Faire le Sapin, "la flemme" and The Spirit of the Season
A Special Request + Playground in French (and wild and free learning!)

The French Cure + vitamins and supplements + the expression "tant s'en faut" (find it in today's story)

Mediterranean sea in la ciotat south of france
The sun gives us vitamin D... and magnesium and calcium are a few gifts from the sea. How do you get your RDA (or "AJR"*): from un comprimé or some other way? Read on for a healthy dose of French vocabulary....

Today's word: une cure

    : course of treatment, therapy

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to open the sound file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Pipi cher?"

This week's obsession is...vitamins! minerals! supplements! And when I say obsession, I mean I'm trying to understand les pours et les contres of taking nutritional supplements and whether a multivitamin is beneficial...or, as critics say, just "expensive urine."

Urine coûteuse? Le pipi cher? No matter how I translate it, my husband and my son (subjects I've interviewed as part of my research) are perplexed by the expression. That may be because they're French! Megavitamins are not part of their culture, not that les compléments alimentaires are missing from French pharmacopeia--tant s'en faut! The French have encapsulated every nutrient under the soleil--they just prefer to lounge in the sun (for vitamin D) and eat their fruits and veggies (for vitamins A, B, C...through Zinc). 

And yet, my toubib prescribed "une cure de vitamin D" after un bilan sanguin showed low levels of "the sunshine vitamin." And, years ago, when I was enceinte, my gynéco prescribed prenatal vitamins. Then, as a nursing mom, l'allaitement engendered a few carences which were corrected by various cures including le fer. But each time, these vitamins, minerals, or supplements were given as a therapy or course of treatment--une cure. After 10 days or two weeks or one month, the supplementation stopped. End of cure. The magazine Figaro sums up the Gallic viewpoint that "a well-balanced diet provides all the vitamins necessary to navigate bad days":

"...une alimentation équilibrée apporte toutes les vitamines nécessaires pour traverser les mauvais jours."

I'm not exactly sure what they mean by "bad days", but this brings up the subject of mood--and the food/mood connection. Is it true that certain nutritional supplements help diminish anger, anxiety, and stress? I have read that low levels of B-12 and folate are linked to depression and that NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is used to treat ADHD and addiction (even tobacco dependence).

Ideally, we could get all our micronutrients from food, but have you ever stopped to think about the fruits and vegetables you are eating? After weeks of sitting in warehouses, that vitamin-packed persimmon...is less packed: it's lost some of its nutritious load. Next, think about the soil, so much of which is depleted...or treated. 

A proactive approach to health seems like a good idea especially during winter (when sunshine only hits your face, because the rest of your body is covered). Recently, I ordered these dietary supplements:

D3 (normally found in fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese...)
Vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes...)
Zinc (meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds)
Quercetin (onion, red grapes, honey and citrus fruits)
NAC (a plant antioxidant naturally found in onion; a precursor to glutathione)
Melatonin (a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, it improves sleep and manages immune function and cortisol levels)

No matter how many times I hear the word "antioxidant," the meaning doesn't stick. Speaking of sticking, this brings us back to le pipi cher or pricey pee. Critics argue all these extra vitamins don't stick but get flushed right out of the body. I wonder, how true is that? Surely some of the vitamins are absorbed?

Les effets secondaires? Side Effects?
While discussing vitamins with my son, Max pointed out that taking supplements might habituate your body to accepting "outside help" and so weaken its response. Hmm... Good point, Fiston! This reminds me of the saying, If it's not broken don't fix it! 

Alors, que faire? What to do? What to do? Maybe all I really need is a cure for indecision! (The only side effect to that is progress :-)

In the comments section, below, I would love to know your thoughts about vitamins and supplementation. If it's not too personal, which vitamins, minerals, supplements do you take and why? Do you take them as a cure (only in the winter) or all year round? You may also use the comments box to offer any edits to this article (greatly appreciated. Merci beaucoup!)

*AJR (apports journaliers recommandés) = recommended daily allowances
un comprimé = pill, tablet
une cure
= therapy, course of treatment
le pipi cher = expensive urine
le pour et les contre = the pros and cons
urine coûteuse = expensive urine
le complément alimentaire = dietary/food supplement
tant s'en faut = far from it, not by a long shot
le soleil = sun
le toubib = (slang) doctor
un bilan sanguin = blood test
enceinte = pregnant
gynéco (gynécologue) = gynecologist
l'allaitement = breastfeeding, nursing
une carence = deficiency, lack
le fer = iron

Words added to the story (after sound file was recorded!)
le fiston = son
alors  = well then
que faire = what to do?

Smokey and Kristi below Christmas treeSmokey wants to know: Do dogs need vitamins? Meantime, our golden takes Harpagophytum procumbens (Hp) or "Devil's Claw"--an antiinflammatory and analgesic preparation and homeopathic treatment that really helps his arthritis. Sometimes Grandma takes it too!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety