Who will save us?
It seems like it’s open season on vitamins. Everyone from the New York Times to the esteemed Annals of Internal Medicine is sounding the alarm that vitamins are at best a waste of money and more likely the ultimate downfall of the human race. It seems we do this dance about once a year and it truly gets my conspiracy theorist brain to wonder if there are larger interests beyond public service behind these annual attacks on the supplement industry.
But are they right?
Conspiracy theories aside let’s look at the merit of their arguments and not just knee-jerk responses. Most of the criticisms I read were for multi-vitamin/muli-mineral formulas. Personally, in my career, I’ve found very little use for multi-vitamins. Aside from my patients who were either pregnant, elderly, or college kids living on dorm food I rarely put people on multi-vitamins. I personally don’t take a multi. I always felt that if I didn’t take a multi I became more aware of my diet – I had to think; “Did I get enough B’s today?”, “Have I eaten anything with Vitamin E in it today?”. And let’s face it, there s no comparison between the nutritional value of getting your vitamins from food and getting them from a pill. So, I’m not about to put up some huge defense for multi-vitamins.
The other often targeted supplement is St. John’s Wort. When will they get off this St. John’s Wort kick? Anytime someone wants to criticize supplements in general they single out St. John’s Wort. Well, St. John’s Wort is a messy herb: It interferes with a ton of medications – including birth control pills and it can be very tricky to prescribe properly. Don’t get me wrong, St. John’s Wort can be a great herbal medicine when prescribe correctly. It’s just not the kind of thing you start talking about because you read about it on Oprah.
Maybe the real message to take from all these criticisms of the supplement industry is that instead of dismissing supplements as altogether worthless we need to treat the subject of Natural Health with a greater degree of respect; Should we really be getting our medical advice from the health food store clerk who often has less training then your Starbucks Barista?
Perhaps instead of dismissing supplements en masse we can be a bit more discriminating and realize that for the right patient they can be life-saving while for the wrong patient they are pretty useless – much like pharmaceuticals. Does the conventional medical establishment only have the broadest brushes to paint with? Can we ask them to have just a bit more refinement in their evaluation of such a huge subject?
Today, like every day, I will be prescribing “supplements”, or what we around here like to call “Natural Medicines” for people who really need them; People who have experienced phenomenal health improvements, recovery from illness, and new leases on life through the use of Natural Supplements. Supplements prescribed by their doctor – not by the kid from Sprouts.
So let’s not get too upset about this recent spate of supplement bashing. They are not completely wrong. But my friends in the conventional medical community, may I ask that you be just a bit more scientific in your approach to such an important subject?
Yours in Health,
Steven Ehrlich, NMD