“Take your vitamins,” is a statement heard by thousands of American children on a daily basis, and one that I heard almost every day of my teen life.
I wonder a lot about vitamins….
- why they seem to be concentrated in the toilet rather than in my body, where i want them?
- why they are so cheap and readily available at convenience stores, right next to the beer, lottery tickets, and cigarettes?
- why everyone seems to be either making them or taking them or selling them or all of it?
- and why are we all still so sick in spite of swallowing boatloads of the things every year!?
Like the nutrients themselves, the word has been ruined by decades of abuse, misuse, and misunderstanding….and a short refresher course would be helpful to clean up some of this mess.
The history of the word is interesting to me, but if that’s not your cup-o-tea, read it anyway, it’s short.
The word “Vitamin” comes from the original “made-up” word Vitamine. It was pure genius to combine the word “vital” and “amine,” because the group of newly discovered compounds in food were incorrectly thought to be “amines,” and that romantically translates into “amine of life.” It could’ve been and should’ve been a great word…
The history of these little molecules is long and complex, and it starts in multiple places across multiple generations—because curious people made repeated observations and conclusions—using a method of experimentation called “science” long before “evidence-based-medicine” became such a popular term.
This little-known story illustrates my point very well…
A brilliant Japanese doctor named Takaki Kanehiro saved thousands of lives and forever changed the course of medical history—and all he got was a cool nickname and a peninsula in Antarctica named after him. This rebel doctor disagreed with the prevailing theory regarding Beriberi—a deadly disease thought to be caused by an unidentified infectious organism, and he sought to prove this by experimenting on young men in the Japanese Navy, who were dying on boats as they made long voyages. The common soldiers were dropping dead at the hands of BeriBeri in record numbers, and he noticed that the officers weren’t getting sick at all. Despite the tendency of the other physicians to believe that it was the superior genetics and mental fortitude of the officers, Takaki sought to prove that it was the food.
The soldiers were dying at their tables, while the officers were dining at banquet tables filled with the best meats, vegetables, and barley bread. You see, the common folk ate literally nothin’ but white rice—the kind that had all of the nutrition in the hull removed, ‘cause it was cheap. Free actually. If they wanted anything else to eat, they had to buy it, and they had no money.
When Dr. Kanehiro gave the officer’s food to the common soldiers, they were CURED of the deadly illness…and he affectionately earned the title “the Barley Baron.”
This story illustrates how ancient, organic whole foods containing Vitamin B1 will CURE BeriBeri, and this is echoed in many other similar stories describing how food cures disease!
Limes and Lemons are the cure for scurvy—a deadly disease that killed thousands of sailors! They provide Vitamin C—an electron donor essential to multiple essential cellular processes. Without it, you can’t make new collagen or heal wounds, among a thousand other things!
Cod Liver Oil, real butter, and eggs are the cure for Rickets!—(along with sunshine). They provide Vitamin D— a signaling hormone that controls vital gene expression and protects DNA, among a thousand other things!
Beef and chicken Livers are the CURE for Pellagra! They provide Niacin—Vitamin B3—which is the precursor to NAD, a molecule that is crucial for thousands of physiological reactions, and your life depends on it!
The key point here is that deadly diseases were being CURED with food containing these little miracle compounds we unimpressively call “vitamins.”
Doctors can’t even think the word CURE these days without having somebody show up at their door with a badge and a gun, saying, “shut up, show me the randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study.”
We call candy a “Life-Saver,” while we have demoted the name of the actual little life-savers to what increasingly sounds like a very bad sales pitch from your Multi-Level-Marketing “friend,” …yes, you know the one.
This is why the words “Vitamin” and “Cure” are bad F****in’ words!
(to all my friends at church, relax… it’s just a play on words. The *F-word* is the actual bad word *Friggin*— don’t take it so seriously)
I hate the word “Vitamin” because it doesn’t adequately communicate the essential nature of the molecule! That without them you will die a most-agonizing, slow death, while your confounded medical provider writes you a handful of prescriptions that simply mask your suffering, create other problems, hasten your demise, or all three! The word has been ruined by decades of BOTH snake oil salesman AND regulators EITHER making them out to be something they are not, OR making them out to be something they are not!
I hate the word “cure” because it can’t be said in the context of clinical medicine without a regulator-approved study–this despite thousands of patients being freed of symptoms that plagued them for years, lab results returning to the optimal range and after gaining a completely new lease on life.
But let me be clear–Functional medicine docs never cured anyone of anything…we just help people clean up their diet and lifestyle.
The nutritional deficiencies these stories illustrate are STILL KILLING PEOPLE TODAY, right now, possibly in your house….albeit more slowly, because they are functional deficiencies working together with the other causes of disease. The roles of these nutrients will undoubtedly continue to grow as we vigorously study the miraculous wonder of human physiology.
SO, what should we do about it!?
- First, send me your new “vitamin” word ideas….we desperately need a new word for these things.
- Second, get your nutrients from food…ideally whole foods, grown locally, organically, and processed traditionally. This includes things that grow out of the ground and animals that eat their traditionally known diets that grow out of the ground…These foods have the best nutrition money can buy, and they are infinitely better than consuming a pill.
When this is not possible, nutrients should be either derived from food, or as similar as possible to a food-source of the nutrient, and consumed with food. A high-quality supplement source is best, and should be sourced with direction and purpose based on symptoms and / or testing, and the supplement would be ideally converted to a food-based source as soon as possible.
The Barley Baron himself would have you eat a broad-based, organic diet, rich in nutrient-dense, healing food.…all without using either of the *bad words* or the pharmaceutical substitutes for healing that don’t fix the underlying cause and often have side effects that don’t manifest for years.
But, what could he possibly know, he just cured the disease of his day, on a sailboat full of mighty men, using only his mind, his bare hands and whole food.
What we need is a randomized, controlled trial to prove that these sailors lived because of his treatment…It was probably a coincidence.