Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
Are you using Natural medicines or vitamins? If so, are you doing this on your own, or under supervision? If it's under supervision is that person a licensed health care professional? Does the person have the training to diagnose your condition? And, is the person an expert in Natural Medicine? Most of us use Natural Medicine to improve our health, as it can help many conditions. What's interesting however, is that the majority of people don't get their advice about Natural Medicine from doctors trained in it. Most, instead, get advice from friends, family, or people trying to sell a product. Are you in this group? If not, you can stop reading now. If you are, then this month's column is for you. Although using Natural Medicine without supervision, doesn't seem like big problem, since the products are available "over the counter" it can be. Best case scenario, you're wasting your money on products you don't need. Worst case scenario, you are risking your health using supplements or Natural medicines inappropriate for you.
Q: Dr. P., I received a special mail offer for a joint complex product supposed help with arthritis. What do you think? Elaine
I think you should be skeptical about mail order supplements. There are reasons why the company is trying to sell you a product through the mail instead of through a retail store. It could be that the company is based outside the US , and/or cannot meet the quality requirements of local retailers. Or, it might be the company is simply trying to make a fast buck, and will soon be out of business. Exceptions always exist, but I'm critical of companies trying to sell supplements through the mail, especially if the same supplement is not available elsewhere.
Q: Dr. P., my herbalist suggested I take black cohosh for my hot flashes, is this safe? Erica
Black cohosh is relatively safe, and often prescribed in other countries for hot flashes associated with menopause. However, you must see someone who is qualified to diagnose your condition, and help you determine if symptom management is all that you need. Hot flashes can be caused by many different conditions, some which are life-threatening like Cancer and HIV infection. Your case is a good example of why people need to see real experts when using Natural Medicine. Since no standards of education or licensing exist for herbalists, you may or may not be getting quality advice. You might even have serious health conditions, which are going undiagnosed and unaddressed. If you're interested in a natural approach, you should see a Naturopathic Doctor (ND). Naturopathic Doctors are the only doctors who have had formal training and taken board exams in Natural Medicine, and are recognized as experts in Natural Medicine by the Washington State Department of Health.
Q: Dr. P., my MD recommended Glucosamine Sulfate for my ankle sprain, and I've been taking it for a month. Is it really helping? Todd
Glucosamine Sulfate works for Osteoarthritis because it is a building block for cartilage. It may provide some benefit in Rheumatoid Arthritis, and may or may not help after a joint injury. A weakly-designed study showed it helped in knee injuries, but I haven't seen any support for this in my practice. I'm sorry to say you probably would have achieved a better result using nutrients like magnesium, manganese, vitamin C, and Zinc instead of the Glucosamine. You could have also saved yourself some money since high quality Glucosamine isn't cheap. You're situation is not uncommon. Most every one of our new patients is surprised when they realize they have been wasting money on unneeded supplements. Many were even taking supplements preventing them from achieving optimal health! All this, because an untrained/ unlicensed someone said it was good for them.
Q: Dr. P., is Natural Medicine safe? Amy
Using Natural Medicines is typically safer than using conventional drugs. If in doubt, compare over 180,000 deaths yearly from conventional drug reactions to maybe a few deaths from misuse of a Natural Medicine. Really, there is no comparison. Exceptions do exist however; especially when Natural Medicine is used unsupervised. Let's take my patient Michael, for example. Michael who was taking a drug called lovastatin to improve his cholesterol status, was also taking high dose niacin, as recommended by a health store clerk for the same reason. Sounds reasonable right? Wrong. Taking niacin and lovastatin can cause muscle breakdown, kidney failure, and even death. Michael was exhibiting symptoms of muscle breakdown, but we were able to intervene before he had any permanent organ damage. The best part was that Michael was able to discontinue his lovastatin, which, like many drugs, has undesirable side effects.
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