The term ‘popping pills’ seems to have a somewhat derogatory feel to it, when you think of ‘popping pills’ you think of someone indiscriminately just throwing tablets into their mouth with little or no regard for their safety. You think of someone who takes a paracetamol every time they have a slight headache and you think of someone who takes a hundred different health supplements.
In today’s world it seems there’s a tablet for everything and most of your problems can be solved by using some kind of drug – they can help you get off to sleep, help you stay healthy and avoid old age or help you to get a full and balanced diet without eating anything that you don’t actually want to.
But surely it can’t be that easy? Surely there must be some Faustian trade off here – are you selling your soul in order to stay young and healthy? What are the long term implications of this modern way of living? Here we will have a look at what the repercussions of putting all of these manmade things into your body might be.
Actually, while you might expect this article to side with the nay-sayers and warn against the dangers of drugs – it’s actually quite ignorant to have a go at someone for taking too many supplements and drugs. You often here people tell off their friends and family for popping pills but rarely do they give any credible argument against it. ‘You’re damaging your body’ they will say or ‘it can’t be good for you’. In reality though taking lots of supplements in itself is not bad for you.
Many supplements are nothing other than what you would get normally in your diet. For instance if you were to take amino acids as a bodybuilder or athlete then you might find that people raise their eyebrows at the large tablets you were regularly taking. However those tablets actually just contain amino acids – the carbon compounds that make up protein. Those proteins are highly good for you, and you can get them in your diet anyway – so they’re not going to kill you.
Then there’s protein shake – not a tablet per-say but subject to the same discrimination. Surely it can’t be good for you to take a powder that builds muscle? Well, it’s only bad for you if you don’t want to build muscle – in itself it’s completely harmless. Most protein shake comes from ‘whey’ which is a by-product of the cheese making process. In other words it’s protein that’s found in milk – you’re eating it when you drink milk anyway. So it’s not harmful – it’s completely natural and very good for you. Protein isn’t just used in order to build muscle, but also used to repair skin, to build up bone, to improve health and to aid the digestive system and the immune system. Amino acids are also what make up enzymes – enzymes meanwhile being the catalysts for numerous chemical reactions around the body that are crucial for our normal body function.
There are hundreds of others too. For instance ginkgo biloba (not a supplement I would necessarily recommend as effective, but that’s beside the point), tribulis terrestris or guarana. Again these are just herbal extracts – completely safe and found in the wild. In nature there’s a good chance you could end up eating them anyway.
Then you get the people who tell you off for popping vitamin and mineral tablets. Their concern often is that these vitamin and mineral tablets contain 100% or even more of your ‘RDA’ (recommended daily allowance). Thus they assume that you will risk overdosing. However a little research before deciding on a stance on the matter would tell you that you can eat often around 10X as much of your RDA before you are in any danger of over dosing.
The thing is – tablets and pills are manmade and they come in a less recognizable form when compared to actual food. That doesn’t mean they’re bad for you though – especially when you consider that normally food is processed and have things added to them too. You think chocolate is naturally occurring? You think e-numbers are more natural and healthy than vitamin tablets?
The problem is that if you really are just popping tablets, then this suggests that perhaps you haven’t put that much thought into the process and aren’t being that scientific about it – and this is where the problem comes from.
For instance, going back to the example of vitamin and mineral tablets – while they are good for you they aren’t as good for you as fruit or veg. First of all the fruit and vegetables will have a better delivery system and will get those vitamins and minerals around your body more efficiently than tablets. However timing can really help on this front – eating a vitamin tablet on an empty stomach will help you to absorb it more easily for instance. Then there are the other things you can get from fruit that you won’t get from vitamin and mineral tablets – for instance the fiber that you get from fruit and veg is highly important. So it’s crucial that still eat fruit and veg and don’t think you can stop just because you’re popping pills.
You can also damage yourself by combining tablets incorrectly. A vitamin B12 overdose is an easy mistake to make for one because vitamin B12 is in so many different supplements (because it makes you feel energetic). Thus by taking the wrong combination on top of a vitamin and mineral tablet, it is possible to get B12 from too many sources and overdose – which in the worst case scenarios can cause nerve damage. It’s important then to not only be aware of the supplement brands you’re taking, but which ingredients are in all of them in order to avoid any bad combinations. If you are on prescription medication then you should check with your doctor before starting any more supplements or medications to prevent any serious reactions.
There are other tablets and pills too that are not as good for you as others and people can be a bit too quick to turn to these as well. For instance some antidepressants can be very ill-advised. Some of these can be addictive for instance and this can make it hard to stop taking them. Others can cause drowsiness and a range of unpleasant side effects. When using antidepressants in the place of therapy there is the danger that you are taking drugs to address the symptoms rather than the root cause of your unhappiness. You could argue that taking an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) for depression is no different than self medication with something like alcohol. Of course though this is something of a controversial topic and not everyone would agree. Some of the products you purchase for other purposes can also have negative consequences. For instance the testosterone booster ‘Oxavar’ is a ‘legal steroid’ but it can cause your body to produce less testosterone of its own which in turn can result in mood problems, tiredness and other issues. Then there are those pills that just plain don’t work – perhaps they don’t cause any significant side effects and aren’t bad for you as such, but at the same time nor do they necessarily work the way they’re supposed to. One danger is simply that you spend a lot of money on what is essentially just an example of smart marketing and not an affective supplement.
Popping Pills – The Right Way
In other words then, ‘popping pills’ is not to be advised if it means taking lots of tablets without understanding them or being careful. If it just means searching for a silver bullet, believing the hype and throwing whatever you can down your guzzle then you’ll be disappointed and it’s an expensive and potentially dangerous habit. However if you genuinely know what you’re taking, how it works and why it’s a good thing then you can rest assured that you are helping yourself to live longer, avoid illness and be a better athlete. Make sure that you read reviews for the products you take but more than this make sure you understand the science. How do they work? Why do they work? And what other side effects might they have? It requires an understanding of the human body as well as of chemistry and science – to make sure your system works as the well oiled machine it should be. In this latter case when someone tells you off for ‘popping pills’ and says it will damage your health then you can just correct them and point out that you’ve probably done a lot more reading on the matter than they have.