Medical Bits – Vol. 1.3: Improving Communication – Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Medical Bits – Vol. 1.3: Improving Communication – Complementary and Alternative Medicine

It is no secret that plants have been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. All civilizations have used botanicals and herbal concoctions for healing purposes. There are records of saw palmetto used to relieve urinary symptoms of men dating to the 15th century BCE in Ancient Egypt. Hippocrates, the Father of the Medicine of observation and experimentation that we take for granted today, was born on the island of Kos in 460 BCE. His keen observations and experimentations revolutionized and radically changed the art of healing from magical-religious conceptions to rational and more biological explanations. The beliefs in the divine source of disease shattered, or at least became severely fragmented. It is interesting to learn that the small Aegean Island of Kos offered Hippocrates more than 250 different botanical remedies, many of which have active ingredients used today. Documentation of complex Chinese herbs goes back over two thousand years. Herbal remedies appeared to flourish in Europe in the 17th century, but the Scientific Revolution and the rise of the Modern Medicine of experimentation brought about a major and continued decline. In the first edition of the US Pharmacopoeia (USP) published in 1820, two-thirds of entries were botanical compounds. After 1920, standardized pharmaceutical drugs progressively replaced herbal remedies. Today, over 100 pharmaceuticals are derived from plant species. Interest surged in the 1960’s, as part of a larger social movement supportive of natural and unorthodox healing strategies (and other social and chemical experimentations).

Due to rising public interest in complementary and alternative medicine, Congress established the NIH office of Alternative Medicine in 1992 and the Office of Dietary Supplements in 1994. In 1998, they were upgraded to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health which evaluates mechanisms, efficacy and safety of botanical remedies. The main reasons reported for use, are enhancing health and helping degenerative conditions for which allopathic medicine does not have effective answers. If you decide to use herbal treatments, share that information with me. Let’s keep an open mind and research potential benefits if quality and properties can be reviewed and ascertained.

If you are taking some of these supplements, remember a few things:

  1. Americans collectively spend over 7 billion in (probably), empty promises.
  2. Makers of supplements are not required to prove efficacy, safety or quality prior to marketing.
  3. Current regulation, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) passed in 1994, does not mandate evidence of safety prior to allowing sale of supplements. In 2007, the FDA issued rules requiring Good Manufacturing Practices, but inspections have shown that more than 70% of supplement manufacturers do not follow safety standards.
  4. Heterogeneous quality, lack of standardization, proper harvesting, storage, processing, labeling, purity, adulteration all conspire to provide adequate safety and efficacy.

We all want to “unleash” the healing power of Mother Nature! Let’s use a rational and safe approach to harvest benefits and minimize risks.

We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Medical News

Most of you would agree that Universal Health Care is an attainable and worthy goal for our Nation. Many of you have witnessed a relentless attack against Romney-Care adapted to the national level, “affectionately” called Obama-Care without a meaningful alternative proposal to expand coverage and control quality and cost of care. Several candidates are now proposing a single payer, “Medicare for all-type” system. I encourage you to read this article by Dr. Daw which summarizes a nice alternative and builds on our current multi-payer system:

We already discussed how promoting a dialogue to help you receive evidenced-based, harmless, non-duplicative, and necessary medical care is important. It is likely to reduce complications, anxiety, and going down “rabbit holes” pursuing false positive results. I presented a good resource for patients and clinicians alike from the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation to help you research some of those ancillary tests. Before you embark in a fishing expedition and ancillary testing, let’s discuss the potential benefits and harms and check this resource:

Debunking Myths: Q&A – Colonic Irrigation Hydrotherapy (CIH)

The colon helps concentrate and eliminate residues and toxins. Proponents of CIH believe that toxins from the GI tract may cause a variety of problems such as arthritis, high blood pressure or other autoimmune problems. Thus, eliminating those “nefarious” substances from the intestine may boost energy and your immune health. The problem with this proposed method is that there are absolutely no randomized controlled data to support its use. The only “cleansing” the colon needs is every decade in order to visualize the colonic mucosae and help eliminate any potential polyps via colonoscopy. For patients with prior polyps, strong family history of colon cancer and other adenocarcinomas, inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease, colonoscopy may be necessary more frequently. Colonic Irrigation Hydrotherapy involves flushing large amounts of water–up to 16 gallons–and sometimes other substances such as herbs, through the colon using a rectal tube. Other times, smaller amounts of water are used and left into the colon for a short while prior to draining.

Be careful. Not only there is no credible research to endorse its use, but it can also be dangerous. There have been several reported deaths linked to coffee enemas (due to large amount of stimulant absorbed and triggering arrhythmias) and other complications such as dehydration, changes to your electrolyte balance, cramping, bloating, vomiting and colonic perforations. We will address other “myths” in future communications. In the meantime, keep cool, eat a nutritious and diverse diet, stay active, and be happy!  The only fountain of youth proven by science, experience and millennia are exercise, laughter, and a positive attitude!

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