There is a lot of talk about Food Pyramids, which are intended to identify recommended ratios of various fats, proteins and carbohydrates. However, in my opinion these are misleading and create confusion about the dietary requirements for good health.
What use is there for example in eating the best balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates if these foods are devoid of other crucial nutritional factors such as vitamins and minerals, which is commonly the case with modern foods? What use any diet if it cannot be assimilated and properly metabolised? The traditional food pyramid thus substantially puts the focus on calories, rather than nutrition and food quality.
To help address this, I have designed my own very simple pyramid, which I hope cultivates the idea that fats, proteins and carbohydrates are the smallest aspect of nutrition and that the strength of a person's metabolism (as determined by their enzyme, mineral and vitamin status) is the foundation of all human nutrition. Without a strong metabolism, the finest foods will become toxic and as we will increasingly discover, modern foods and cooking methods are typically deficiency-producing.
The questions are often asked,
1. "Why should I take dietary supplements if I have an excellent diet?"
2. "Even if I did need something extra for a while, why should I have to continue taking them for extended periods?"
3. "I never notice any difference anyway, so why do I bother taking supplements - is it just a way for the practitioner or shop to make more money from me?"
The questions are all good ones and I am inclined to agree with the sentiment; you probably shouldn't need to take dietary supplements, especially indefinitely, and especially if they don't seem to make a difference. But in light of a few realities that also "shouldn't" be, such as unprecedented levels of pollution, unsustainable and sheer unhealthy farming practices, stressful lifestyles (frequently self-inflicted), and many more, I believe that supplementation is absolutely necessary for the vast majority of people, who are interested in anything more than "average" health.
There is also an incredible distortion of the concepts of what constitute "natural" and "healthy" foods, diets, supplements and lifestyles.
Nutritional supplements are frequently exposed to the same de-naturing processing methods as commercialised foods. Many brands sold in supermarkets, chemists and even some health food shops are of poor quality, miniscule dosage, unnatural or denatured, and may even contain some contaminants.
There may also be a certain mind-set or concern that the need for a supplement implies that something else is not right, which many people prefer to think is not the case, thus a stigma attached to supplements. Many also think of health supplements in a similar way to pharmaceutical drugs, as if to say there must be some sort of side-effects or problem with them.
Ironically, the supplements that least deserve the stigma of being called supplements are the ones that are the most true supplements - they act like foods that add to (supplement) the diet, rather than being stimulants, sedatives or exercising some other medicinal effect.
In my training and experience I have come to believe that enzyme deficiency is almost ubiquitous as a result of eating cooked and processed foods for many years. Since every metabolic process in the body requires enzymes to take place efficiently, it stands to reason that enzyme deficiency should underpin nearly every health problem and also that the use of enzymes as a supplement has the potential to improve every health problem.
As there are literally thousands of different and specialised enzymes in the body but only a few that are available to use as supplements, choices of brands, potencies and dosages are key factors in making the right decisions when considering taking enzymes.
There are perhaps hundreds of enzyme supplements on the market, intended mostly for digestive purposes, and clearly they are not created equal. In a sense, enzymes are like cars: there are Skodas and there are Rolls Royces; there are racing cars and cars that get you from A to B and no more; there are also cars that are not fit to be on the road.
Some enzyme supplements are biologically worthless because they have not been chosen to be effective in the conditions that exist within the body; conditions of temperature and acidity for example.
Furthermore, enzymes that might function adequately in a healthy person's digestive system may remain inactive in a person with low stomach acidity or in a person using antacids.
Besides digestive enzymes, there is also a whole field of metabolic enzymes, which are generally not taken with meals and are intended to influence metabolic processes such as immunity and inflammation. This is where the advice of a practitioner who understands these issues is highly beneficial.
Mineral deficiency is about as prevalent as enzyme deficiency, partly because minerals depend on enzymes for their assimilation and function, but predominantly due to the poor farming methods used to grow food.
Plants grown in mineral-deficient soil are mineral-deficient also. People who eat mineral-deficient foods inevitably become mineral-deficient.
The majority of agriculture in "developed countries" is focussed on profit and yield per acre. Fertilisers, harvesting times and even plant breeding, are predominantly aimed at increasing profit, probably encompassing more than 90% of the commercial food chain.
The number one thing any person can do to improve their mineral status in the long term is to switch to organically grown foods, and not just organic (which means at a minimum that no pesticides have been added to the crops), but "biodynamic", meaning that the farmer has used methods to maximise the health of the soil and the plants. In other words, healthy soil has higher levels of minerals and a broader range of minerals and can pass these onto the plants for the benefit of the animals and people who eat them.
The next best thing you can do is to eat unrefined versions of those organic foods - whole grain brown rice instead of white rice, wholegrain flour and breads instead of white bread, etc. In most cases, a significant portion of the mineral content of any plant food is contained in the seed husk and in the part of the plant closest to the seeds.
Again, with minerals there are Skodas and Rolls Royces, racing cars, "Grandma" cars, and plain no-hopers. There are a number of minerals that, singly, compete with each other for absorption in the digestive system. For this reason (and many more when it comes to Body Electronics) I typically recommend broad range minerals - supplements with not just 1 or 2 or even 20 minerals, but 80 or more. My aim is typically to correct the broad range deficiencies of minerals that co-function with enzymes to ensure all aspects of your body's normal metabolism can occur efficiently. Of course there are exceptions.
Vitamins, minerals and enzymes are somewhat interdependent for function. However, there is also a hierarchy, wherein vitamins depend on minerals and minerals in turn depend on enzymes.
I'll make this one quick - nature doesn't make vitamins the same way laboratories do. They may have the same name but at best they are frequently like keys that fit in a lock but can't turn it. I'm cautious about recommending the use of vitamin supplements for this reason.
What I do often suggest are certain foods that nature has provided with incredible abundances of certain vitamins and other substances. From the laboratory you will receive so-called nature-identical vitamins (often this could not be further from the truth), usually in isolation from the natural co-factors, synergists and balancing factors found in foods containing the same vitamins.
In point of fact, although some 20-50 substances have been named as vitamins, there are thought to be possibly thousands of unnamed food substances that are also vitamins or vitamin co-factors and which clearly are not to be found in your typical "vitamin supplement".
Perhaps it's plain old human nature, but every time I hear about some new "wonder supplement" that's going to fix this, that and everything I find myself getting just a little sceptical. Is it just too ironic for a naturopath to say this? I hope not. I certainly don't doubt that nature has provided us with a myriad of health foods, many of which are probably still waiting to be discovered.
What I grapple with is how so many of these products seem to cost the earth, how many of them are part of intricate strategic regimes which cost even more, and how it often seems you can only get it if you spend even more to buy it from a network marketer or else become one yourself.
I'm not "bagging" network marketing at all - some products have genuine reasons for being expensive, such as being of excellent quality. What I do not believe is that quality nutrients or supplements must necessarily be expensive. In fact, some of the best I know are also the cheapest.
I also believe that the time and money spent flogging a dead horse with stimulants are frequently far better spent by building the body with the basics - enzymes, minerals and foods naturally high in nature-made vitamins.
Considering all the factors above associated with modern lifestyles, the answer is almost certainly, "YES!" I can at least say that it is a rare individual who would not benefit from some judiciously chosen high-quality supplements.
I frequently hear comments similar to, "I don't believe in taking supplements continuously," usually from people who have either never had professional advice or from those who assume that natural health supplements must have the same side-effects and cautions as pharmaceutical drugs, albeit perhaps less dramatic.
I only have one common sense suggestion to offer. If you have spent years in progressively declining health, it is not unreasonable to be prepared for many months, if not years of some form of supplement use as you reverse the trend back towards health and vitality.
There are also those who have no intention of changing the lifestyle, beliefs and diet that have made them ill. In such cases supplements can only act to partly balance out the negative effects of unhealthy behaviours and therefore their use may be required for as long as the person does not make other changes.
If I were to answer the question another way, think back to the example of cars. Cars need petrol, like we need food (as we have already noted, some supplements are more in the category of foods or food synergists anyway). In fact, cars need high quality petrol and don't run economically or with enough power and can even damage the engine with incorrect grades of fuel. Cars need periodic oil changes like we might need an occasional boost with a short course of herbs for say a liver cleanse. Cars also have wear and tear, over time acquiring a number of dents, worn bearings, oil leaks and breakages. Whereas car parts can always be replaced, there is a limit to the possible surgical procedures that can be performed to return a person to a reasonable state of health.
This highlights the opportunity to reduce and in some cases even reverse wear and tear by dietary or lifestyle changes and/or supplement usage. So the question of how long supplements are needed also somewhat depends on what your objective is, what sort of results you desire.
Sporadic or non-committed use of supplements may not get you very far - why should it? If this is your plan, maybe you can save yourself some time and money and look for other approaches that you can commit to.
Compulsive or rigid supplement use isn't the answer either. That can be both expensive and the very attitude of compulsion may undermine your nutritional status, regardless.
"Consistency, thou art a gem."
A sensible programme of good quality nutrients, targeted for your specific needs, taken consistently over time while required, gives the best chance of replenishing long-standing deficiencies.
One thing that can really accelerate your progress is being willing to make some lifestyle or dietary changes to curb the deficiency-causing processes.
There is one very special exception to our dealings with nutrition if we choose to look beyond the requirements for the maintenance of health and wellbeing.
Nutrient saturation is one of the pivotal requirements for successful pointholding. Nutrient saturation is also one of the key concepts unique to the Ray Programme of nutrition. In a nutshell, nutrient saturation is a state that can only be achieved by consistent use of fairly significant doses of various supplements. While some may baulk at the idea of using supplements in this way, it is crucial to consider the purpose and principle behind it.
Recommended Daily Intakes/Allowances are generally regarded as minimums or possibly even optimums for the maintenance of health, minimums that can be achieved through an excellent diet or judicious use of nutritional supplements. However, since Body Electronics (and pointholding in particular) works towards the deliberate provocation of healing crisis and there is a need to support the body adequately to complete the healing crisis, saturation is required, which cannot come from diet or occasional supplement use. It is because we seek regeneration, rather than maintenance, that a more consistent approach is required.
It was many years before Dr Ray realised this to be the case and accordingly found pointholding to be somewhat "hit and miss" - working for some people sometimes, and not for others or at other times, without understanding what the missing factor could be.
In retrospect we may now say that it is obvious that additional nutritional factors must be required to deal with the exceptional bodily circumstances of healing crisis and regeneration. Getting more than normal performance from the body requires more than normal nutrition.
We must therefore distinguish between a maintenance programme and a nutrient saturation programme. Both have their places - a maintenance programme for when we desire to maintain our current level of health, and a nutrient saturation programme for the times when we desire to actively pursue greater levels of health, which include the pursuit of pointholding and healing crisis.
This all said, Dr Ray was adamant that nutrition (including what we might otherwise call the essential need for nutrient saturation for pointholding and regeneration) still only accounts for 10% of the overall picture, so we should always be careful not to get too blinkered on specific nutritional requirements.
Follow these links to read more on enzymes, minerals, oxygen, acidophilus (probiotics), Grainfields products, and organics, or my controversial views on the Eat Right Diet (blood type diet) and vegetarianism.
Or, you may want to look at some of the nutrition books I recommend.