Do you really need supplements?
I used to feel the same way many "natural hygienists" feel: supplementation shouldn't be required because animals are healthier than humans without supplements.
Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
If you're eating a whole foods diet, how could you need supplements?
That makes a lot of sense, but there are some glitches with the reasoning. Here are the differences between animals and humans that are often overlooked.
Animals eat dirt. Cows, horses and sheep have their mouths on the ground all day long. They can't help but eat some dirt. Dirt is a source of many minerals, as well as vitamin B12 (which isn't really the same as other b-vitamins at all, even if a lack of B12 does cause nerve problems similarly to a lack of any other b-vitamin).
Animals do not eat the way humans eat. Most animals eat by putting their head directly to the plant and eating it right away.
Carnivorous animals begin eating the animal directly after it has died, or even a little beforehand.
This immediacy means that all the enzymes work in the stomach instead of working to decompose the animal or plant. As the Pottenger Cats study shows, this is absolutely critical to health. This is one reason (of many) why babies should drink milk directly from the breast, not after it has sat in the fridge for hours.
As much as 50% of the enzyme activity in a plant is already expended just fifteen minutes after it has been picked!
This "freshness factor" is one reason why so many people are discovering the transformative powers of a raw food diet. A diet where you at least get many of the enzymes that were originally present in the food while it was growing. We're already eating the food days after it has been picked. We can't really afford to lose all the enzymes from our diet by cooking the food.
This is an argument for taking enzyme supplements if you are not going to eat sufficient raw vegetables, sprouts and fruits. You don't need to do it exclusively to get enzyme benefits.
If you're going to add one raw food to your diet to get more enzymes, add sprouts. They have all the enzymes in them to grow an entire plant, whereas fruit only has enough enzymes present to ripen and then rot the fruit, which isn't nearly the same sort of enzyme or the same quantity. Not that fruit enzymes are bad. Fruit enzymes are great. Fruit just doesn't have as many enzymes as sprouts.
Human Antibiotic Consumption
Animals in the wild do not consume antibiotics. Some few animals do eat natural antibiotics, such as onion and garlic, which do kill off some bacteria. However, the antibiotics humans take in pill-form are powerful and they knock-out all your natural flora.
Livestock (not wild animals) are given antibiotics. This is another way which humans indirectly consume antibiotics.
Pesticides and fungicides are sprayed on the foods that many livestock animals are fed (soy, wheat and corn) which depletes the soil of bacteria, including the bacteria that makes vitamin B12.
Between a lack of dirt and a lack of bacteria and a lack of well-water or river-water in our diet, we don't get B12 in the amount that we need. Even omnivores end up lacking in vitamin B12 because the livestock are deficient as well.
You may have heard that we form B12 in our bodies. We do, in the last part of our intestines, after all absorption is done. If the bacteria is present in that part of our bodies we produce a lot of B12, which indicates we're actually meant to consume a lot of it... Why do I say that?
Think about it. In nature we would leave our excrement all over the land we lived on, putting the B12-producing bacteria into the land as well as the vitamin itself. Vitamin B12 would be dense in the soil that had the plants that we ate. We wouldn't go running to the river to wash every plant, and we'd consume quite a bit of B12 just by eating unwashed plants that grew near our composted excrement.
Because we wash our foods (to remove wax, toxins and disease), because we don't consume dirt, because we do not drink from rivers or wells, and because we do not put our excrement into our own gardens, we end up deficient in vitamin B12.
You don't have to just take this from me. Take Christina Pirello for an example. She is a macrobiotic vegan and she really believed that whole foods and fermented foods would provide everything she needed. And then she ended up with a brain hemorrhage. Her article about this is fantastic and a great read.
And, if you've ever taken an antibiotic and killed off all your natural flora, then you'll also need probiotics to replace those.
Photo by Raederle, 2012
Animals are subject to the weather. Any animal that doesn't live under a canopy forest spends a lot of time in the sunlight. The rays of sunlight coming into contact with our skin begins a process that creates vitamin D in our bodies.
The only animals in the world that don't get enough vitamin D in this fashion:
Humans spend too much time indoors. Right now the sun is shining outdoors, but here I am writing this article under my roof. This is the common predicament of man. Worse yet, even if you spend all your time in the sunlight there is no guarantee you'll get enough. Depending on the color of your skin, your diet, your exercise routine, your nutritional intake, how far away you live from the equator and what you put on your skin, you may not be capable of absorbing enough from the sun.
Many people think they're getting vitamin D when they eat chickens or eggs, especially if they eat "free range" chicken or eggs. This is not true. Often "free range" just means that the chickens can roam around the inside of a barn. Only "pasture raised" chickens get sunlight. The "free range" chickens do not get sunlight (generally) and the chickens and the eggs they produce are deficient in vitamin D.
In many parts of the world this applies to larger animals as well. While it isn't typical in America, many countries have giant buildings for livestock where the animals receive no sunlight.
Animals and their products are not a reliable source of vitamin D or vitamin B12.
If you are getting vitamin B12 from your milk, incidentally, it's very possible that it is coming from a trace amount of cow waste that was left on the udder. That indicates that the B12 is coming with toxins the cow excreted from its body.
Can you put on your best sarcastic smile and say "Fabulous" with mocking delight?
Because animals do not generally wash their food, they tend to eat a lot of insects. Ants, spiders, grubs (not technically an insect, but they'd be eating these too) and so on. These little tiny creatures are a nutritional source of unknown quantity or quality, but we do know some things about the effects on animals if they do not eat their usual diet including insects:
At a zoo, monkeys were fed the best fruit they could find. The fruit diet was replicating their diet in the wild... Except without the insects. The monkeys became sick. They added insects and worms back into the monkeys' diets and they became well again.
That alone is evidence that there is significance to the consumption of these small creatures.
Animals put their faces directly into plants. Plants produce oxygen, a vital factor in cancer prevention. Animals in the wild spend their time outdoors, breathing in fresh air loaded with oxygen.
Humans use air conditioning and heating which deplete the air of oxygen. Lack of sufficient oxygen causes lethargy and depression. If you suffer from these, consider getting a sweater and turning off the heat, or wearing a bikini and wetting your hair instead of air conditioning. Drinking water also helps regulate your internal temperature, so stay hydrated.
Animals don't forget to drink water because they are stressed out at work. They do not replace water with soda, tea or coffee. They do not eat dehydrated foods or powders.
Because of the above knowledge, I have concluded that indeed, we are not like free-roaming animals. We do not get enough sun, exercise, insects, water, oxygen, dirt or healthful bacteria in our lives.
It is absolutely true that we can get enough vitamin C, calcium, iron and so on from an omnivorous, raw, vegan or vegetarian diet. These do not require supplementation. In fact, some nutrients should not be taken in supplement form. Some things really should be done with diet, such as balancing our intake of calcium and phosphorus.
However, I have found that I thrive best taking supplements for a few key things:
Vitamin D (2-3 times per week) Vitamin B12 (weekly) Vitamin K2 (2-3 times per week) Probiotics (twice, daily) Enzymes (occasionally, as needed)
The source I used to buy the most from was Dr. Fuhrman. I chose Dr. Fuhrman's products (after much trial, error, study and so on) for a number of reasons. Dr. Fuhrman knows that things like "ascorbic acid" should not be taken in supplement form. (You can learn about that here.) He also knows that sugar and other additives should not be present in supplements. His supplements are vegan (the vitamin D does not come from animals, but rather from special plants). And his supplements are closer to whole foods than other supplements on the market.
If you're only buying his Gentle Care formula for B12 and vitamin D then taking one a day is plenty, meaning that one bottle is a 180 day supply. (He lists a serving as two capsules, with 90 servings per bottle, which is 180 tablets. This means you only need three bottles a year.)
I've come to find other supplements particularly useful in the past few years. Click here to see what I'm currently using and loving.
Before You Buy Supplements For Vitamins & Minerals
Before you rush to buy supplements, it is good to get a basic understanding what nutrients are. For example, do you know the difference between a vitamin and a mineral? Do you know the full story on protein? Do you know the fundamental differences between seeds, fruits and vegetables? If not, please do click those links and check out my other articles.
In the past, I have actually tried another kind of pill that I found beneficial, which was Markus Rothkranz's Parasite-Free pills. The pills are like a natural antibiotic that targets not just bacteria, but all kinds of worms and other things you don't want in your body. The pill is actually raw and had nutritional value as well because it is made from whole raw herbs, barks and so forth.
However, if you have a severe stomach condition where your stomach lining is weakened, then this is not the pill for you. But if you do not have stomach lining problems (like severe acid reflux) but you do have problems with yeast infections, flaking scalp, itching skin, bleeding gums, acne and so on, then this is a great thing to take to get rid of the bad stuff. However, it kills off your good flora as well, so it is important to combine it with a probiotic, such as Dr. Fuhrman's Favorite Flora.
Markus Rothkranz was actually my first real introduction to what Raw Food is all about. I bought his Free Food & Medicine DVDs shortly before I tried his Parasite Free pills. The DVDs are a wealth of information about what you can and can't eat as medicine and as food, where they grow, what they look like, how to grow things at home even in limited spaces, and it comes with a recipe booklet for common wild edibles, such as dandelions.
To get closer to how animals eat and how they thrive, eating wild foods is the way to go. In time, if we so choose, we can learn about wild edibles, permaculture and so forth and move away from needing supplements. For now, if you're a city dweller and/or your food comes from a grocery store, then I highly recommend supplementing. Deficiencies can be serious, and just like disease, prevention is always best.
To your health!
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