Health supplements are so in today. We see them everywhere from the grocery shelves to the pharmacies, on all forms of media, on the internet and even the person sitting beside you in the bus trying to sell you a some form of health drink or pill. It is very rare for me not to receive a question from patients about them every time I hold a clinic.
Health supplements are a huge business. There is no end to the new products that business people will innovate especially when people are so sick and tired of the very expensive sickness care costs.
So what advice do I tell my patients about supplements?
1. Choose your supplements wisely.
Most advice about taking supplements come from celebrities, athletes, or salespeople. These people are being trained and paid to sell these supplements than about having a firm knowledge of the risks and benefits of taking these preparations. Learn more about the supplement that you are about to take not from the brochures handed out to you but from independent and credible sources. It’s about time that we take responsibility for our own health and not rely on other people to tell us what to do to our bodies.
2. Be cautious of the following terms: HERBAL, NATURAL, ORGANIC.
Many of my patients believe that taking anything characterized by any of those terms are safe and risk-free. Once they hear these words, they say to themselves: “I can take as much of it as I want, anytime I want it and with any food or medicine that I am taking”. Nothing can be farther from the truth. These are not magic words that will eliminate all our worries. I’ve seen patients whose kidneys and livers have been damaged by intake of these herbal and natural preparations.
3. Supplements are not meant as a substitute to your legitimate medicines.
This is especially true if your health condition is moderate to severe in intensity. For example, patients who have pre-diabetes or who have very mild diabetes can eliminate their diabetes or at least postpone it when they follow a plant-based diet, diminish the amount of processed starch and sugar from their diet and exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. However, these lifestyle modification alone will not be enough for patients who already have at least moderate diabetes or who have complications from their disease. These lifestyle changes will definitely help lessen the medicines that they are taking but will probably not completely eliminate them. If your supplement claims to help lower blood sugar, do not immediately substitute them for all your medicines without discussing thoroughly the risks and benefits with your doctor. If you are really bent on taking these supplements, introduce them slowly while at the same time gradually reducing your conventional medicines and be sure that you are being supervised properly while undertaking these changes.
There is a tv ad which shows people enjoying all the alcohol and fatty foods around and subsequently telling the audience to protect their liver from all those stuff by taking their health supplement. Health supplements will never protect us from our bad habits. Much as the advertisers would like to make us believe, but Health supplements will never ever surpass or at least be equal to the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet, minimal processed sugar and starches and being physically active. Neither can supplements undo the harm that smoking brings.
It is very very expensive and very difficult to be sick. I wouldn’t wish it to my worst enemy. We don’t have socialized medicine and most of the health insurance of patients I encounter are not enough to cover for life-threatening illnesses or complications of chronic diseases. A lot of the diseases affecting patients are self-inflicted, lifestyle-related and therefore preventable. Learn about proper nutrition, proper lifestyle and how to properly take care of ourselves and our family. We can prevent getting sick.