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Nutritional supplements: Do you know what you are putting in your body?

About 30 years ago, vulnerable and clueless about what was going on in my new MS body, I clung to wellness advice from the bestseller ‘Nutritional Healing’. I didn’t know who to trust. The medical community provided little info on how to move forward.

Impressive scientific looking healing guides like this one gave me hope. It showed the ’most recent information on a variety of alternative healing and preventive therapies and unveils new science on vitamins, supplements, and herbs, with an A-to-Z reference to illnesses…’ . Yes I had doubts, but I focused only on what I wanted to get from it.

Denial and desperation go hand in hand.

Months later, after more searching the internet, speaking to anyone interested and hundreds of dollars, I stopped. I learned that every person’s body reacts differently to drugs, treatments, even foods. I decided that I couldn’t accept recommendations from a book without knowing what my body was missing.

Did you know there are about 80,000 dietary supplements on the market? In 2015, 45.6% of Canadians aged one year and older (approximately15.7 million people) used at least one nutritional supplement.

By 2014 my health took a bad turn. Something needed to happen. After years of researching diets from vegan to paleo, listening to countless ‘experts' on inflammation, leaky gut, stress etc. I decided to trust Dr. Terry Wahls and The Wahls Protocol. Her story is personal, inspired and science-based. That matters to me.

This paleo protocol also requires the aid of a functional practitioner to pinpoint our needs

and deficiencies based on regular blood, urine and stool tests including lengthy detailed consultations— unlike a typical rushed meeting with a traditional GP. This approach made sense to me.

After several attempts and many ‘red flags’, I found someone to work with. After a few consults and positive changes, I began to trust her.

Did you know that there’s no regulatory organizations to ensure claims by supplement

companies are true? A report on “natural health products” presented to Parliament by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada concluded that Health Canada “has not ensured that natural health products offered to Canadians were safe, effective, and accurately represented on the basis of appropriate evidence.” Basically, buyer beware!

Now, still in 2014, everyone was shocked to see how much better I looked and felt. They wanted to know my secret. I get it, who doesn’t want a simple solution like a pill and get on with life? It doesn't work that way. This is a lifestyle transformation, a dramatic change in diet and exercise. Supplements are one part of it.

Did you know that many supplements contain active ingredients that can hurt or complicate your health. Things like—combining supplements; using supplements with medicines (whether prescription or over-the-counter); substituting supplements for prescription medicines; taking too much of some supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, or iron.

Scientists still have much to learn about the myriad of supplements on the market. An NIH funded 2011 study showed increased risk of prostate cancer from Vitamin E supplements that aimed to reduce risk of prostate cancer.

Beware of wishful thinking! Anecdotal evidence may be exciting, and the placebo effect has its benefits, but to take a drug with potential dangerous side effects with no guarantee it will help is not for me. Every day I read posts on an online support group for people to share their MS treatment experiences. The majority complain about drug side effects, bouncing from one drug plan to another, asking other frightened people for help. I love the support aspect of the group but I find it hard to watch people behave like ‘experts’ because they believe in the drug treatment they are taking at the time.

Unfortunately no one knows who will benefit from a drug, for how long, or even know long term consequences.

I want to understand what the scientists around the world are doing, their new discoveries and approaches like neuroplasticity and the PONS device as well as drug treatments. It is important to me that my health-care provider is aware of these things and open to new ideas.

Health-care professionals care and want to heal, but there's no guarantee their method is

the only method for you. What if their knowledge is limited in scope? Are you getting enough information or settling because you don't have a medical degree?

Imagine you're really sick in the ER, your assigned medical team is making mistakes with your treatment protocol. You know which meds are most effective at the ‘right’ time because you learned everything about your condition from all your doctors. Besides a quicker recovery time, you could free up a much needed bed. This just happened to someone I know. She resolved the chaos with purpose, grace and strength to her standards. The overworked exhausted staff thanked her for alerting them and corrected the error. Of course her situation wasn't about supplements but understanding her condition and treatment enabled her to facilitate the care she needed.

Our healthcare system is broken. It's hard to get a doctor let alone one you trust implicitly. You can however inform yourself about your body.

Start with asking hard questions, learn about your symptoms, the causes as well as your emotional reactions to them. Ask for explanations in everyday not scientific terms. Look at current treatments and what’s on the horizon.

Being informed matters. Most importantly, trust yourself to keep up with your changing needs and resources to support you. You will feel better in ways you never dreamed.

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