One of the most common questions that I get is, "are there any specific vitamins that I can take for this condition?" In light of the slew of often conflicting studies regarding the benefits of taking vitamins, I was reminded of my wife’s ordeal just after she delivered our first son, Jonas.
In Korean culture, it’s customary to serve seaweed soup just after delivering a baby. The benefits touted include being good for the mother in general, lessens post-partum bleeding, and various other reasons. There’s probably some truth to the bleeding issue since seaweed or kelp has high amounts of iron and iodine, both of which are needed to promote clotting and normal body function.
My mother helped us out by cooking meals for Kathy, but one thing she always served was seaweed soup. Sometimes it was the only thing. Kathy got so sick of seaweed soup from that experience that even today, she cringes at the smell of seaweed. What she craved during those first few weeks was a good normal meal—not seaweed soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Apparently, my mother thought that since it’s good for you, the more the better.
This same line of reasoning is how most people in our country think about vitamins. I won’t get into all the controversy and the pros and cons of vitamin usage. The point I want to make is that for anything related to your health (and everything else in life), there’s no magic bullet. If you’re not eating well, no amount of vitamins will cure your ills. If you don’t sleep well, no amount of dieting or exercising will keep the weight off for good. Whatever good habit you develop or good food you eat, it has to be done in light of a much bigger, holistic, integrative approach.
If compound A is good for you due to it’s antioxidant properties, then due to all the marketing messages you receive (dozens of times every day), you’ll be convinced that if you have a lot of it, you’ll cure yourself of that nagging health issue. It’s only natural that the larger the quantity or the more concentrated it is, the higher the perceived benefit. That was the logic that my mother used when she overdosed my wife on seaweed soup. What my wife really needed was a well-balanced, nutritious meal, which included a healthy portion of seaweed soup. We also need a a wide variety of vitamins taken from different food sources, in conjunction with a regular exercise regimen, good quality sleep and proper stress management routines. An overdose of one particular beneficial food or habit, taken out of context, may end up being detrimental for you.
If you think about this issue from an "organic" standpoint, vitamin pills are one of the least organic substances you can eat. By definition, an organic product is something that’s naturally occurring that has not been processed or purified. Vitamin pills, by definition, are highly purified and processed substances, artificially taken out of their natural environments. Even organic milk or any other natural or organic food products with added vitamins by definition is not organic, since highly purified vitamins were "artificially" added.
One of the frequently proposed mechanisms which explains why people feel better when they take vitamins is that by nature, people who take vitamins are more apt to lead healthy lifestyles, eat better and engage in activities and habits that are health-promoting. Whether or not this this true, you can imagine why this makes sense. There will always be a magic "pill." If it’s not a vitamin, it’ll be exercise. If not exercise, it’s relaxing music. If you’re acutely aware of how your body feels in response to various foods or activities, then you’ll naturally adjust and gravitate towards activities that make you feel better.
In the classic movie, Kung-Fu Panda, everyone is trying to discover the secret ingredient of life. In the end, they all discover that there isn’t just one thing—but that the true secret is actually YOU. The total, whole, complete conglomeration of all the countless ingredients that make up you as a person—that is the secret. When any part of your natural you becomes separated from the whole or overwhelms everything else in your life, that’s when things start to fall apart.