he can improve his condition and get back to good health.
There are so many similar stories of relatives who died at age 50 from cancer and young people in their 20's with Crohn's disease or fibromyalgia. There are even cases of parents asking what they can do about their teenager who has come down with Type II diabetes, which used to be a disease experienced mostly by people over 40. The sad part of these stories is that most of them were totally avoidable.
How do supplements help?
Supplements are not intended to replace the nutrients we get from our food, but rather add to or complement them. We still need to eat a healthy balanced diet. For reasons previously stated it is virtually impossible to get the vitamins, minerals and enzymes we need form the food that are available to us. And, the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for vitamins and minerals are totally inadequate to meet the needs of the average person. They are the minimum requirements based on outdated research that has not been updated for political reasons. The explanation about the connection between the government dietary and vitamin guidelines and the special interest of the medical establishment, drug industry and the food industry has already filled many books. The main point is that many progressive scientist and doctors have come to the conclusion that supplementation is very necessary and should be done at an optimal level as opposed to a minimal level. Here is some of their reasoning.
· Pollutants and other toxic substances invade our bodies every day and we call these substances free radicals. If we don't get enough anti-oxidants (vitamins A, C, E, Selenium, etc.) these free radicals will cause disease to occur.
· Our cells are replaced on a regular basis, some every few days (skin, stomach, etc.) or every few months (more dense body parts). If we do not eat right, and supplement, we will replace old cells with inferior new cells leading to premature aging and disease.
· Without the right nutrient levels we reduce the bodies ability to produce various natural chemicals and hormones that perform vital functions like keeping our heart beating, allowing us to have sexual relations or keeping our brain in good working order.
· Without the right enzymes, minerals and vitamins our food can not be properly digested, which means nutrients can not reach our cells or waste can not be properly removed.
· Without a sufficient level of vitamins and minerals our immune system becomes depressed and we are unable to kill the various germs and bacteria that invade our bodies everyday.
· Once we do succumb to some disease it is possible for various supplements, including herbal remedies, to help us recover. (For example, milk thistle is an herb commonly used to support people with some form of liver disease.)
· As was previously stated, it is even possible to neutralize or overcome genetic tendencies for certain diseases with various supplements. The best example of this is heart disease.
A recent study by Pracon, Inc. of Reston, Virginia, indicated that if every American took 400 international units of Vitamin E everyday, health costs would be reduced by $8.7 billion per year. Most of the savings would be caused by a reduction of days spent in the hospital by more than 500,000 per year. The equally amazing aspect of this example is that the benefits of Vitamin E for the heart were identified over 40 years ago by Evan Shute, M.D. of London, Ontario. It has taken the medical community and government over 40 years to admit to the benefits identified by Dr. Shute in his clinical research. How many lives have been lost, how many unnecessary drugs have been consumed, and how many unnecessary operations have been performed due to this stubborn resistance to the benefits of this one vitamin? How many billions of dollars have been wasted? This seems to border on criminal behavior.
How do we know what vitamins to take?
There are basically three ways to guide our determination of which vitamins to take.
1. Recommended optimal approach - A number of medical doctors, scientists and naturopathic doctors have developed lists of optimal daily supplement allowances. A list, of one such list from Malcom Balch, M.D., appears as Appendix I of this document.
2. Symptom response approach - The second method is to monitor certain symptoms the body is producing and respond with the supplement, which is indicated to address those symptoms. A list of symptoms and recommended vitamins, minerals, and enzyme responses appears as Appendix II of this document.
3. Specific disease approach - The third approach is to respond when a specific disease has been identified with the appropriate application of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and herbal remedies. There are several books available for this approach including a mini-book provided by Healthy @ Work, a Sarasota, Florida based health consulting company. This book also contains a number of specific tests that can be used to determine if you are vulnerable to certain diseases or illnesses. These include the following types of tests.
· Blood pressure
· Blood sugar
· Stool test
· Pap smear
· Rectal exam
· Breast exam
· Bone density test
· Eye tests
Avoiding these tests or the symptoms referred to in Appendix II has led to millions of people suffering unnecessarily from diseases that could have been caught and treated much more effectively in the early stages. The longer the disease has time to develop the less chance there is that supplements and the bodies immune system will be able to reverse the problem. (See Appendix III.) Unfortunately, that's when invasive and expensive drugs and surgery become necessary. It means you didn't take preventative steps and you didn't pay attention to the symptoms. It means you waited too long.
What vitamins, when and why?
The science of supplementation is on a steady learning curve, which means there are constantly new research findings that take the place of conventional wisdom. The scientific and medical community are coming closer together in their understanding of how vitamins, minerals, enzymes and herbs work to assist the body in the process of development and repair. Some of the more standardized beliefs about the "what" and the "when" of vitamins is a follows.
· The list of supplements in Appendix I is a good starting point.
· Try to find vitamins that are derived from natural sources rather than synthetically produced in a laboratory.
· Try to find supplements that come from plants that are organically grown.
· Try to buy supplements from a company that has strict quality control and tests for consistency of potency.
· Always check the date on vitamins to be certain they are not outdated.
· Generally it is best to take your supplements with a meal for better absorption. Raw fruits and vegetables are even better because they contain the most enzymes that are critical to proper absorption.
· Generally liquid forms are easiest to absorb, then powder or capsule form and finally tablets. This is due to the ease of digestion of liquids and powders.
· Spread your consumption out during the day to ensure your body has a fresh supply of vitamins like anti-oxidants. Vitamin C usually moves through the body in 3 to 4 hours and is not stored for later use.
And finally, why take supplements? Many reasons have been presented throughout this paper, but a summary may help to drive home the importance of this aspect of your health routine.
1. Supplementation will help you avoid the nasty diseases mentioned earlier.
2. Good nutrition aided by the right vitamins, minerals and enzymes will help to delay the aging process.
3. A healthy person has more energy and can get more from each day whether its at work or play; also more creativity.
4. Supplementation allows your immune system to repeal germs and viruses meaning you will experience fewer sick days.
5. When you experience an accident or some other unavoidable illness your body will recover quicker and better than if you did not have a healthy immune system.
6. Regular vitamin takers have healthier and longer sex lives.
7. Healthy people exude radiance and confidence.
8. Healthy people have much higher levels of self-esteem.
9. Knowledge about supplementation can be passed on to your family and friends.
10. Your children will be more assured of a long and happy life.