Friday, 16 January 2015

Vitamins as Medicine

As a naturopath I recommend natural supplements (vitamins and minerals) to correct nutritional deficiencies. But I often get the question “Well can’t I just get it from my food?”. A valid question, as generations before us truly (and rightfully) relied on the principle “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.

Before the 20th century micro-nutrient deficiency diseases were widespread. For example, a diet lacking fresh fruits and vegetables lead to a severe vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy.  Symptoms included weakness, easy bruising and bleeding gums. Ultimately, the consequence was fatal.

In the early 1900’s physicians recognized the role of vitamins in preventing debilitating disease and from that medical paradigm was born the recommended daily allowances (RDA). The RDA is the daily intake of a nutrient that is considered sufficient for most of the “healthy” population. What is printed on nutrition fact labels as Daily Value (DV) is determined by the RDA which is regulated by Health Canada. The problem is that these values do not take into account drug-induced nutrient depletion's, exposure to toxins, disease states and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and stress.

A subset of physicians and scientists in the 1950’s set to find solutions other than pharmaceutical options for illnesses. They found that in very high doses, much above the RDA, certain conditions could be treated or even reversed. One example is the use of high dose Vitamin B3 (niacin) in hypercholesterolemia and schizophrenia. Such findings were the spring board for the development of a paradigm where vitamins were to be used as medicines.

Naturopathic doctors and fellow physicians who practice orthomolecular medicine (high dose vitamin therapy) know that regardless of how complete the diet is, many other factors affect the need for nutrients. Unfortunately, exposure to environmental toxins and daily stressors deplete our system of many vital essential nutrients.

So yes, I encourage my patients to eat a healthy balanced meal by following the Mediterranean Diet. We talk about the importance of a variety of fruits and vegetables, caution in consuming sweets and moderation in red meat. We address food sensitivities. And depending on the individual requirements, like genetics, lifestyle and prescription medication, vitamins in optimal doses are recommended.

About the author

Dr Jilla Kahrobaei, Naturopathic Doctor, is passionate about her work. She focuses on stress, fatigue, digestive issues and hormone health, and believes that one of the most important roles of a naturopath is to identify and resolve issues before they create health problems.

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