by Mak Faene
Recently I was startled to learn that one of my closest friends was a drug abuser - of sorts. The pharmacy junky in question was not spiking her veins with smack or snorting blow or smoking crack, what she was hooked on was far more subtle. She was a vitamin fiend.
I learned this during a conversation when she was complaining of abdominal pains that had been plaguing her for some time. She said she didn't understand what could be causing the pain as she is a very healthy eater, and takes her vitamins every morning.
Well, hold the phone, we've just had a revelation.
Vitamins. You see the commercials on your wretched television, you may hear about them from your aging mom, and you see them beckoning to you from the friendly shelves of your local pharmacy. Vitamins.
What do you think you know about vitamins? I thought I knew a thing or two. We all know we need vitamins to be healthy right? Our parents always told us to eat our peas because they have vitamins and we need vitamins, they're good for you, right? Yeah. That's right. No seriously it is - I know sometimes I sound a little sarcastic, but those last two statements are absolutely correct. Our bodies need vitamins and you get the vitamins you need from eating properly. Period. End of story.
So if that's true, why is it so easy to buy and quickly become addicted to taking supplementary vitamins? Here's a thought - 'cause they're vitamins! And we all know that vitamins can't hurt you, vitamins are good for you, vitamins make you healthy. This is where Mom's helpful advice becomes an advertising tool of the pharmaceutical industry.
It had never occurred to me, as it seems not to occur to many others, that taking supplementary vitamins in tablets, or pills, or gel caps or whatever, does nothing for you, and is in fact potentially hazardous to your health. But the logic of it came to me that day with my good friend who eats very well, takes vitamins and has pains in her abdomen. If we get vitamins simply by eating well then what is this excess of vitamins doing to our bodies? I decided to do a little research and find out a little more about vitamins.
There are thirteen vitamins. Of the thirteen, our body produces two of these (niacin and vitamin D) naturally. Interestingly enough the role vitamins have in our bodies is not completely understood... So why the hell would you want to mess with them?
I was principally interested in finding out what the repercussions of excess vitamins would be on a healthy body. So I'll be summarizing my findings, though info about vitamins is very easy to come by, you just have to visit a place known as a library... But I digress.
I learned that some vitamins, namely vitamin A, B12, D, E, and K, are stored in the body sometimes for several years making a daily intake not at all essential. In fact taking vitamin supplements of these may be harmful, especially in the case of vitamin D; which I remind you, our bodies produce in sufficient quantities naturally with a little exposure to sunlight!
Then there are the vitamins that are not stored for prolonged periods of time and which we quickly piss away if taken in excess. So if you're buying and ingesting vitamin C, and the B vitamins, it would be safer and quicker for you to just flush your money down the toilet instead. Here's an eye opener: Vitamin C if taken in excess has been reported to give toxic effects. Why take the chance? You easily get these vitamins on a daily basis by eating a balanced meal.
So what if you're some disgusting slob who eats fast food every night? Well hey, it's your funeral, but chances are that even fast food contains the vitamins you need... Of course it also contains a bunch more crap that'll likely kill you eventually, but again, I digress. The fact of the matter is that unless a doctor prescribes vitamin supplements for you to take, don't take them. No matter what your New-Age, echinachea loving, homeopathic hypochondriac friends say, you don't need supplemental vitamins! If you're feeling sluggish, ill or nauseous, eat properly, if that doesn't help then go see a doctor - not a pharmacist.
As it turns out, my good friend with the abdominal pains was popping vitamin E tablets every morning like they were candy. In addition to discovering that dietary deficiencies of vitamin E rarely occur, here's what else I discovered:
"Prolonged, excessive intake of vitamin E may cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. It may also reduce intestinal absorption of vitamins A, D, and K..."
So not only was the excess vitamin E doing harm to her directly, but it was running down the other vitamins in her body as well. Needless to say she's off the supplements now and receiving what vitamins she needs the old fashion way.
This article was not meant to frighten you away from vitamins. Vitamins after all are vital to our bodies. The point is that just because a supplement is on our side of the pharmacy counter does not mean it's safe to consume at will. Let a doctor do the prescribing and don't ever say I don't care about you.
The quote above and additional vitamin info found in this article is from "The Canadian Medical Association Home Medical Encyclopedia". Mak Faene is not a physician... But nor is he your New-Age, echinachea loving, homeopathic hypochondriac friend.