By: Clifford Sonnie, M.D. M.P.H.
Why should I take vitamins? It’s nothing more than another pill and all it will do is to give you expensive urine. I have heard this said by countless numbers of physicians and in fact, if you had asked me twenty years ago, I probably would have said the same thing. It’s what we were taught in school and it’s what we are taught in most health classes now. Is it true? Wellll, yes. But there is more to the story than that. It is true if and only if you get a diet of fresh, whole, wild, organic, local, non-genetically modified, food that is grown in virgin, mineral and nutrient rich, soil and that is not transported from foreign soil and stored for months before being eaten. In addition the answer is also true if you live and work outside, you breathe only non-polluted air, you drink only pure clean water, you sleep at least nine hours a night, you move your bowels at least twice a day, you are free from chronic stressors and are not exposed to environmental toxins like pesticides and herbicides and the like. Now, if you lead that type of a lifestyle, you don’t need any vitamins or minerals and you can stop reading this article right now. I don’t think anyone lives like that. Maybe there is some mountain top village in Tibet that the still lives like that, but not here in good old tropical Medina, Ohio. In fact, it is amazing that a recent study done by the Mayo clinic found that at least 90% of Americans are deficient in at least 1 vitamin and mineral. That would be the minimum amount needed to prevent any disease. I was somewhat surprised by that number. I didn’t think it was that high. But as I think about it, it makes perfect sense. When I finished my medical training back in the seventies and early eighties, I thought a balanced diet was fairly simple. You ate fortified foods because Lord knows the government knew what they were doing when they fortified the foods. The problem is fortified foods are anything but. The food that you see as fortified is in fact stripped of any natural vitamin and mineral (this is to prolong the shelf life of the foods) and then synthetic vitamins are added to that food. I thought that diseases like rickets (which is a vitamin D deficiency) and scurvy (which is a vitamin C deficiency) and beri beri (which is a vitamin B1 deficiency) and pehlagra (which is a vitamin B3 deficiency) where things of the past. Well, again I was sadly mistaken. Supplements did much more that make your urine expensive. Recent research has actually proven just that fact. The American College of Nutrition publishes a journal several times during the year. Recently researches found that 6% of the people in the United States suffered from a severe vitamin C deficiency. And 1/3 of everyone in the U. S. had a low level of vitamin C. The US Department of Agriculture published even more alarming data. Almost 3/4 of Americans don’t get enough vitamin E or enough zinc and almost half don’t get enough don’t get enough iron.
Studies like these are powerful evidence that everyone is deficient in some type of nutrient that is essential for good health. Vitamins and minerals are the essential fuel if you will that makes every chemical reaction in our bodies work. If the reactions are not working the body grinds to a halt. Clearly then vitamins and minerals are essential for the prevention of disease. The assumption that we are getting them in our diet is a fallacy.
Now, should everyone just rush out and buy all the supplements with the vitamins and minerals and just start gulping the, down? No… Everybody has specific needs and everybody has specific deficiencies. I tell patients as they come into my clinic that toxins in the body are hindering the efficiency with which our bodies work. The problem is, what’s a toxic level for me may not be a problem for you. I think I mentioned before the story of the little old lady (I don’t use little old men, because we don’t live that long) who drinks a fifth of scotch everyday, smokes unfiltered cigarettes and lived to 105. Everybody’s metabolism is different, God made everyone special. Oh, when you go to a physician and ask them what kind of vitamins and minerals do you need, specific testing should be done at that point. A detailed diet should be obtained to see if you are already getting them. It’s amazing to patients that many are already getting the vitamins but for some reason are not absorbing them correctly. That is a problem with the intestine, which is another article entirely. I have mentioned before that anyone whole lives north of the Mason Dixon line needs vitamin D. Two reasons; we are to far north no matter what time of year it is to produce enough Vitamin D and it is not in the soil anymore. It has been depleted with over-farming etc. So how do you get the right amounts of vitamins and minerals for optimal health? Well, very simple. Talk to someone who knows what they are talking about. Find a physician who has been trained and understands nutrition. There are specific tests and simple tests you can take at home to determine if you are indeed lacking in certain vitamins and minerals. Take these tests so that you can determine what is necessary for you. More importantly, don’t just rush out to the grocery store and buy vitamins. Most of these vitamins are synthetic. Remember there is very little regulation if any on vitamins. Now any one who knows me knows I think the government should stay out of everything. However, there should be some sort of regulation concerning vitamins and mineral. But as with everything else, it will come slowly. How do you guarantee now that what you get is good whole food vitamins? Very simply. Most whole food supplements are only available through a practitioner. Very few if any are available over the counter to the public. And if you get it through a practitioner, most practitioners will not give you a line of anything until they have thoroughly researched them. Lastly even though nutritional supplementation is important, anyone who has talked to me knows also that I would rather get the nutrition from food. If it just isn’t available from food, then we’ll use a supplement.
Now, make sure you are testing for some specific vitamins when you are testing such as vitamin B12, B6 and vitamin D. The importance of vitamins and minerals is very clear. I have tested hundreds of patients and have found that most of them feel better when these deficiencies are reversed.
I want to take a moment here however to state that detoxification is paramount to anything. Before you take any supplement, you must detoxify the body to rid it of the hurdles that it must jump over in order to work efficiently. I can’t tell you of the number of patients who come in and have researched specific nutrient deficiencies and are convinced they have it. But once I detox them and the body can work more efficiently, their symptoms are gone. So, it was never a deficiency, it was just the inability to process them correctly. I could have inundated the body with that nutrient and the patient would have never felt any better. So, do yourself a favor, get tested, get detoxified, drink plenty of fluids, and get off your butt, and blow off some stink. I know the upcoming holidays will go much smoother. Yes, your favorite uncle will still fall asleep on the couch snoring to high heaven but just smile and say it was the tryptophan that did it.
As always, the smart healthcare consumer is informed and aware.
Clifford M. Sonnie, M.D.