Monday, November 20, 2006

Vitamins

I don’t like taking vitamins. In reality, I don’t believe in taking them. Better said, I feel it is unfortunate that I don’t trust the food I eat to provide optimal nutrition so I take vitamins as a hedge to this lack of trust.

If I am totally honest, I don’t trust that taking vitamins will protect me from deficits I worry about.

I list vitamins second in my daily Virtual Dinner Partner run down. I do this because I purchase them but if I don’t write this everyday, I forget to take them. As a second point of honesty, many days I write “vitamins” and remember that I didn’t take them so I stop writing and go take them.

I don’t know if what I take makes much difference. I take a standard multi-vitamin for people over fifty. I take calcium so that between my dietary intake and the supplement I can possibly prevent bone loss that is prevalent at my age. I take fish oil supplements to get Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA to protect my heart, joints and as a hedge to depression. I take L lysine, because I have been told that it can help prevent cold sores which I hate to get. Last year I started taking Vitamin D in the winter because I heard that people north of a certain parallel suffer vitamin D deficiency in the winter and taking this supplement can help with a range of maladies. I also take St John’s Wort in the winter because I have symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and maybe this supplement helps curb the malaise and lack of energy I feel during the winter. I have the most doubt about its helpfulness but I still take it.

I spend a fair amount of money for vitamins and supplements. I tend not to buy top of the line, health food store varieties but I still spend a fair amount replenishing my daily supplies. I want to believe they will make a difference and I act based on this want to believe.

I want wisdom and sound clinical evidence to guide these choices but, the reality is, even though people make strong recommendations about vitamins and supplements, I am skeptical about the claims that are made. I read my horoscope every day and some days I really want to believe what is written. I take vitamins in a similar spirit. I want to believe that they will make a difference.

The horoscope analogy doesn’t completely hold up however. Horoscopes are fun, they are about divining the unknown and picturing possible outcomes (my pictures are usually positive). I want positive healthy outcomes, so I take vitamins, however there is an element of fear that drives this choice. I take vitamins in the spirit of restoring health, remedying deficits, getting back what should have been there in the first place.

Foods that have vitamins and minerals added to them during processing are called “fortified.” Yes, there are elements of fortification here: we are saving, even rescuing ourselves from disaster; righting what is wrong and restoring our health with these little bullets of distilled chemicals. Vitamins are all about recovery and rehabilitation from the lives we are living.

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