(Wow, three posts in one day.)
There was an article in the New York Times recently -- one of those "mysterious cases brought to a doctor" columns-- about a woman who turned out to have scurvy. The physicians almost missed the diagnosis, because who gets scurvy these days? Everyone eats some fruit sometimes, right? Or drinks OJ now and then? And even if they don't, plenty of foods are enriched with Vitamin C. It's almost impossible to be so deficient in Vitamin C that you'd get scurvy. Turns out this lady has, or thinks she has, a long list of food allergies, and her diet consisted pretty much of gluten-free bread and peanut butter. That was it. And so she almost died.
The story got me thinking about the vitamins I take every day to supplement my diet. I do make attempts at a healthy diet, and do eat fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, and lean proteins -- in addition, unfortunately, to lots of unhealthy things that I should stay away from. I'm very educated about what I should eat, and though I do not always succeed in maintaining the diet I should stick to, things could be a lot worse.
Still, it always helps to supplement, just in case. And so every day, I take one multi-vitamin and at least 1000 mgs of calcium. (Note: It's important to take these things spread out over the day -- no more than 500 mgs of calcium at once, and I also split the multivitamin and take the halves a few hours apart -- because the body can't absorb it all at once!)
The calcium supplement is really important for me, because I'm somewhat lactose intolerant (still exploring what milk products I can and cannot have -- and it seems to change all the time!) and my kitchen is entirely fleishik. I use Rice Dream in my cereal, and the only dairy product I consume on a regular basis is a certain type of Israeli cheese which I love and doesn't seem to make me ill. Every so often I have some milk, but I usually regret it later. If it were just a matter of my diet, I'd probably be in the hospital sooner rather than later with some horrible bone problem, just like that woman who got scurvy.
And so, these calcium pills are my only defense against osteoperosis and other bad things. And today I'm appreciating that my vitamin and mineral supplements are available to me, and that I've been educated enough to take them. Someone went to the trouble of researching what nutrients our bodies need, and someone went to the trouble of developing pills that could provide nutrients we're otherwise missing. And even if some of those people are only doing it for the money, and even if nutrients in pill form are not as easily absorbed as food sources, it does make me feel a lot better to know that I'm getting something healthy out of these pills -- that, if for some reason, I go a little too long without eating enough selenium or chromium or vitamin K, that I'm not going to become deficient in those things. Of course it's not an excuse to eat a bad diet, but every good thing we do for ourselves is . . . well, one more good thing!
So, I appreciate all the scientists and pharmaceutical people and public health folks and nutritionists who get vitamin and mineral supplements into our drugstores and into my cabinet and into my mouth. I especially appreciate the folks who provide me with a way to get some calcium without ill side effects - my bones thank you!
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