Supplements: Making Expensive Pee

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on Feb 23rd, 2012)

You have probably heard healthcare professionals saying that taking supplements is a waste of money. “All you are doing is making expensive pee. You don’t absorb them.” Well, let’s take a moment and think about this. Is your bladder directly connected to your mouth? I know mine isn’t. For something to get into our pee it has to first be in our blood and to be in our blood stream that something needs to be absorbed. It’s kind of like saying “You obviously don’t absorb the water you drink because it’s in your pee.”

When we first absorb something it is taken into the cells lining the intestines and packaged or altered there, if it needs to be, for travel in our blood. From there it is pushed out into our blood stream where it travels directly to the liver for processing and distribution to the rest of the body. Only after this distribution does the blood filter through the kidneys. So for anything to be present in your urine it has at least circled your body once if not more.

This view is a remnant from the discovery that multivitamins didn’t break down in the digestive track when they were changed from the original compressed fruit and vegetable matter to synthetic products in the 1940’s. My old radiology (x-ray) teacher used to tell us stories of how he would try to identify which Flintstone was waving at him on the films he was examining. I’m not going to delve into the ability of our digestive tracks to break down modern multivitamins but “Nutriserch: Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements” by Lye MacWilliam is an excellent source of information for anyone who is interested.

One thing that many people about supplements these days is that they are SUPPLEMENTS! They are made solely for the purpose of supplementing our diets. If you have a healthy diet you shouldn’t need a multivitamin or any supplements at all. Vitamins and minerals found in our food (not processed food that has been “enriched” but natural, whole food sources) are much better for us anyways. In whole foods these micronutrients are in their natural form which is what our bodies need. Within supplements it is hard to make sure that we are getting the best form of the nutrient labelled on the bottle. Through processing and packaging the vitamins and minerals can change chemically and are sometimes completely synthetic and our body’s ability to use synthetic nutrients is quite varied.

So this is my suggestion to everyone. Supplement your diet with the really important vitamins and minerals that you know you aren’t getting in your diet and make it a goal to slowly replace those vitamins with good whole food sources. The internet is full of great resources to help with this, but my favourite that I’ve found so far is Self Nutrition Data.

Good luck and thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

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