As one of the great founders of Nature-based Medicine, Hippocrates, once said “Dosis Facit Venemon”. Translated, this literally means ‘The Dosage is the Poison’… Yes.. too much of anything (or too little) will kill you.
I know this might seem like a no-brainer comment to most of you, but one of the most common things I come across in clinic, is the notion that if you take an extra vitamin pill here or there, then you get an ‘extra’ result. With the massive influx of over-the-counter supplements available, combined with people self-prescribing via the internet, we are seeing an increase in the number of people who are unwittingly throwing their own biochemistry out of whack and then wondering what went wrong!
Iodine is a classic example; Currently we are being bombarded with the message that everyone in Australia must get enough Iodine for brain development, and its particularly crucial for women who are considering pregnancy. Iodine is an essential trace mineral that is required for proper thyroid function- without it you will inevitably suffer from Hypothyroid symptoms, and then hormonal imbalances and a slowing of the metabolic rate and therefore weight gain.
What most people don’t realise is that too much Iodine can also have detrimental effects. In doses that are too high, Iodine becomes a toxin to the thyroid and can shut it down as well… This sort of ‘benefit vs toxicity’ can be seen a lot when people mix too many supplements.
It is a common misconception that, because a tablet or capsule contains a substance that should deliver nutrition (such as a vitamin or mineral), it is harmless to the body- if it has an action on the body, then it is NOT harmless, it is doing something! Vitamin D is another common example- We are all told that we need more Vitamin D, and a lot of people are taking Vitamin D supplements. But did you know that in high doses, Vitamin D is toxic to the kidneys and can cause Calcium metabolism issues? It can effect the bones, nervous system and heart.
What I am getting at here, is that it is important that before you start to self-prescribe, you make sure you do your homework and learn to read what is in ALL of your supplements. A lot of people forget that if you are taking multiple tablets, the ingredients in ALL of them will interact with each other.
Toxicity aside, there is also the issue of ‘competition’ within the body. Certain minerals will ‘compete’ for absorption at the gut level, and there are commonly foods and nutrients that inhibit (or encourage) each other’s assimilation. For example, If you are taking iron tablets because you have been told your Iron is low, don’t drink it down with your coffee or tea at a meal time, because these will block the absorption of that Iron.
Probiotics are another example- these little guys are super-sensitive to a myriad of things. Even an increase in your gastric acids (so taking them with or near food) will kill them of before they reach their desired destination of the intestines..
So you see, the web of nutrition is a delicate one, and sometimes by throwing in too many supplements you aren’t doing yourself any real favours- not on a long term basis anyway.
If you think that all this sounds confusing, and I have just opened up a Pandora’s box of ‘what if’s’ for you, then I have two simple solutions that might help ease that headspin:
1- Seek professional advice! Yes.. we did study 4years of Applied Nutrition, we kinda know what we are talking about!
2- Even better, CHOOSE FOOD instead of pills! We have evolved over thousands of years to co-exist with the nutrients and foods that were available around us at the time. We ate seasonally, and moved around nomadically so that our food sources were there. (Meaning that what we ate was VARIED, and IN SEASON).
This is not rocket science! But the best part is that when you choose to get your nutrition from food, you are guaranteed that the mineral balance within those foods are in the correct ratios for your body. You will no longer be feeding it single-nutrient tablets which do not contain all the required co-factors,etc for that nutrient to be digested and absorbed.
For those of you who know me, you probably often hear me say “if in doubt, take it back to the way nature intended.” … Sometimes it is better to just wipe that slate clean (in this case from your daily-rattling pill cases), and get back to your roots with some good, solid FOOD-BASED nutrition!!