Question 11/18 from Ashley:

Every time I turn around; it seems there is a new supplement being touted as the miracle herb.  How do I know what to trust and what will actually benefit my mind and body?  Is there such a thing as too many supplements?


Question 11/18 from Barbara:

I have a question about mycophyto. Is it safe to take to boost the immune system?

Answer from SkillfulDoc:

I am often asked to recommend supplements to treat certain conditions or ailments, or to help boost the immune system, or to address the conditions associated with aging.  My initial response is to first explain the principles of skillful living, and to approach the issue of supplements in the context of how one takes care of themself more holistically.  The danger of turning to supplements without this construct is that we are seduced into the thought that remedies should be simple and act quickly. Ultimately, we drift into a mindset that allows us to ignore the origins of our condition and the opportunities to learn and grow through them.


Clearly, people are dutiful. In my book, Skillful Living, I wrote: “Each year, millions of us get annual physicals, visit the dentist and try to exercise and eat right—all for the ostensible purpose of maintaining health. Yet, as we know, billions of dollars are also spent on everything from supplements to superficial surgery. In an effort to fix what ails us there seems to be no end. However, it is important not to allow ourselves to become romanticized by the fantasies that one, two or a combination of ten supplements will resolve our underlying issue.  In order to live skillfully and remained balanced, we must work through each ailment and pain, finding the root cause.  Supplements can be useful in dealing with immediate discomfort or sickness, however when depended on for long periods of time, they can cloud our perception of what is helping or hurting our quest to live skillfully.”


The number one rule to remember when delving into the world of supplements is that they should be “supplemental.” What I mean by this is that balance needs to be maintained; and when it comes to supplements, the only way to remain balanced and skillful is by focusing on the things you can do for yourself by managing your own behaviors and thoughts. As with pharmaceutical drugs, when one becomes “dependent” on supplements, they put themself into a precarious position. Ideally, supplements should be used for short periods to help alleviate immediate symptoms or improve function. Once one considers supplements for the longer term benefit they might provide, the choices become less clear. Most of us can recall many occasions where the magic bullet of today, winds up to be useless and in the trash heap down the road, or worse, is discovered to actually be harmful.  By contrast, focusing on how you take care of yourself through practices of mindful nutrition and behavior, for example, have no downside.


Just as when making healthy eating decisions, a person who makes thoughtful decisions about supplements has the potential to receive even greater benefit and, simultaneously, will be developing a practice of living more skillfully.


Full awareness of your condition will allow you to chose more wisely when it comes to supplements and will set you up for a more enjoyable and wholesome living experience; as opposed to choosing a supplement to “cure” a condition, and then putting it out of your mind.  Discomfort and pain, per se, are not “good,” however, they could be considered learning opportunities. Thus, reaching for a bottle every time symptoms appear or when the fearful thoughts of aging and debility permeate our minds is not the ideal. We need to seek a broader awareness and develop the skills to help ourselves deal with these issues.


So to address the question of something specific such as mycophyto, I would first ask why your immune system needs to be boosted and take it from there.


In the final analysis, a life that is in balance requires fewer supplements.


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