Even traditionally trained M.D.’s have come to acknowledge that everyone needs to take a vitamin supplement. Eating a perfect diet that consists of organic, wholesome food is not the way the average American eats.

And even if your diet consists primarily of fruits and vegetables, our soil has become so depleted of minerals and nutrients that much of their nutritional value is lost. While we do indeed need to supplement, walking into a health food store can be both overwhelming and expensive.

Often we add a new supplement because of something we read in a magazine or heard on the news, and with the best of intentions, we rush out to purchase a bottle of this vitamin or that herb. Since (as of right now) the FDA does not regulate vitamins or herbs, we are free to purchase and use supplements as much as we want.

While I am not suggesting that the FDA step in and regulate the use of supplements, I believe that we would do well to learn more about proper supplementation before we spend unnecessary money on supplements, or worse, rather than improving our health, we unwittingly damage it.

Supplementation does not have to be complicated. If you are not yet taking a vitamin/mineral supplement, you can start by looking for one that is derived from food and not chemicals. Synthetic vitamins (made in a lab) are not absorbed properly as your cells are smart enough to know the difference between what to allow in (food) and what to keep out (chemicals).

Purchasing Guidelines

• You are wasting your money if you purchase cheap synthetic vitamins from your local Walgreen’s or Costco — the liver can even become toxic from the buildup of residual vitamin waste.
• Always take a liquid over a pill to ensure absorption.
• Consider Sea Aloe — it contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids and trace minerals and is derived from sea vegetables.
• Aloe Vera and pau d’arco (Purple Lapacho, usually in the form of tea bags or loose leaves) both have healing properties.
• Always take a quality fish oil — buy cheap fish oil and you run the risk of mercury contamination.
• Vitamin D3 is a must and can easily be obtained from your diet by including foods such as oily fish — i.e. salmon, trout or mackerel. Note: getting your Vitamin D level checked is essential.
• The benefits of Vitamin C are well known.

It’s also crucial to remember that while supplements — be they vitamins or herbs — are easily thought of as ‘natural,’ that does not mean that they are benign. Supplementing safely demands due diligence — supplements can cause dangerous interactions with certain medications, or even with each other.

A friend of mine was taking Ultram (a commonly prescribed pain medication), then added melatonin along with 5HTP (both readily available in health food stores) to help with sleep. Taken singularly, each of these would have been safe to take, but when taken in combination with Ultram, they caused a potentially life-threatening condition known as Serotonin Syndrome.

So, by all means supplement, but supplement safely. Google Sloan Kettering (MSKCC), the celebrated cancer treatment and research center. Via their website you can search for information about vitamins and herbs and their potential interactions with medication.

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