Friday, April 17, 2009

The tyranny of vitamins

I am still trying to figure out how Dr. Hoffer got such great results using a small amount of supplements with no recommended changes in diet (e.g. elimination of gluten and sugar) and no talk of psychotherapy. A reader has pointed out to me that Dr Hoffer does indeed recommend eliminating or restricting dairy, gluten, sugar and junk food in the diet. That is absolutely correct. However, for many years before the importance of diet became recognized in treating mental health disorders, Dr. Hoffer just carried on with his basic vitamin recommendations (and medications when necessary) and got good results.

Perhaps the most important reason that Dr. Hoffer had such success with his patients is that he believed in what he did. He encouraged his patients and their families to think that they could recover using vitamins. He used medications sparingly. Belief is everything, especially coming from a doctor. I also think he got these results because his patients didn't get side tracked by competing claims.

For the past thirty years or more we have been told that the newer (atypical) antipsychotics are better than the older (typical) antipsychotics. We have gotten further and further away from challenging whether antipsychotics are really needed in the first place. We have allowed ourselves to become managed by pharmaceuticals, but never cured. Is it possible that this same thing is happening with vitamins?

Today, vitamins are big business. They are state-of-the-art. They are well-researched, very good and adaptive. Alas, I have become immobilized through too much specialization and choice. I'm afraid of getting it wrong. For vitamin C you have a wide choice of delivery and added benefits, e.g. powder, liquid, capsule, with varying combinations of other vitamins and minerals. Buying vitamins is like ordering a coffee at Starbucks. I'd just like a regular coffee, thanks.

Chris is taking way more vitamins than Dr. Hoffer ever recommended, and he still isn't in a position to pay income tax. Here's what taking 35 supplements a day entails. The pills, powders and liquids have to be carefully measured, the pills put in packages and labeled. There is no plastic thingy big enough to hold all the pills so I put them all in paper packs, which I cut, fold, tape and label. Enough to last seven days or 21 paper packs in all. This goes on week in, week out. All the vitamins have to be shipped to our home. There is always the danger of running out. All of these vitamins, Chris's doctor has told me, are crucial to his some aspect of his functioning.

I would love to scale the vitamins back to just the Dr Hoffer basics. My husband and Chris don't seem inclined to rotate the position of chief pill dispenser. They are not as methodical as I am about the procedures involved. This is why women are entrusted with childcare, I remind them.


  1. Have you tried IV vitamin therapy? It can achieve much higher doses for some vitamins, like C and some B's, I think, without the GI side effects.
    Thank you.

  2. I have not done so, but am aware that IV vitamin therapy can achieve excellent results quickly because it goes straight to the bloodstream. I also met a doctor once who ran a clinic treating cancer patients with huge doses of intravenous vitamin C. Thanks for pointing out this possibility.


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