If you are like most of our patients, you engage with us because your health is sub-par, or because you want it to be optimal. In both of these situations, what we really want to do is figure out how we need to live to get the health we desire; a confluence of four factors: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management. Sometimes though, we find it hard to ‘nail it’ purely through lifestyle and diet, and a little support can make a big difference. This is where supplements and medications come in.
Medications allow us to do things with the body that we otherwise couldn’t do, which is simultaneously wonderful, and the self-same reason for the host of side-effects they are frequently loaded with. The body is frequently ill-equipped to handle these agents because it didn’t evolve expecting them. Problems tend to arise when symptoms are chronic, and medications are the extent of the strategy, with no consideration towards any form of deeper resolution: the ‘bury the head in the sand’ approach.
Medicating itself is not inherently a bad thing; as with all else, there is a time and place. This stance may come as a surprise to many of you who know I espouse the virtues of adopting an ancestral health perspective. It is quite simply, however, a view born of pragmatism: just as with the food we eat, we need to assess the pros and cons of everything we might do or take, medications included.
The assumption of many, though, is that if something is natural, then different rules apply. They don’t. Sure, most of the time the time if we work with nature we’ll end up with a better result, but to be entirely pre-occupied with whether something is natural or not, is a mistake.
I don’t see many people walking around barefooted. Why? Surely opting to walk around without shoes is more natural. Nothing is stopping us from doing it, but it would be tough in the modern world. We have changed the surfaces we walk on, and there is very little you can do about it but compensate by wearing shoes; a consequence of the modern world. Much has changed about our modern habits; supplements can help compensate.
If you break your leg, you get a plaster-cast and use some crutches. Sure, we could heal naturally without them, but it would take longer to get around without crutches, and a cast to protect us from the knocks of the world. When we are done healing, we don’t keep the crutches, we chuck them away because we don’t need them anymore. Supplements and medications can help us out of a bad spot, and when we don’t need them any longer, we can drop them.
If you are going somewhere, the chances are you frequently use some kind of vehicle to journey faster. Cars – and even bikes – are most certainly not natural, and yet they are incredibly useful in enhancing our lives. Supplements can occasionally be used to give us a boost beyond our norm; to optimise.
Supplements can be useful to compensate for the modern world we live in, to help us optimise, and along with medications, can be necessary to return us from a reduced state of health. Most often, the closer to natural, the better, but this is simply because the side-effect profile is generally better, and doesn’t make medications something to be ideologically opposed to. Supplements and medications should be looked at as tools. Be pragmatic. Is this tool potentially useful? Is this the right tool for the job now? Is it a tool I want to be using for a long time? Are the downsides worth it?
No longer are we living in alignment with the genetics we evolved over many tens of thousands of years. There is much we have changed in the modern world, which can’t not have an effect on us. The options are to move away from the modern world, or compensate for it. I like the modern world, so I choose the latter. Supplements are one such way I do it. I like to optimise, so I supplement. If I am in a bad way, I want what help I can get. Don’t be philosophically opposed to taking advantage of the modern world you can’t escape. Be pragmatic. Run your cost-benefit analysis, and if you find a useful tool, use it.