Skip Your Supplements (For Better Health)

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One of the core principles of my approach to health is a focus on the body’s ability to heal itself and adapt to changes.  Supplements are a great way to strengthen the body’s ability to heal and adapt.  However, they can also contribute to an overall weakening of the body.  Just like some prescription drugs mask symptoms and weaken the body over time, supplements can do the same.  The body is notoriously lazy.  If you stop exercising, your muscles begin to shrink in just a few days!  If you take a drug or supplement of a substance the body naturally produces, the body will respond by making less of that substance.  Then, if that supplement is ever stopped, the body struggles to adapt to the change and greater problems can arise.

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While I was recovering from chronic illness, I was diligent with my supplements and this was probably important.  When the body is severely broken down, it needs all the help it can get.  But now that I'm two years fully-recovered, I’ve adopted a different approach.  When a supplement runs out, I don’t immediately grab a new bottle.  I wait several weeks (sometimes a month or two) before starting the supplement again.  Why?  I believe this strategy accomplishes the following:

1. Reawakens the body’s ability to do without the crutch.

Through removing the crutch for a period of time, the body is forced to do without.  Since the body is designed to compensate and adapt, it will do what it can with the resources it is given.  It will learn to conserve vitamins and stretch them further if faced without a shortage.  It will learn to compensate with substitutes in the absence of the ideal.  It will become more resourceful, when the resources are limited.  (See my ebook for more on this.)

2. Reduces or eliminates the body’s dependence on the supplement.

The longer I have done this, the less dependent I am upon the supplements I use.  This makes me more confident going on trips and leaving the supplements behind.  It gives me greater confidence in my overall health and makes me know that the supplements I do take are actually strengthening my health and not making it lazy.

3. Increase the effectiveness of the supplements.

This is just a hypothesis; I don’t know that this is the case.  It would seem, however, that this approach has the potential to make the body even more robust.  Take an antioxidant supplement, for example.  It seems like, after months of taking a mega-dose of a certain antioxidant, the body will become lazy.  It will no longer uses antioxidants as effectively since there is such an abundance.  But if the body is forced to remain effective in its use of antioxidants by periods of “fasting”, any supplement further boosts the body’s already robust effectiveness.  

If that wasn’t clear, think about it this way. Regular supplement fasting makes the body more effective, but constant use of supplements makes the body lazy.  Therefore, you can have an effective body with effective supplements or a lazy body with effective supplements.  It seems like the former would be better.

My favorite drug works this way.  LDN (Low-dose Naltrexone) works by blocking opiate receptors but only for a few hours.  In this time, the body continues to produce opiates but realizes that they are not being effective.  How does the body respond when it finds out its opiates are not working?  It tries to adapt by producing more!  This boosts the immune system.  So through removing something good from the body temporarily, it strengthens the body even more.  I think the same works with supplements.  Occasionally scaring the body into thinking it must do without supplements keeps the body leaner and meaner than ever.  It makes the supplements all the more effective.

4. To make one’s health more versatile.

Overall, the greater versatility the better, in my mind.  The more different scenarios you can train your body to handle the better.  Why not train it to be strong even without supplements?

5. Expose health issues.

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Supplements can mask problems.  If your GI track breaks down two days after stopping your probiotic supplement, perhaps your diet needs a little check.  Going without supplements can expose all kinds of things about your health giving you a better picture of exactly where you are and what you need to be working on.

6. To save money.

Nothing more to say here.  Less supplements = better health + better for the budget!  Sounds pretty cool to me!