Can You Take Too Many Supplements?
by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
Expensive vitamins = Expensive urine.
Well, this may be one of the deepest questions that you can ask about good health. And the answer depends on who you ask the questions about vitamin and mineral supplements.
Most vitamin and mineral salespeople will only tell you good things about vitamins, and their opinions and pronouncements will always sound like the truth. I don’t believe that it’s wise to take large amounts of vitamins, minerals and other substance supplements continually (as a lifestyle pattern). Many buzzwords are used in the vitamin and mineral industry, and they are misused. I believe vitamins in general and herbs in particular are medicinal remedies for specific problems and shouldn’t be used as a regular lifestyle component. I’m one of the few in the vitamin and mineral supplement industry who desires to wean you off completely. My motivation is to wean you off completely so that you’ll get your nutrition from plant-based, vibrant foods instead.
There are many vitamins and minerals in the very long list of micronutrients that your body needs. They are vital in differing amounts depending on the stage of life you’re in and the status of your health at a particular point in time. But for the most part the micronutrients you really need are in small amounts, and you get them from a healthy diet. And if a nutrient doesn’t exist in the plant kingdom and isn’t readily available from a plant source, the human body doesn’t need it.
Regarding dietary supplements, there are many different categories. For example, some vitamins and minerals are recognized micronutrients and recommended daily allowances have been established for them. These recommended daily allowances take into account the average diet, and unfortunately the average person’s diet is unhealthy because of use of processed foods and other dietary mistakes. But a person can become healthier and more biologically efficient if they develop a clean body chemistry.
There are many varieties of supplements (e.g., enzymes, compounds from fruits, vegetables, nuts, sprouts, etc.) and there are probiotics. Ideally we get all of the compounds that we need to maintain our health and physical output requirements, but there are a host of reasons why we can become deficient. How a specific vitamin will work on a particular individual is very abstract. But if that person feels a positive result, it qualifies as a good call as a temporary remedy for him/her.
The primary concern for most people is how they can maintain their immune systems. In connection with that, people who have blood work done discover that they have deficiencies in a particular micronutrient, so they become concerned. The solution for such deficiencies is not to increase intake of red meat (or other flesh foods). Keep in mind that an animal that we may eat more often than not had a diet that was 100% plant-based when it was living.
The type of supplements a person takes when they’re attempting to address specific problems (e.g., hair loss or stress) will to some extent be based on science. But specifics about the scientific findings can sometimes be abstract. The wisest first step for improving health problems is to consider bad dietary practices and address those poor choices. Eliminating harmful dietary practices gets to the root of dietary-related health problems. Somewhat contrary to popular belief, what you leave out of your diet is of paramount importance – as much so as what you leave in your diet.
Generally speaking, a multivitamin with C,D,B12, iron, and zinc might be advisable. Depending on lifestyle routines and rituals, I might add calcium and folic acid, and high quality systemic enzymes less frequently. (good systemic enzymes are not easy to find).
Various vitamins and supplements come into the public spotlight from time to time, often subsequent to media articles or endorsements by celebrities. So, in a sense they become ‘fads’ or ‘crazes’. At the time of this writing, collagen was a craze, and sometime previous to that omega fatty acids three and six were highly touted.
Having said that, vitamins and supplements can be helpful under some circumstances. But they must be high-quality supplements that are made from the best ingredients with the best processes. I personally like to mix up combinations of the vitamins I take based on how I feel at any given time. High-performance athletes that are exercising a great deal often get into a ‘vitamin supplement loop’. They might take protein powders with all types of essential amino acids taken in isolated forms.
The list of compounds that we use in the supplement industry is endless. Two in particular, blue-green algae and spirulina, both designated as ‘superfoods’, are usually extractions or powdered versions of herbs and roots. Some superfoods like MacroLife and Cacao are highly stimulating to body chemistry; I do not recommend them for people who are sick.
Stimulation is not a solution to anyone’s problems. There are essential oils, such as oil of oregano, that people use not as a dietary supplement but as a remedy. Rather than having a medicine cabinet or kitchen cupboard overloaded with supplements and remedies, get down to science instead. If you know that you don’t keep a good diet and you experience lots of stress, you should concentrate on detoxification and strengthening your immune system.
Consider pregnancy as an example. A pregnant woman goes through enormous detox. Her body is pushing endogenous toxic material from the inside of her cells out into the bloodstream. Her body is attempting to change her chemistry into a ‘Garden of Eden-like’ state to help strengthen the new life growing inside of her. This process is exhausting to the mother; this is why pregnant women crave junk food during the detox process. Conscious mothers should look to pure foods and resist such cravings, seeking instead to get adequate calories and nourishment from a broad spectrum of foods. Some of the psychology that made it into pregnancy dieting ideas theorized that there are a lot of hormonal changes taking place and extreme concern for the safety of the child was warranted. The standard advice of doctors to pregnant women was to address nutrient deficiency by eating more animal protein. This is a fallacy. It’s also a suspect shortcut; most doctors don’t have time or the resources to look deeply enough into a person’s diet to discover potential reasons why a deficiency exists.
I am all about getting to the root of a dietary problem, if and when that’s possible. And I don’t believe in intoxicating the body to solve one particular problem. So, determining the proper vitamins and supplements to take can be quite complicated. I like to refence one story that begs this particular question. I knew a 35-year-old woman who had scleroderma that was affecting her heart. She was told she needed a heart transplant, and she didn’t want to do it. So she was looking for remedies beyond medicine. Through a vitamin merchant she obtained many products, ending up taking 135 vitamins every single day.
According to two of her primary doctors she was not toxic. She felt better and had more strength and managed to avoid emergency surgery - until she sadly passed away. I asked my food mentor and an extremely knowledgeable doctor what benefit, if any, all those vitamins could have had for her. Interestingly, both experts (who were on two different ends of the spectrum of science) said independently that it was likely that the vitamins were so stimulating to her overall body chemistry that they were stimulating her immune response - but it was not enough. Also it was likely that because she had such a deep belief in the efficacy of her process that it had an overall positive effect on her chemistry.
Probiotics are 100% safe for people of all ages, including pregnant women. Interestingly, young children (but above the age of one) who are breast-feeding don’t need to ingest probiotics because their systems are so clean that they are being fed probiotics directly from their mother’s milk.
From an abstract perspective, we are designed in the west to be consumers. We believe in our consumption habits and our need for them. I am 100% in favor of science medicine and supplements as long as they’re developed, marketed, and used intelligently. There are many valuable brands out there that have high levels of product integrity. In such cases, the head developers and marketers seek the truth and often have to sacrifice increased profits to maintain their integrity. But there are many products from unnatural sources that are synthesized options for supplements, and I strongly advise against those.
Finally, I must say that it’s sometimes the case that the worst sources of information about vitamins and their value are vitamin store salespeople. Often a salesperson has limited knowledge and has a bias toward the products their particular stores are marketing and/or the prevailing theories and practices of the vitamin industry – many of which are false or shortsighted. It’s similar to problems in the medical profession. Certain doctors may be biased toward a medical practice or particular medicine that is actually not beneficial to certain patients. And a particular pharmacy will likely be biased towards the medicines they understand and have available.
Some people who seemingly have no product to sell can also be biased. They believe their knowledge is true, so they want to fight for it, support it, and give the appearance that they are right. We recognize that most people are lazy and won’t do adequate research themselves. Their research tactics might be limited to typing key phrases into Google. So you need to identify someone to trust. My experience taught me that if I offer a pristine product at a price point that kept my business functioning then customers would come. I’ve always seen that as a tremendous responsibility.
Enough about me. Let’s talk about you and what you need. Most of the articles that I write will be repetitive. But they will be about things that bear repeating. Like everyone else, I have limited knowledge. I can only repeat things that I have seen work again and again.
Bottom line: We must change our harmful lifestyle and diet patterns. The secret to success is to eliminate dietary mistakes. When we do so, the body generally will function better unless there is a disease that the body cannot repair on its own.
At this point, I will state that the body is a miraculous healing machine with divine healing capabilities: The entire process of life is miraculous. The body can heal from almost anything provided that the body‘s natural pathway to recovery is still open.
But there are ill people. There are diseases that cause the body's pathways to recovery to be closed. In such cases, that is the point at which intervention is needed. This is the gospel of true science. There are many types of interventions; taking a vitamin is intervention, surgery is an intervention, chemotherapy is a form of intervention. And all of these things have their place in healing and preservation of our lives.
When you take interest in these subjects, keep many different books open; read a science book, three pages later close it and read your astrology book (if that serves you), then close that book and read your Bible, the Torah, mathematics, and then hit Google. Don’t ever close your mind to knowledge – teach yourself how to learn. Do so, and someday you will be a master of something.