grayscale photo of woman in sweater smiling
Photo by Artyom Kabajev / Unsplash

The older we get, the more gunk gets fobbed on us, most of which we just don't need.

As we age, do we really need more pills? Is there a magic supplement to help us live longer and better? Are there remedies or some kind of potion to make us better athletes or better at life?

Other than plenty of water, perhaps not. As we age, our different bodies need different nutrients, so there is no one thing. However, there is no end to what people are trying to sell us that will fix all our ills. Or, for that matter, something which will make us better in all aspects of our physical lives.

As much as I would love to believe the utterly outrageous claims that so many supplements, lotions and potions make about their magical qualities, I don't. It isn't just that the FDA has no jurisdiction over the industry, which richly lined the pockets of the Utah based Orrin Hatch and family, which were heavily in the supplements business.

It's that as a nation, we allow people to fob off all kinds of fake fixes which are not only useless, but some can do serious harm.

The late Senator Orrin Hatch did a fine job of passing legislation which would protect his family's industry, and provide ZERO protection for the consumer.

To that, this:

Herbal supplements filled with fake ingredients, investigators find
New York Attorney General tells major retailers to stop selling popular supplements after 4 out of 5 samples failed tests

From the article:

The investigation found supplements, including echinacea, ginseng, St. John's wort, garlic, ginkgo biloba and saw palmetto, were contaminated with substances including rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplant and wild carrot. In many cases, unlisted contaminants were the only plant material found in the product samples.

Wal-Mart was the worst offender, apparently. I'm shocked. Sure I am. Walgreen's didn't fare much better.

Yet we continue to be fooled, to terrible result, both to our bank accounts and our bodies.

This morning I found another excellent article by Outside Online contributor Alex Hutchinson:

Most Supplements Don’t Work. But That’s Not the Worst Part.
The pursuit of performance in a bottle inherently undermines our attempts to get faster, stronger, and healthier, our Sweat Science columnist argues

My favorite quote:

Here’s a challenge, then. For one full training cycle, focus on the basics. Train hard, recover well, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. Tune out the noise. It’s impossible to predict how you’ll perform or feel, because life is full of uncertainties. But if you perform well, take this hard-earned psychological edge and etch it into your soul: the power is in you, not in any pill, powder, or online fitness trend. (author bolded)

In addition to this, I will add a book I read this past fall, by Colorado-based author and journalist Christie Aschwanden:

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn fro…
A New York Times Sports and Fitness Bestseller “The de…

Aschwanden, who is a scientist, put a slew of post-effort recovery magical fixes to the test. Not surprisingly, many of them failed spectacularly. A few, like massage, provided some good, but that had a lot to do with the recipient (of course).

Here's the description of her book:

Acclaimed science journalist Christie Aschwanden takes readers on an entertaining and enlightening tour through the latest science on sports and fitness recovery. She investigates claims about sports drinks, chocolate milk, and “recovery” beer; examines the latest recovery trends; and even tests some for herself, including cryotherapy, foam rolling, and Tom Brady–endorsed infrared pajamas. Good to Go seeks an answer to the question: Do any of these things actually help the body recover and achieve peak performance? (author bolded)

The trick that I've tried and loved, which she did as well, was the sensory deprivation tank. Because they block out all senses, they are a serious vacation from the bombardment we experience daily.

That alone makes it a fine recovery system, but even then it depends on the individual. Of course it does.

What I liked best was how she differentiates between those fixes that we imbue with our own personal beliefs and therefore they perform- the Expectation Effect, or placebo effect if you will - and those which science simply doesn't support.

clear hour glass
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

As we age, there are some supplements, please don't buy them from Walmart, which can be good for us, such as Vitamin D. B-12 especially if you're a vegan or vegetarian, and a few others. However our individual and unique bodies dictate what we really need; the blood work and how well we feel, trusted medical providers with whom we work as partners.

Every day, quite unlike ten years ago when I turned 61 and was just beginning a brand-new life as an adventure athlete, I line up some carefully-chosen supplements.

This is my morning cocktail:

I mix a trusted protein-based product to help me build muscle (MEND) which did indeed come from my surgeon, and which I am currently testing for at least four to six months. The first version, which I took to heal my hip, was incredibly good. This one is for muscle regeneration. We'll see.

I take Calcium and Vit. D for my osteopenia. I also exercise- which is likely even better, but for now, for my age and the fact that I am an aging, slim(-ish) Caucasian woman, for me Calcium makes sense and D helps you absorb it.

B-12, and then K for bones and blood clotting properties.

I mix Calm for my gut health, a magnesium supplement which has done me a world of good. Since I have a history of constipation, even though my diet is full of fiber, I also take psyllium. That problem is now managed if not solved.

I take aloe vera gel tablets, which help me deal with urinary tract irritation, a cheap and safe fix which solved an horrific problem. That also came from a urologist.

Recent issues with urgency led me to cayenne pills and pumpkin seed extract, both of which have helped me sleep more at night.

I've watched my A1-C rise, and part of my response is to start taking berberine. I've also tightened down on my diet, which is even more important, but berberine has some good blood glucose management effects.

I take Lutein for my eyes, as advised by my opthamologist. My mother had macular degeneration, so a combination of diet and this supplement has so far kept that genetic predisposition at bay.

I drink a glass of fresh lemon juice with stevia every day, another fix from a urologist. I found a source of crystallized lemon juice which allows me to continue the practice while I travel.

For most of the above, especially those I've been doing for a good long while, I've seen results. The lemon water, for example, has helped with kidney stone prevention. So have dietary changes, obviously, but the lemon juice has also allowed me to eat the occasionally medium-to-high oxalate food.

Ten years ago I might have laughed at all this. But as I've changed, aged and put my body through considerable stress, I've developed some issues which have, so far, responded well to certain supplementation.

Above all I am not popping a big handful of poison pills whose combined interactions could leave me addled, crippled, and the living dead.

For the most part, I've asked medical professionals for their suggestions and underscored those recommendations with research from the National Institutes of Health.

Sometimes I've just done the research when a provider is clueless or can't be bothered. I read the studies, review the findings, and decide whether or not its worth my bother.

I have to be bothered. It's my body. Our bodies. Our responsibility.

You see the obvious. I'm not looking for any kind of performance enhancement, magical cure or any other damned fool thing. I am a dedicated, aging athlete looking to get back on my feet. The primary focus is on the right food, exercise and what supplements work for the highly specific conditions that I live with and at least for now, need to manage.

Above all I avoid prescriptions if at all possible. Using these supplements, which I get from Natural Grocers or Costco (they also have usually good reviews, but one wonders who's being paid to write such glowing accounts), I've done all right. I've tried to make sure I get the best I can afford.

There's a great deal to celebrate. Most of the above are the kinds of remedies which have a very long history in tribal medicine. Who knows if I'm right?

I also listen to those of you who weigh in, who are willing to dig even more deeply, and provide further information and documentation to make a case for or against something. I so very much appreciate all that.

I wrap up my birthday today, with a lot to celebrate.

I'm 71. Lucky. Healthy. Maintaining, even improving in some areas. Maybe some of this stuff is really working. Research seems to say yes. What I do know is that most of the snake oil is fake oil. Some of it can be pretty harmful, too.

All I'm suggesting is what most of you already do anyway- do the research and believe your body, watch your numbers and do all those other good things we all know to do.

We've got this. Let's age like collective badasses.

On the coast, nice breezes, right?

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