Natural Medicine Myth #5: One-A-Day

This is a continuation of my series (in no particular order) on misperceptions in the field of natural medicine.  My previous articles focused on policosanolcinnamonsystemic candida, and acai berry.

Those of you who know my articles and recommendations will find it no surprise that therapeutic lifestyle changes are the foundation of naturopathic medicine:

In many cases, though, specific nutritional and herbal supplements can be critical for supporting a patient’s vis medicatrix naturae:  the healing power of nature.  Particularly in the case of complex or chronic disease, such supplements are often necessary for a certain period of time.

One thing that often surprises patients is the dosages I recommend for many nutritional and herbal supplements.  I think that many of us have been conditioned by “One-A-Day” multivitamins to think that all supplements work that way.  In fact, this under-dosing is a key reason why many folks find that self-treatment with herbs and supplements is ineffective.

As an example, take one of my favorite supplements:  fish oil.  The beneficial components of fish oil are the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (that’s eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid for you nutritional biochem geeks out there).  Some folks take one softgel a day of fish oil — 1000 milligrams!  Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  Well, research shows that for general cardiovascular health, you should take around 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day.  “Well, great, then,” you think, “I guess I’m covered.”  Hold it right there:  fish oil supplements are not 100% omega-3 fats; each softgel might have only 300-400 mg of omega-3s.  So now you’re faced with 3-4 softgels per day to get the recommended amount.  Do you see why I recommend liquid cod liver oil so often now?  Much easier to blend a teaspoon into a breakfast smoothie, yielding 1200 mg of omega-3s.

If you already have conditions such as high triglycerides that can benefit from omega-3 supplementation, now you need to up that dose to 2000-3000 mg per day:  7-10 softgels, or 2 – 2.5 teaspoons of liquid.  Omega-3 fats can benefit so many different conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, skin problems, menstrual cramps, depression, and anxiety — as long as you’re taking the proper dose.

Feel a cold coming on?  Yes, zinc lozenges can help — as long you get a total dose of at least 75 mg of zinc per day (be sure to take with food, to avoid stomach upset).  Herbs such as echinacea, and my favorite combo of lomatium (Lomtium dissectum) and osha (Ligusticum porteri), are wonderful immune boosters — just be sure take a dose every 2 hours during those first couple of days of a cold.  Less than that, you might as well skip it.

Nutritional and herbal supplements require these larger doses since they work synergistically to support the body’s natural functions, rather than to suppress symptoms like pharmaceuticals.  So shift your mindset, and reap the benefits that nature has to offer.

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