Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Herbal Supplements Not Always The Path To Better Health

Dear Tazi:

I have a friend who thinks she knows everything just because she has a Masters degree in Biology. I am very into holistic healing, and take a lot of various herbal supplements such as bee pollen and horny goat weed. These supplements have made a huge difference in my overall health, but my friend insists that it is a placebo effect and that these supplements could actually be dangerous; that they haven't been reviewed by the FDA; and that I need to stop taking them immediately.

Tazi, the FDA is a government entity and, quite frankly, I do not trust the government. Bodies as large as the FDA are too easily corrupted. And besides, I firmly believe that the reason the FDA will not give its blessing to supplements is because they are all-natural and therefore cannot be patented by Big Pharma.

For the past five years I have eschewed fluoridated water (and the dentist, because my teeth are fine); over-the-counter medications; and prescription medicines and painkillers, relying solely on herbal supplements. I feel great and have not needed to see a doctor in all that time! Still the same, my friend keeps pestering me to see a doctor and get a full physical. I say I "ain't broke" so why try to fix me? What is your opinion, Tazi?

Feelin' Fine

Dear Feelin' Fine:

I would trust your friend with the Masters degree in Biology; s/he has a lot more scientific knowledge than you appear to have, including the ability to wade through primary research reports that are written in highly scientific language; reports that are often misinterpreted by those without the background to fully understand them. Science is a language unto itself, one that uses common terms in an uncommon way. For example, to a layperson the word "theory" is often used as a synonym for hypothesis (I have a theory!); in scientific terms, a theory is something that takes decades - or even centuries - to confirm. Scientific theories are not just ideas; they have hard evidence on their side.

A recent study, published thisin the past few years, showed that most vitamins (excluding Vitamin D) have only a placebo effect in the amount packaged and/or recommended. In plain English, your body can only process so much of a vitamin at one time; the rest of it ends up in your toilet! Much of the money you are paying for supplements is resulting in very expensive urine.

I will not tell you to stop taking your supplements - I am not a medical doctor, and neither is your friend - but I will suggest that you take your friend's advice and see a physician - and a dentist - for a full check-up. You may feel fine, but serious health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease all have no discernible physical symptoms until the damage they can do is done! The same can be said for dental cavities; you cannot see them (they often start below the gum-line), and you cannot feel them until they reach the sensory nerves, deep inside the tooth, at which point tooth extraction or root canal are necessary.

I suggest that you and your friend reach a compromise that works for both of you: give in to your friend's concern for your health, but have him or her pay for the expense of the doctor's visit. Does this sound fair to you?


P.S. Dr. Paul Donahue - a widely published M.D. - discusses this issue in his column; I bow to his expertise!  Click here to read his words on the subject.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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