How do you know if you’re healthy or not? Well, most people would say that they’re healthy based on their doctor’s checkup, or maybe because they don’t get sick that often.
Prevention is always better than curing… Remember, your checkups and tests would only reveal that you have a disease when it’s already there. Let’s say that after years of checkups that turn out normal, you suddenly find yourself diagnosed with cancer. How are you able to prevent a disease when it’s already there? You can’t. That’s why you have to make healthy lifestyle changes from the start. And one way to do that is through supplements, supplements, supplements!
Free Radicals vs. Antioxidants
According to Dr. Lester Packer, Ph.D. in his book The Antioxidant Miracle, “More than 70% of [people] will die prematurely from diseases caused by or compounded by deficiencies of the antioxidant network… Scientists now believe that free radicals are causal factors in nearly every known disease, from heart disease, arthritis, cancer, cataracts, and even diabetes. In fact, free radicals are a major culprit in the aging process itself.”
Free Radicals are basically the bad guys. They’re the root cause of diseases because they cause oxidative stress by damaging our cells and DNA. As much as we want to avoid these free radicals, we simply can’t, because they’re basically everywhere! We can get it from stress, air pollution, smoking, the sun’s UV rays, taking drugs/medication, radiation (e.g. x-rays, airplanes), chemicals and preservatives in food and water–even the simple act of breathing and digesting our food causes free radical damage!
On the other hand, antioxidants are the good guys. They’re the ones that combat free radicals and thereby protect our bodies against diseases. Simply put, they are our body’s defense team. Examples of antioxidants are coenzyme Q10, zinc, vitamin C, alphalipoic acid, etc. “The amount of antioxidants that you maintain in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live,” according to Dr. Richard Cutler, Anti-aging Research U.S. Health Department, National Institute of Health. The bottom line is, the more antioxidants you have in your body, the better off you will be able to prevent diseases.
So, where do you get those antioxidants? Well, you can find them in fruits and in green, leafy vegetables. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is that we have to eat 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every single day. The problem is, with our busy lifestyles, are we actually able to do it? According to the USDA National Food Consumption Survey, who did a survey on 21,500 people, not a single person was able to consume the Recommended Daily Allowance.
Also, a study made in Japan revealed that the food we eat has lost most of its nutritional content because of additive processing, soil destruction and other environmental causes.
Because of these factors, increasing our level of antioxidants from diet alone isn’t enough. And this is where our supplements actually come in.
Supplements and Antioxidants
What are supplements, really? A supplement is “a product taken by the mouth that contains a dietary ingredient that is intended as a supplement to the diet.1”
Also known as vitamin/mineral/amino acid/enzyme/fiber/bioflavinoid/herbal/natural food supplement, it is meant as an add-on to your diet in order to help boost the antioxidant levels in your body
There are a lot of benefits to taking supplements, and according to Dr. Ray Strand, MD, the basic health benefits are “an enhanced immune system & antioxidant defense system, and a decreased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, & cancer.2”
Supplement Absorption: Synthetic vs. Natural
Supplements are indeed a good source of your antioxidant needs–provided, of course, that they can actually be absorbed by your body.
There are two types of supplements basically out in the market: synthetic and natural. Synthetic Supplements in the market cannot be completely absorbed by the body. Being synthetic, it is a foreign substance, and therefore, the body does not recognize it. And what happens to substances that the body does not recognize? It flushes it out. This is why synthetic supplements usually have higher milligram content–it is done in the hopes that the body is able to absorb at least half of it.
Aside from this, according to Dr. Ron Schmid, ND, synthetic supplements are toxic and have detrimental effects. He says that synthetic vitamins A, D, and E should be strictly avoided. Hence, you always go for natural.
According to Dr. James Dillard (Rosenthal Center of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Columbia University), “If we X-ray someone’s stomach, we can often see dark shadows indicating undissolved vitamin pills that were consumed many hours before.”
Author David Bodanis states that this is because of the large granules and the useless fillers, which most supplements contain. These fillers result in the supplement’s active ingredient bypassing the digestive tract unabsorbed, exiting the body.
In order to choose a supplement that can be absorbed by your body, look for the U.S. Pharmacopeia seal of approval (U.S.P. Approved). Or, you can try a little test with vinegar and water. Combine equal parts of water and vinegar in a glass and place your supplement in the mixture. If within 40 minutes it does not dissolve, then you know that you shouldn’t waste your money on that supplement.
Supplements and Diseases
Supplements indeed bring health benefits to the body. Not only do they boost your antioxidant defense, but there have also been documented cases and claims made that certain natural or herbal supplements were able to help and treat ailments when conventional drugs/medication could not.
Although it can be extremely beneficial to supplement a diet with vitamins, minerals, and herbs, as with anything you put into your body, it is always important to know as much as you can about it. For example, ginseng as a natural supplement is known to have health benefits like improving mental and physical vitality. However, if a person with a heart ailment takes it, it may cause them to have heart palpitations. Hence, if you have a serious medical condition, it may be a good idea to speak with a doctor or nutritionist about it. It will also help a lot if you educate yourself and research on your own with regard to your health.
Supplements: Preventive Medicine
To sum it all up, supplements are a form of Preventive Medicine. Because they can help boost your antioxidant defense, it will in a way reduce your risk in getting certain diseases, provided that you also complement it by living a healthy lifestyle. As mentioned, supplements are merely there to “supplement”. Which is why you still have to have a healthy diet, in addition to exercising, sleeping well, and avoiding stress.