We receive a lot of emails with questions on this subject so let’s talk about it.
Bill and I for quite a while have been big believers in the benefits of supplements as natural alternative therapies. Years ago when he was diagnosed with Rosacea, he didn’t want to go on the life-long regimen of antibiotics as prescribed, so we turned to supplements for help. And it worked! Another time I struggled with debilitating pain behind my left ear that progressed to a chronic level, sending me to various doctors which led to a possible prognosis of a brain tumor and a CT scan, which fortunately found nothing. Then by chance we went out sailing for the day with friends and I took ginger every 3 hours to manage motion sickness (yes it works), only to be amazed at the end of the day that I had been pain free! Apparently there was inflammation somewhere inside me (ah ha!) so I began a regimen of ginger for a period of time and the problem went away. And on another occasion we reversed a serious eye condition with supplements, to the amazement of Bill’s eye doctor. I’m a believer!
But think about this. By definition, a supplement is:
“Something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.”
So the key word here is supplement–they are not a panacea. Before Bill’s heart event, we tried managing his blood pressure with nutritional supplements. I cannot say they didn’t help, I can only say they didn’t work sufficiently and Bill was put on blood pressure medication only a couple of months prior to our urgent visit to the emergency room. Additionally, we now know that inflammation is a major cause of the plaque ruptures that lead to blockage and heart attack, which is precisely what happened to Bill. At that time, Bill was taking turmeric and ginger daily as a tonic against inflammation. But inflammation has many causes, including diet, obesity and chronic stress.
So we learned an important lesson. These therapies have been used as medicine for a very long time and we know they can work. But especially for serious conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, we really need to think of these therapies as supplements to lifestyle measures that are necessary to avoid or reverse these conditions. We need to eat healthfully and nutritiously, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and manage stress..FIRST. And then supplement that with supplements!
As Dr. Crandall says in his book “Fix It!” concerning cholesterol, “Adding supplements to your diet can help reduce cholesterol, but most people have to be at their targets, eating right, and exercising before supplements can help them stay there.”
And Dr. Steven Masley in his book “The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up” states that supplements “can only enhance a healthy eating plan and optimal lifestyle. They can’t replace it. They will never make up for snacking on junk food or being stressed or inactive.”
Of course it’s important to make sure your supplements are safe to mix with each other, and most especially with your prescription medications. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist, and you can also create a personal database at www.drugs.com. They have a very helpful tool called Interactions Checker that allows you to put in all your medications and supplements and see where problems might exist. By having a login, your information is saved, so if you change a medication or a supplement, you can adjust your database without having to put all the information in each time.
And if you’re concerned about the quality and safety of various brands, which is an issue, what Bill and I do is subscribe to Consumer Lab. They do independent testing to help identify the best quality health and nutrition products to help you choose. They are also a resource for information about supplements in general. There are links to both of these sites on the Books & Links page.
If you are interested in giving your body additional support through supplements, another obstacle you may run into is your doctor. Some doctors are informed in this area and will help you, or at least respect your desire to try this. Others will dismiss the notion with a wave of the hand, because either they don’t believe in them or simply are not well enough informed about them to advise you. That’s where the tools above can be very helpful, so you can decide for yourself.