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Natural remedies: Response to ‘Which vitamins and supplements actually work’

June 20, 2013

Many patients ask for my opinion on complimentary/natural remedies. Friends ask what I think of naturopaths.

In brief, my thoughts on Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) are as follows. Some natural remedies seem to work and have decent evidence behind them. Unfortunately none are studied or regulated the way prescription drugs are. Even if they work, they aren’t necessarily safe and the manufacturer doesn’t have to make the contents of the bottle match the description. This is because Health Canada doesn’t scrutinize as closely as they would a pharmaceutical with a drug identification number (DIN)vehicle has gone through rigorous testing. If not proven effective, but a patient thinks the treatment works, if it’s safe I suggest they proceed with the caveat being that the only harm is to their wallet.

I also have a problem with the practice of profiting from the outcome of a patient assessment, i.e. I believe it is wrong for a naturopath to sell the remedies they prescribe, just as it is wrong for a chiropractor to encourage frequent appointments when a patient could be taught simple exercises and behaviours to fix their problem with one visit.

I also see that a large contingent of Naturopaths declare all their patients allergic to wheat, dairy, etc. with some hilarious non-evidence-informed test like ‘holding two metal rods and see which one …’ I don’t know the details, it’s too silly to accept as worth hearing about.

Finally, Homeopathy is a ridiculous sham.

I do believe that plant-based medicines and some non-western strategies for achieving health are worthwhile (efficacious) and probably safe. Currently my go to list includes:

– vitamin D for fall prevention in the elderly

– cranberry tablets for prevention of urinary track infections in the elderly EDIT: nope, Cochrange updated this. Evidence does not support it any more.

– butterbur for migraines

– St. John’s Wort for mild-moderate depression (but be careful of its interactions as it messes with many common medications including oral contraceptives)

– acupuncture for sciatica

– vitamin C to help absorption of oral iron supplements (there are many examples of useful application of minerals for deficiencies)

Which vitamins and supplements actually work? – Health, Science-ish – Macleans.ca
http://www2.macleans.ca/ir 2012/12/06/which-vitamins-and-supplements-actually-work/

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