NS: I have been writing about alternative and natural health for many years, and I often cover the launch of new and exciting health supplements that are backed up by good research. Many of these products are part of the healthcare of the future – ie, looking after yourself – but the thing that troubles me is that many of these products are expensive. And they can be super-expensive if you are taking a range of them. It’s common for a supplement to cost £30 a month, or £1 a day, and if you’re taking all the things it’s sensible for you to take, you could be spending £5 a day or more. This do-it-yourself form of private healthcare is only affordable for those with a reasonable amount of money.
RJR: I hear what you are saying Nigel, but I have some other takes on what you have said (as you would expect of me when we are writing a Double Take!) I agree that there are many good-quality health supplements being marketed to those who seek alternatives to the drugs prescribed by their doctors. And it is tempting to take a whole concoction of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, plant extracts and more, if, as you say, one can afford them. But how do we know as individuals we are really taking what our own mind and body needs? Recommended Daily Allowances are being questioned as an old-fashioned and inefficient system to guide us, and it only applies to a few of the supplements anyway. As a fellow homeopath I know you know that we are all individuals, and as such, all have different requirements to keep us an optimum state of heath.
NS: I agree that there is a certain hit-and-miss element to taking vitamins and supplements, but there are some things that are pretty much proven to be of benefit for almost all of us, eg if you don’t have vitamin C, you get scurvy; if you don’t have vitamin D, you get rickets; if you don’t take glucosamine or hyaluronic acid, you will probably have joint problems from middle age onwards; and so on… Good nutritious food is of course also important… but this brings me back again to the amount of money you have deciding how healthy you are likely to be. In central London, you can see people on the street with little to eat, outside a health supermarket brimming with nutritious and expensive food and supplements. This can’t be right, can it? And a homeopathic remedy is not going to have an impact on the homeless and healthless, is it?
RJR: A homeopathic remedy will certainly not cut it – I agree. I have just returned from my training in Functional Medicine (AFMCP-UK) and the emphasis there is much more about food and exercise than it is supplementation. If as a population we spent less on sugar, cigarettes, alcohol and painkillers, we might well find that we have more money for good healthy food. As Dr Chatterjee has been saying in the BBC’s Doctor in the House documentary series currently airing (who did the same Functional Medicine training as me), it is all about education really – in the knowing of what is healthy and what isn’t. And that journey is much like a salmon swimming upstream – we are fighting against all the mis-information that is out there. Generally, in the UK, we don’t need to take Vitamin C in supplement form.
NS: It’s all very well talking about healthy food. But again only those who are reasonably well-off can afford to buy fresh organic food. The ‘healthy food’ that most people can afford is probably produced in unnatural circumstances, devoid of vitamins and minerals, preserved by unnatural means, possibly genetically modified or covered in chemical residue. What makes you think that vitamin C supplementation is not necessary here? And do you discount the long-standing evidence that high doses of vitamin C can prevent cancer?
RJR: Even if we just ate non organic well chosen foods, that has to be better than sugar, alcohol and cigarettes. In answer to your question, there are so many issues that cause and prevent cancer. To say that vitamin C can prevent cancer, in my opinion, is incorrect, if other issues are left unaddressed.
NS: I agree about the sugar, alcohol etc. And of course there are many issues in relation to cancer. I wasn’t saying that vitamin C was anything like a complete answer. But Linus Pauling’s work on high-dose vitamin C remains highly relevant. The problem remains the health gulf between the poorly educated and exploited poor and the well-educated, exploiting rich. The former are the ones consuming the very worst-quality items of sugar, alcohol and junk food, and the latter are the ones who have the choice to eat healthily (and take better-quality drugs and alcohol). And won’t this health gulf go on getting wider?
RJR: Well, this is getting quite political. I hate that we live in a world with such divide of education and money. Is the gap getting wider? I really don’t know. But what I do know is that I find it heart breaking. What is also clear is that the NHS is crumbling.
NS: Yes, people who really need help are having to wait months for it. During which their chronic conditions worsen. It is a scandal and it is political. And, yes, it is heart breaking. It seems that all of us will probably have to work on the basis of self-sufficient healthcare – easier for the rich, harder for the poor. So what advice would you give to the less well-off whose health will increasingly depend on their meagre resources and their ability to be resourceful?
RJR: I really cannot answer that question. Can you?
NS: If costly supplements and therapies are out, then it has to come down to fundamentals such as good basic nutrition, home cooking, exercise and avoidance of stress?
RJR: Sounds like a great message, Nigel. What do our readers think?