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Health Corner
By Julene Tripp Weaver

Vitamins through the Digestive System
A view from Susun Weed

This is a continuation of my report on Susun Weed's Immune Health talk. Susun Weed says that people with HIV should not take vitamins; this is a controversial statement since most alternative therapies and the current literature on immune health and HIV recommends supplements.

If you remember last month's article, within the Wise Woman Tradition Step 5a is the use of supplements. The caution at this step according to Susun is, "There's always the risk with synthesized/concentrated substances that they'll do more harm than good, e.g., the men who took fish liver oil in capsules and had a greater mortality from heart disease (the oil was rancid)." (1) This statement brings up the issue of synthesized vitamins. Large pharmaceutical companies invest heavily to promote vitamins because they make them. Karl John Mincin, Consulting Nutritionist at Central Co-Op says, "Nearly all vitamin supplements on the shelf are synthetically manufactured. Raw materials for the hundreds of different brands are supplied by five large chemical manufacturers, including Kodak, S. Denko, and others. Even many so-called "food base" and "natural source" vitamins are largely chemical concoctions, perhaps with a token amount of actual food." (2) So when we take vitamins we are actually taking pharmaceuticals and supporting these large companies.

Susun makes the claim that only well people can take vitamins. This rings true for me; over and over as I work with people living with AIDS I notice as they get sick they have trouble keeping vitamins down. The digestive system begins to rebel and they cannot tolerate the supplements, often throwing them up. Vitamins do not harm healthy people whose systems are working well, but in anyone who is immune suppressed factors such as malabsorption or decreased hydrochloric acid (HCL) production can cause supplements to become a burden on the system. (3)

Why would they be a burden? Vitamins and mineral supplements are not in a form our body can use; our body uses mineral salts not these synthetic organic minerals. Have you noticed when you take vitamins your urine is a bright fluorescent yellow? This is because your body spits back out what you put in. Why? Because the majority of vitamins and minerals in pill form are not absorbable. In some cases whole undigested pills will pass out of your body intact. Stress occurs in the body because the kidneys are working harder to process the indigestible compounds from the supplements. In addition, these compounds can be disruptive to the intestinal flora. This can mean an imbalance which can throw your system into a yeast infection, where candida, the fastest growing of the yeasts, can take over.

The mechanism of absorption, or how the vitamins and minerals get into our system from food, is the complete process starting where the cell walls of the plants are broken down by chewing and peristalsis, and by the HCL and enzymes in the stomach and small intestine. The enzymes are produced primarily by the liver. The mash of this broken down mix is pressed against the wall of the small intestinal where microorganisms transfer nutrients into the blood. Once food passes into your large intestine it is in the final stage of its journey, here it is liquid bulk that the large intestine dehydrates and passes out of the body.

I've created a simplified chart of how our digestive system works, laying out the differences between how food versus a pill goes through our system:

So before you spend precious dollars on a bottle of vitamins, minerals, enzymes or any supplements think twice. What is it you want out of that pill and are you likely to get it? There are other ways to introduce the nutrition you are seeking; our bodies are made to digest minerals and vitamins from the food we eat.
(1) Susun Weed, Menopausal Years The Wise Woman Way Alternative Approaches for Women 30 - 90, Woodstock, NY: Ashtree Publishing, 1992, p. xiv.
(2) Karl John Mincin, "The Whole Truth About Vitamin Supplements," Central Co-Op News, Jan. - Feb. 1993, p. 10-11.
(3) Decreased HCL production is common in people who's T cell count has dropped below 200.

Disclaimer: Please be advised this is a sharing of information that is not meant to be used to replace medical treatment and your own intuitive sense of your body and what it needs. Please see your medical provider (Dr., Naturopath, Acupuncturist, etc.) to follow up on suggestions.