In recent history, many have accused me of being against vitamins and minerals. I am not. I have written this article to explain my position and to clarify questions that have been asked by many of my clients, colleagues and friends. I use the word orthomolecular to mean high doses of isolated, synthetic vitamins and minerals, such as 25,000 units of vitamin A, 50 mg of vitamin B-6, 50 mg of zinc, etc. The field of orthomolecular medicine has made great discoveries during the last several decades. It has found that nutrients are organ-specific and has attempted to feed deficient organs by oral supplementation of whatever nutrients that organ requires. For example, take iodine for the thyroid, zinc for the prostate, magnesium for the heart and so on. Little attention has been focused on how or why our organs get malnourished. The answer is obvious: the body is driven by food. If the nutrient is not in the food, its not going to get into your body!
This obvious truth has been overlooked by millions of Americans who have been programmed to believe that there is no connection between what we eat and the health of the body. Part of this programming has been provided by the AMA and the processed food industry. For example, in 1977, the AMA stated that ‘there is no proof that diet is related to disease’ (New Age Magazine, November 1977). What prompted them to say this in writing? In 1977, the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs issued the McGovern report, which stated that Americans should radically change their diet. Among other things, the report recommended that Americans should eat less sugar and less red meat! The AMA and the sugar and meat industries condemned this report, and, in fact, it was destroyed.
Later on, the government said that no health claims could be made for foods because only drugs have health effects. If there is no connection between diet, nutrition and health and if drugs heal the body, we should live on junk food and eat drugs to stay healthy! Judging from the profits of the junk food and drug industries, Americans must believe this line of thinking! I can see the logic of health-minded folks who take megadoses of isolated nutrients. However, I believe it’s not only more logical, but more economical to eat whole, organic, unprocessed foods, supplemented by food enzymes to ensure maximum digestion and bioavailability. Lets compare these two lines of thinking, orthomolecular versus whole foods and enzymes. Visualize the whole food pathway and the orthomolecular pathway as two parallel tracks running in opposite directions, one towards the earth, the other away from it.
The whole food pathway is towards Mother Earth. Those committed to this focus not on drugs or supplements but on bioremediation of the earth. They consciously choose organic foods, whole herbs, and sometimes grow their own foods. They buy worms, ladybugs, rock dust and organic fertilizers and put them in their gardens. They are always looking for concentrated whole foods such as herbal tonics, wheat grass juice and so on, because they know that years of agribusiness have killed and demineralized the soil, and caused biodegradation of our food supply. We can never be healthier than the earth, so when we heal the earth, we will have a chance to become healthy ourselves!
The direction of the orthomolecular pathway is away from earth. Orthomolecularists tend to disregard the mother plant and the whole food concept. They partition whole foods into their single constituents or try to synthesize them. They focus on what they believe to be the active ingredient, e.g., aspirin from white willow bark, ascorbic acid from vitamin C, vitamin B-6 from the B-complex, etc. This belief system carried to its extreme has produced orthomolecular groups such as the Life Extension group, started by Pearson and Shaw in their book, Life Extension. Some of these people believe that they can eat refined, processed and dead foods and make up for it by taking megadoses of isolated supplements. I disagree. Even if drugs work in crisis situations, they cannot compete with natural, whole foods on a daily basis as nature’s own preventative. Peoples living from the earth on raw, whole foods have been found to be alive and healthy well past 100 years of age without signs of chronic degeneration. I do not believe that they could achieve this on a junk food diet plus orthomolecular supplements.
Some Problems with Orthomolecular Nutrition:
Here are some of my concerns about orthomolecular nutrition:
Isolated vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients do not work alone. Why? Because nothing works without enzymes. In particular, vitamins and minerals are cofactors to enzymes and cannot work without their enzyme partners. When enzymes are activated by their vitamin and mineral cofactors, they do the work of running your body chemistry. Without enzymes and many other substances from the mother plant, some not even identified, vitamins and minerals are like homeless orphans running around aimlessly looking for a place to live and function.
I am against colloidal minerals, because they contain many toxic metals, including aluminum. I believe that chelating them to hydrolyzed proteins or isolated amino acids adds another potentially harmful variable - that of an isolated, single amino acid. Two of the most dangerous are glutamic and aspartic acids, which are called “excitatory” amino acids because they can cause seizures in sensitive people. Yet, many isolated minerals are sold as aspartates and glutamates. You can get plenty of minerals from organic, non-iodized sea salt, organic fruits and organic fruit juices. It is important for you to know that organic foods contain over 100% more minerals (and other nutrients) than commercial foods and a large percentage less toxic minerals.
Many synthetic vitamins and minerals contain toxic impurities, such as ferric salts (trivalent iron) in ascorbates, which promote infection and inflammation, and lead in calcium supplements, which cause many health problems. In 1989, 38 people died and 1500 were sickened from a contaminated batch of L-tryptophan, leading to its withdrawal from the market. The FDA still allows tryptophan in infant formulas according to Carolyn Lochhead in a November 11, 1993 San Francisco Chronicle article. Even if tryptophan were 100% pure, taking isolated amino acids instead of getting them via the digestion of protein can cause amino acid imbalances at best and side-effects at worst. A dramatic example of the harmful side effects of isolated amino acids is NutraSweet, which is composed of two amino acids, aspartate and phenylalanine plus methanol (wood alcohol). Among the many side effects are headaches, seizures and tremors, gastric and vision problems. The substance that controls the ball game (your physiology) is the one in the lowest concentration, NOT the one you are megadosing. So if you are low in this substance, why not eat and digest a complete food containing it?
Do not confuse oral ingestion of nutrients with intravenous injections of substances at pharmacological doses when we are trying to exert a pharmacological response to save a life or turn around a medical condition. This is not done on a daily basis, but only in medical settings. It is important to distinguish between medical settings and the nutritional one that I am describing.
Confessions of an Ex-megadoser!
When I entered the field of nutrition (in the early 80’s), orthomolecular nutrition was very popular. It still is, but there is a new field on the horizon - enzyme nutrition! I entered this field in 1987 when I met Dr. Howard Loomis and began incorporating food enzymes into my nutritional practice. It was very hard for me to give up my megadoses of vitamin C, multiple vitamins and so on. In fact, it took me about a year, during which I observed that my clients got well faster by taking food enzymes with whole, unprocessed, organic foods, than they did gulping megadoses of synthetic vitamins and minerals to make up for what they did not eat or digest! When I switched from orthomolecular nutrition to enzyme nutrition, I noticed that people felt better faster with rare side effects compared to those who took high doses of synthetic vitamins and minerals.
Here are some examples. An iron deficiency can be corrected in as little as 48 hours by giving whole food herbals containing iron plus enzymes. There are many herbal and food remedies. The one I use is Spl, which contains enzymes and yellow dock, an herbal source of iron, plus pau d’arco, mullein and echinacea. This formula does not cause constipation, black tarry stools and other side effects of inorganic hematinics such as ferrous fumarate or sulfate and so on. I have never found a synthetic iron supplement, which corrected the anemia this quickly, without severe side effects.
A vitamin C deficiency can be corrected in hours to days with Thera-zyme Opt, which contains enzymes and food sources of the vitamin C complex, acerola cherries and rose hips plus bilberry leaf, calcium lactate and enzymes. This formula is also excellent for certain vision problems, eyestrain, eyestrain headaches and head colds. Just to remind you, ascorbic acid and its ascorbate salts are only one part of the vitamin C complex. Taking ascorbic acid or ascorbates irritates the liver and the colon, sometimes causing diarrhea and strips minerals from your body.
What about a pH imbalance? This too, can be corrected with food enzymes. Let’s say you are too acidic. By this I mean that your blood has insufficient alkaline reserves to initiate digestion in the duodenum, even though the normal blood pH range is between 7.35 and 7.45. The only natural way to correct this is to increase digestion of alkalizing foods (vegetables, fruits) with amylase, lipase and disaccharidase enzymes. Yet, many people try to overcome excess acidity with alkalizing supplements such as calcium carbonate (Tums). This wipes out the acid reserves. Because calcium is carried in the blood as ionic calcium and as protein-bound calcium and both require a certain amount of acidity, taking alkalizing supplements lays the groundwork for bone problems.
Let’s say you are too alkaline. By this I mean that your blood has no acid reserves. This is a more difficult situation because the body has many systems to buffer acidity but few to buffer alkalinity. The only natural way to correct this condition is to increase digestion of acidifying foods (proteins) with protease enzymes. Yet, may people gulp acidifying substances such as hydrochloric acid. In doing so, they wipe out their alkaline reserves, which are required to activate pancreatic enzymes in the duodenum.
Because I do not take synthetic vitamins or minerals, I am always looking for good sources of concentrated nutrition. Here are some of my favorites.
Biostrath Herbal Tonic: This is an herbal tonic developed in Switzerland and contains 16 common herbs plus natural flavors in a beneficial yeast medium. It is used in Europe as a vitamin for children. Ordinarily, I do not support generic herbal tonics but I was so impressed with the research on this one that I am now using it in my family and on my pets! Thirty years of research on Biostrath impressed me because the results obtained were true for all groups tested - geriatrics, athletes and children alike. This herbal tonic had four positive benefits.
Thera-zyme EXLR (Elixir): Contains chlorella, yerba mate, astragalus, echinacea, American ginseng, hawthorn berries, licorice root, sarsaparilla, ginger plus enzymes. An herbal maintenance formula formulated by Dr. Howard Loomis to replace synthetic vitamins and minerals.
Mega Food Food-Form Vitamins and Minerals: Although these are not organic, they are made from whole foods and are much more useable than isolated, synthetic vitamins and minerals.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease. They are intended for nutritional support only. The FTC requires that we tell you that the results in case notes and testimonials published here are not typical, however, they do show what some people have been able to achieve. Individuals vary, which is why we must always consider the whole person when recommending a course of action. The third party information referred to herein is neither adopted nor endorsed by this web site but is provided for general information purposes. The listing of specific disease terms is based upon medical literature and is not a substitute for competent medical advice. If you suspect a medical condition, you should consult a physician.
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