Supplements and the highly-sensitive body

Below is a response I wrote to someone about supplements for the highly sensitive body. I’ve made some additional comments for this post as well. Many of us who come off of psychiatric drugs develop hyper-sensitivities to many substances and foods. Many of us are highly sensitive to begin with as well. We don’t all do very well with supplements and there is a big push to be on them from most alternative medicine practitioners and among the general population. Supplements are by no means always appropriate. We need to learn to trust our bodies in a big way when we encounter professionals of all stripes and know that it’s okay to say no. 

The response I made:

I don’t mean that supplements are as hard on the body as pharma. You’re right they are generally less neurotoxic. They are however marketed in a way that doesn’t much care about the individual. The forces of capitalism would have you believe every product is just right for you (and those selling them often believe this is true it seems). A lot of alternative practitioners don’t really know how to go a more whole food direction and simply trust the marketing of these products much like MDs trust pharma’s marketing. Also many practitioners of all stripes have not encountered folks who are highly sensitive.

Supplements are often highly synthesized substances and the body quite often doesn’t like them when we are highly sensitive. This is a generalization, of course, supplements exist on a spectrum and can be completely unprocessed whole foods on one end of the spectrum while completely synthesized and essentially pharmaceutical-like at the other end. On either end of the spectrum, however, when we are sensitive after coming off psych drugs even the relatively unprocessed supplements are often too much. I didn’t tolerate most medicinal herbs for several years, though they’ve now many have become wonderful healing allies. Whole herbs are often encapsulated and then they are called supplements.

When we are dealing with harm reduction and healing  — supplements of all kinds are sometimes just the right thing, no doubt. I’m not anti-drug nor anti-supplement. I’m do-what-you-need to do to get to the next step. That is what I do and being non-dependent on non-food substances is my goal. It may be an elusive one but it suits me well. The path for me has involved both drugs and supplements at various times and that continues to be the case. (I rarely use any pharmaceuticals of any kind, but I never say never. In the last 3 years all I’ve used is a tylenol a few times because, oddly enough, tylenol lowers cortisol quite efficiently…tylenol is actually a highly toxic pharmaceutical so I do try to avoid them).  We must develop our own discernment and in this society and culture that can be a challenging practice. Still I’ve found it’s possible to build and learn.

At this point I prefer whole herbs…plants…that I make into teas most often. I consider herbs as part of the food kingdom. That they can be phenomenally medicinal is no different from quite a lot of very healthy foods in general. This again, is a preference — not a hard and fast rule.

The dysregulated state of my autonomic nervous system has also required being prepared to change how I support my body daily…even hourly. I think this is probably the case with many of us who are dysregulated. The thing is we’re conditioned to believe that medicine and/or supplements or even good food should be taken daily when healing when in fact our bodies demand much finer tuning. My only “protocol” is listening to my body. What I need can change daily and even hourly. Getting attached to any one supplement or drug doesn’t work. And then if I don’t attach I can see that a “reaction” to a substance as simply my body saying “no, not now.” It doesn’t mean no, not ever again. As I heal I find many things come in and out of being therapeutic for my body/mind/spirit.

So, I have used and continue to use supplements in ways that are critically supportive of my process…I just don’t tend to use them the way they’re marketed. I might use something that is supposed to be used three times daily once a week for example…or once in a blue moon, as needed. Still that dose can be critically important because everything matters, but I’ve learned to listen to my body for directions.

At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what I do…we’re all different. I share this not so that it might be copied exactly by others but instead to show that I’m not copying anyone else. This is my trip. I learned from others who were brave enough to forge ahead on their own, but the actual details of exactly what we do always differs. We all have to find out what works for us individually. That for me is the most important thing I’ve learned during this journey. We really do need to find our own ways…as hard as that is sometimes — the journey has been an adventure for me as well.

*it is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well-educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care.  Really all doctors should always be willing to do this as we are all individuals and need to be treated as such. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up

For a multitude of ideas about how to create a life filled with safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page. 

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters