Medical Mama on Moderation
Sometimes I wonder if our desire to be healthy or fit can lead us to extremism or even bad decisions. This bothers me especially when it requires uneccessarily spending large amounts of money. We all know the fitness industry is a multi-million dollar one and they are making money off of us! I'm sure we've all been guilty of looking to the next great thing that is going to make us lose our gut, finally have a fabulous figure and make us feel like we did when we were 18. (Man, if only.) We go out and buy all the gear, the dvds and equipment only to give up after a few weeks of being hard core returning to our comfortable old habits. Such is life and human nature.
By the way, this is not the trend with the low-income patient population I serve and believe me, I would prefer some of this activity (without the fees) to nothing. Unfortunately, most of my patients have grown up without the money or the know-how to buy fresh, healthy foods or get regular physical activity. The food stamps only go so far and usually land them in the middle of the store with the cheetos, snack cakes (which are ten for a dollar!) and koolaid. I spend a lot of my time encouraging baby steps (which I'm a strong believer in) like cutting down from literally 5 to 3 Pepsi's a day. Of course these bad habits lead to diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease--the #1 killer. We see all of these same diseases in high income patients who continue to spend a lot of money in the fitness industry, but give up too soon and never get rid of that gut.
Equally disconcerting is watching people (even thin, active people) spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on supplements, diet programs and the latest injection of a non-FDA approved drug in hopes of attaining that long desired body or good fitness feeling many times with no end change. The "no end change" is one problem, but doing harm is another that concerns me more. There is nothing wrong with exercise programs or even certain supplements. I'm sure there are benefits from herbals and other supplements we don't even know about yet. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to be heard. But, for now the statistical evidence doesn't even really show a definable benefit to taking a multivitamin with the exception of folate during childbearing years to prevent neural tube defects.
My biggest concern is when people ingest supplements in high quantities that are not regulated by the FDA or anyone for that matter. Most likely, whole food supplements in moderation and basic quantities of vitamins equivalent to a multivitamin will not do harm. However, we do know there can be damage done by high quantities of even basic vitamins. And the side effects and drug interactions for herbal supplements are forever long. Usually reports about damage done by supplements come out years after they have been ingested by thousands. Things like liver failure and death! It takes years of research to establish safety and tease out possible interactions and devastating side effects. And when I say research, I don't mean research done on google!
Just take this as your moderation warning. Know exactly what you are taking. Realize no one is regulating what is put in it if it's not a prescription. Just because it says "natural" does not mean anything. Poisonous mushrooms are natural! Don't take mega doses of anything (like 1500% of your recommended daily amount [RDA]). Thankfully, God has given us everything we need for good health in a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods and exercise. Take baby steps! We don't have to spend tons of money to give our bodies what they need!
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