Philosophies of supplementation

There are a number of approaches to using supplementation. If you are taking supplements to treat an illness or for any other reason you should know the philosophy your practitioner is using.

1. Symptom control – the most popular use in the West

The first philosophy is to use supplements as replacements for pharmaceuticals (drugs). Here we try to replace the more dangerous drug with a less dangerous and more natural supplement. The result is usually fewer side effects and a better off patient. The medical philosophy is the same as Western Medicine – treat the symptom.

It is used most here because that is the prevailing medical philosophy – fed to us by the drug industry – that the symptom is the disease. Rarely do people come in
asking, “What is the cause of my depression?” or “What is the cause of my high blood pressure?” We have come to believe that symptoms are actually the disease itself and if you just get rid of the symptom they will be all right.

I don’t mean to denigrate this method too much – I use it often myself. It can be quite a good step toward health to get off the drugs.

Advantages: Get patient off the drugs and reduce side effects.

Disadvantages: Because it is symptom control, the supplements must be taken continuously since the real problem has not been addressed.

Example: Taking St. John’s Wort or 5-HTP for depression
2. Treat Medical Cause

This is where we look for the underlying condition and treat that. This is where alternative medicine shines. Western Medicine rarely looks for an underlying condition. Once there is a treatment that makes the drug companies happy, the cause is completely ignored.

Here the practitioner tries to address the cause underlying the symptoms. For example: an imbalance or a weakness in an organ. This problem is then addressed with the

Note: The true cause is often something underlying this – often lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, stress, etc)

Disadvantages: Usually takes longer to see improvement.

Advantages: Better overall health improvement. Supplements are only needed to attain balance or strengthen – if there is no ongoing cause (bad diet, etc), supplements can be discontinued once health is attained.

Example: Treating liver stagnation for depression (the most common cause).
3. Treat for deficiency in diet

This is also quite common. Here we are talking about taking vitamins and other nutrients that are missing in your diet. The average American diet is poor and needs supplementation to maintain an adequate level of health.

Some of the common deficiencies: essential fatty acids (virtually all are deficient in these), magnesium, folic acid, B12, zinc

4. Treating to excel

This means supplementation beyond the perfect diet. It allows you to live longer, stronger and to do more. This isn’t always the best idea – some people use supplements like coffee – to pump them up, get them to do more, but to eventually drain them.

Examples: Vitamin C used in large doses like Linus Pauling suggested – treating colds and cardiovascular problems. Using ginseng to give more energy like coffee – when the person should really be resting more.
How do I treat?

My favorite is #2 where I get to the medical cause and I also counsel for getting to the underlying lifestyle factors. I also try to address #3 – these deficiencies are often contributing to the disease. If the patient is on medications and/or has no interest in getting to the root of the problem, I go for #1.