A new age of nutritional and herbal medicines
Sneeze and it’s not unusual for somebody to recommend you take vitamin C. Complain about premenstrual syndrome and the chances are somebody will recommend you try evening primrose oil.
Believe it or not but about a third of adults of all ages and walks of life now regularly use supplements as a preventative therapy against ailments ranging from colds and headaches to arthritis, through to depression and heart disease.
Food Scares and Poor Diet
Recent scares about food safety have proved that achieving a healthy diet is much more complex than simply eating the right things.
Although there is no scientific evidence that modern farming methods have changed the nutritional value of foods, there is no doubt that subtle changes in our diet are taking place.
We are now eating varieties of fruit and vegetables that have been bred for high yields, good storage and uniformity in appearance and texture with little consideration to nutritional value.
You will notice that these new varieties tend to be less colourful and have less flavour than their predecessors which suggests that they are less well endowed with phytochemicals. There are other factors too. The levels of trace elements in food crops are affected by the soil in which they are grown, and it is unusual for these vital minerals to be included in the fertilisers applied to intensively grown crops.
A government sponsored research program showed that our intake of selenium had fallen since the 1970’s as a result of selenium poor European wheat which we had in place of selenium rich North American wheat.
Despite the growing awareness of healthy eating, poor eating habits remain the norm, surveys consistently show that people of all ages have diets that fail to meet the recommended targets for nutrients, and very few of us eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Although it is likely we may eventually suffer, those now suffering ill health the problem is more immediate as they may have higher requirements for certain nutrients to help the healing process and the elderly can be at risk through absorption problems.
The Popularity of Dietary Supplements
There is nothing new or unusual about dietary supplements. vitamins in tablet form have been around for over 50 years. Herbs have been used in cooking and for medicines for thousands of years, and according to the World Health Organization, 80% of the worlds population use herbal medicine for some kind of primary health care. We can learn from other countries experiences of the therapeutic use of nutritional supplements.eg. cat’s claw, a herb derived from bark or roots of an Amazonian vine, may be new to us, but has been used in South America for thousands of years to treat many diseases by enhancing the function of the immune system.
An Increasing Knowledge
Only a decade ago most dietary supplements were based on nutrients such as vitamin C and B, and minerals such as iron and calcium which were known to be deficient in the diets of many people, and herbal remedies often had to be made up at home or bought from specialist health food shops.
With the advancement of nutritional knowledge many diets have been proved to be lacking in several essential nutrients and trace elements, plus increasing evidence proving insufficient attention has been paid to phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables.
This is the reason why, today, we are able to buy an enormous range of supplements that have been specially formulated to suit our individual needs, and although quality does vary, usually seen through the price, they are available from almost all supermarkets and chemist’s shops, in catalogues and over the internet, with sales rising spectacularly each year.
Our Changing Attitudes
The growth in knowledge about supplements as been taking place at the same time as the shift in doctor, patient relationships with an increasing emphasis on patient choice. The pressure on the GPs’ time added to the rising cost of prescriptions has made many people consider alternative treatments.
As more and more research is carried out research is proving that certain combinations of foods and herbs are particularly at certain jobs, for example – Acai Berries, chilli peppers,green tea and raspberry ketones are particularly good at weight loss, cherries, parsley leaf, rose hips, blackcurrant give you vitamin C in a way that is more easily absorbed by the body, Beetroot is full of antioxidants as well as vitamins and iron, it is used by athletes for energy and is good for your spleen, kidney’s and liver and if taken in powdered form is more easily absorbed by the body
Emphasis on Prevention
It is now widely known that lifestyle changes, paying close attention to diet,exercise and weight, as well as limiting alcohol and stopping smoking have a vital role to play in staying well and healthy. By taking regular exercise, being at you recommended weight ( which can be achieved through your exercise and the help of the right supplements ) and taking the right supplements you can prevent or relieve most common complaints but also reduce the risk of serious ailments such as heart disease and cancer.We are now in an age where preventative medicine is more favourable than the cure and if we are ill we are looking at a more holistic approach which may take a little longer but we are treating the cause rather than the symptoms.