Should Raw Fooders Worry About Nutrient Deficiency?
Copyright © 2014 Nora Lenz
Since we raw fooders hear so much about nutrient deficiency, it may come as a surprise to learn that it is similar to protein deficiency, in that it is so rare in our culture that it more accurately belongs in the category of ‘medical myth’ than practical reality. Nutrient deficiencies are the nonexistent WMDs of the health world. When people go to war with imaginary enemies, they very often end up only destroying themselves. Raw fooders who feel the need to “prevent” nutrient deficiency with fake and fractionated nutritional supplements or superfoods are only going to prevent their own health improvements. Supplementation as a concept is as flawed as the idea that drugs can cure disease. Both of these ideas are based on belief, not on knowledge or reason. It is belief that allows people indulging the same lifestyle mistakes to convince themselves that a microbe is responsible when they get sick. And it is belief that causes even so-called nutrition experts to conclude that a deficiency existed in a symptomatic individual just because symptoms go away after the ingestion of a supplement. Most often, when you ask supplement advocates for proof that deficiency is a real concern, this is what you’ll get. This is not proof, it is nonsense.
Take Joe, your average raw fooder. Joe’s been raw for a few months and has recently begun to experience symptoms. Since Joe follows all the raw websites that tell us how difficult it is for raw vegans to get “all” their nutrients, he worries about deficiencies. So, naturally, when Joe notices the symptoms, deficiency is the first thing that enters his mind. Joe makes an appointment to see his naturopath and explains his unorthodox dietary regimen. Joe’s naturopath is entirely supportive of Joe’s raw diet, but she is “aware” that raw vegans at risk of not getting all their nutrients. She immediately orders blood work and is not surprised to find that Joe is indeed “deficient” in certain nutrients. She prescribes supplements, which Joe dutifully takes. Joe’s symptoms go away. Joe is now certain that he did the right thing in going to the naturopath. In a few weeks’ time Joe goes back to the naturopath for follow-up and tells her about the abatement of symptoms. She does more blood work which shows that the previous “deficiency” has been “cured”. Both doctor and patient are now thoroughly convinced that disaster has been averted. Joe bristles to think what might have happened if his naturopath hadn’t correctly diagnosed and resolved the problem. The naturopath congratulates herself once again for having chosen a career that gives so much meaning and purpose to life.
In spite of the fact that it might seem “obvious” that nutrient deficiency is indeed what Joe was dealing with, the fact remains that between the appearance of symptoms and the apparent happy ending, there are literally dozens of mistaken assumptions that have been made by both Joe and his doctor
The questions that thinking people need to ask when they hear a story like this are:
- What are the other factors that might have caused Joe’s symptoms?
- What standards were used to judge Joe’s apparent “deficiency” and are they reflective of what is optimal for the human body? How do we know this?
- Are the nutrients from the supplements in Joe’s bloodstream doing what they’re supposed to be doing, or are they there being ushered out as waste?
- Is the fact that Joe’s symptoms went away after supplement therapy proof that there was a deficiency? If not, what other factors might have caused the cessation of Joe’s symptoms?
This is only the short list. Let’s take question #4. The answer is “no” — the fact that the symptoms went away after supplementation is not proof that there was a deficiency. Symptoms are the result of complex chemical processes that are taking place in the body. When a new chemical is introduced, the processes and the symptoms are changed. Sometimes symptoms go away completely, sometimes they go away temporarily or partially, sometimes they change into other symptoms, and sometimes they continue unchanged. When they go away, this is presumed to be proof that they were caused by a deficiency of whatever nutrient is purported to be supplied by the supplement. When they don’t go away, people typically keep trying new things until they find one that “works”. Then when they find something that requires their bodies to perform a more important function than what it was doing with the symptom (the more important function being the elimination of the supplement), they pronounce to the world that they have found a miracle supplement that makes them feel great.
Just as aspirin doesn’t ‘cure’ a headache, supplements do not cure symptoms, or restore healthy nutrient levels in truly deficient individuals. The chemical process that causes aspirin to make a headache go away is actually similar to the one that causes symptoms of “deficiency” to go away after the ingestion of supplements. People come to believe that supplementation cures deficiency by the same false and erroneous thinking that leads them to assume that symptoms are caused by deficiencies in the first place. It is pure belief and assumption, like the situation with our friend Joe. Residues of supplements may end up floating around in the bloodstream, and they can be measured by a doctor who will declare their levels either sufficient or insufficient (based on faulty standards derived from studies on sick people), but the fact is that fractionated nutrients do not perform their appropriate functions in the body. That they are in the bloodstream is by no means evidence that they are doing what they’re supposed to do. Everything we eat, drink and breathe ends up in our blood. Our bloodstreams constantly carry both nutrients and waste in and out of our bodies. When our blood is examined for a specific substance, how is the examiner to know whether that substance is on its way in to the body, performing a valuable function, or on its way out as waste?
Our paranoia surrounding nutrient deficiency needs to be replaced by rational thinking, and factual evidence. When the detectives on TV want to solve a murder, do they rule out the least likely suspects first? No. When we have a symptom, we need to look at what is most likely causing the problem, not something that is highly unlikely. How do we know that nutrient deficiency is unlikely? Because for most of us, even though we think we’re living healthfully, we may have hundreds of diet and lifestyle habits that bear negatively upon our health. You don’t have to be Columbo to figure out that it’s far more likely to be these habits causing your problems than nutrient deficiency. An appropriate response to the initial onset of symptoms, therefore, would be to say to ourselves: “What parts of my diet and lifestyle are not conforming to those which build health?” Having arrived at the answer, we would then go about changing those bad habits. An even more appropriate response to the onset of symptoms would be to stop eating. Eating should never be done when we have a symptom, since symptoms are signs that our bodies are conducting important work. We should not give our bodies more work to do with they are already busy. Food does not give us energy until it has been digested, absorbed, assimilated and converted to useable fuel, and that takes 1-24 hours or more of WORK for our bodies. It should be noted, incidentally, that symptoms which are attributed to deficiency GO AWAY when symptomatic individuals fast on water only. If a deficiency truly existed, symptoms would get worse if a person was to ingest no nutrients at all, but this never happens. Over and over again, fasting practitioners report that they see people who fast getting relief from symptoms that were previously and erroneously attributed to deficiencies.
All disease has a common cause, and that cause is the accumulation of toxins and waste in the body. Disease is caused by excess, not deficiency. The excess fat, protein, toxic ingredients, unrecognizable chemicals and indigested waste that our bodies must eliminate everyday causes our organs to not function optimally. Non-functioning organs cannot absorb nutrients properly. Nutrient deficiencies, when they truly do exist, are issues of assimilation, not intake. That means they are not related to the quantity of nutrients that are consumed in the diet. They are caused by all the excess that is consumed that causes organs to be compromised to the point of not being able to properly use the nutrients that are coming in. Does it make sense to pump more nutrients into a body that is not capable of assimilating them? Or does it make sense to remove the cause of the malfunction so that our bodies can use the nutrients we eat?
B12 provides us with a good illustration of this. We are often told that vegans need to supplement B12 because plant foods do not provide it. Yet roughly 95% of all individuals who are diagnosed with B12 deficiencies are meat eaters. Acid-forming foods like meat and dairy products inhibit the stomach’s ability to create the catalyst (called “intrinsic factor”) that B12 requires to perform its function. The issue is not that sufficient B12 is not being ingested, it’s that the body is unable to use it because of excesses in the diet.
Additionally, it should be remembered among raw fooders that deficiencies are always gauged against standards that are established as “normal”. This is done by examining the blood of apparently “healthy” individuals, and arriving at averages. Since 98% of our populace dies prematurely of degenerative disease, however, this data cannot be regarded as reliable. We cannot know what optimal nutrient levels are by assaying the blood of individuals who are slowly dying of degenerative disease! Even if we examine the blood of people who are living very healthfully and enjoying an exceedingly high level of health, we are faced with the other obstacle I mentioned: among the millions of different chemicals present in our blood at any given time, how can we tell the difference between what is vital to the functioning of our bodies and what is waste that is being eliminated? Doctors and others make a gigantic leap of logic when they assume that a nutritional supplement that is in your bloodstream is “curing” some imagined “deficiency”. Nothing of the sort has ever been definitively established, nor could it ever be. We can’t possibly know what optimal nutrient levels are. We haven’t even identified all of the nutrients in foods. It is estimated, in fact, that we only know about 10% of them! Considering this, is it not sheer arrogance and folly to think we can re-create the delicate balance of nutrients our bodies need by extracting them one-by-one from food and putting them in the form of a pill?
What little we know of nutrients does include the fact that they work in concert with each other. Without the naturally-occurring chemicals that act as catalysts to other chemicals, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients are so much useless waste to our bodies.
The mutated, hybridized, cultivated food that is offered to us in modern supermarkets is nutritionally inferior and out of balance, of this there is no question. Yet, how are we to know which parts are there to the extent that they should be, and which parts aren’t? Can we make up for this lack of balance by taking a pill which contains all the nutrients we know to exist (10%, remember)? Pills can’t return balance to the foods we eat, nor can they re-establish the balance to the chemistry in our bodies.
Here’s another point to consider. If you put all the various diets that everyone in our culture eats on a scale from 0-100, with “0″ being the worst junk imaginable and “100″ being optimal, you’d find that even the most health-conscious naturopaths, herbalists and nutritionists might come in somewhere around 35, at best. These are typically the people who warn us about nutrient deficiencies. Now we raw fooders/fruitarians aren’t anywhere near optimal on that 0-100 scale because of the sub-standard food we’re forced to eat, but at least we’re eating according to our biological design. This offers us such a huge advantage that if we’re eating mostly fruit, some greens and modest amounts of nuts, properly combined, most of us can easily put ourselves in the 80′s. Why on earth are we allowing 35′s to tell US that WE need to worry about nutrient deficiency? They are the ones who should worry, because they kill their nutrients with fire, and they labor under the feloniously false idea that human beings are omnivorous.
What can we do to assure ourselves that we won’t become nutrient deficient? Well, we raw fooders are already doing the #1 thing — eating biologically appropriate, raw food. In addition, we can strive to eat fresh, ripe, tasty food because these are indicators that the nutrients are there. We can eat wild fruit whenever we have the opportunity, because wild fruit grows voluntarily (where conditions are most favorable), it must find its own water (deeper roots mean more nutrients), and it is not treated with chemical fertilizers and other harmful substances. We can also make sure that we get sufficient rest, sleep, exercise, sunshine and fresh air because doing so helps our organs to perform optimally and gives our cells the best opportunity to utilize the nutrients we eat.
Raw fooders have much more pressing issues to concern themselves with than nutrient deficiency, like learning about the real causes of disease. Disease is a result of excess, and this fact is ignored by doctors, naturopaths and nutritionists. If in every case where deficiency was blamed for disease, the excesses that are being indulged by the patient were stopped, the disease would stop as well. The most important thing to remember is that if we follow health-building habits (which raw fooders do, more than anybody else), our bodies will become very efficient at extracting and using the nutrients that we consume in food.