Friday, January 19, 2007

Taking vitamins and medicines

Cold and flu season is upon us, and that got me thinking about vitamins and medicine. I buy vegetarian versions of vitamins and supplements whenever possible -- even Vitamin E, which is tough to find in vegetarian versions. Most vitamins aren't vegetarian -- they contain stearic acid or gelatin -- but there are versions made with vegetable stearic acid or vegetarian capsules. You generally can't find these in your corner drug store. You'll need to visit a natural-foods or health-food store to get them, and they're usually a bit pricier than the non-vegetarian versions.

But when it comes to prescription medicines, it's almost impossible to avoid animal ingredients -- or animal testing. If you need a particular medicine for your health, the alternative -- not taking it -- isn't a very viable option. So I take the medicines I need to and do the best I can otherwise to keep things vegetarian.

A vegetarian friend was upset recently when she saw that a medicine her doctor gave her was tested on animals. Unfortunately, this is a common occurence. Obviously, early trials of medicines cannot be done on humans, so alternatives must be used. More non-animal alternatives are being used than in the past, and it's my hope that fewer and fewer animals will be killed or put through misery for our comfort.

I confess to not knowing much about the issue -- I think my distaste for the subject has kept me from wanting to know much about it and taking something of a "head in the sand" approach, beyond looking for the "not tested on animals" line on products. Not something I'm proud of. In doing some online research for this blog entry, I came across the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is a group of "Doctors and laypersons working together for compassionate and effective medical practice, research, and health promotion." Its Web site has a wealth of information on the use of animals in research and education, and the alternatives that it promotes.

What about you? How do you approach vitamins and medicines as a vegetarian?

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