By Dr David Laing Dawson
I am growing intolerant.
Many of my patients over the years have attended Naturopaths. And I assume that for every 10 who confess this, the number must be closer to 20 or 30 for the 10 usually confess with a sheepish grin. I seldom react save for a slight smile and nod for it is usually a harmless event and most Naturopaths, I am pretty sure, do not recommend that their patients stop actual medical treatment.
One mother came back with the story that the Naturopath had studied the blood of her three sons under a microscope and found all three samples revealed high concentrations of parasites. I began to react but first asked what she had recommended. A good diet and lots of exercise was the prescription, so I let it pass. How long would it take to explain that if, indeed, her children did have parasites in their blood we should be heading to the emergency of the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.
Another told me his Naturopath had put him on Lithium. Now, if that were true I should monitor his serum lithium levels, his kidney and thyroid function. But I didn’t. Because I assumed if there was some actual lithium in the concoction he was given it was miniscule, less than might be found in a pistachio nut, or, in fact, embodied that other silliness of naturopathy and homeopathy: some distilled or diluted water that had fond memories of a lithium salt that once resided in it.
So naturopathy and homeopathy are mostly harmless. And it was a logical approach to some dis-ease in the early 19th century, based then on two extrapolations: 1. We thought a few dis-eases might be caused by deficiencies in diets so perhaps all dis-eases are caused by deficiencies. 2. We had no idea what those deficiencies might be so let us give each patient a concoction comprised of small amounts of many things and let his or her body choose which it needs. Not a bad idea at the time. Especially at a time when barber-surgeons and physicians were experimenting with drugs and procedures that could do more harm than good.
But we are no longer in the 19th century, and we know a little more about human and animal physiology now. And we can test for deficiencies if they are suspected. And we now know those deficiencies can occur from an absence in diet, or a genetic or acquired inability to absorb and use a particular vitamin, protein, amino acid, or mineral. And we know that a true deficiency leads to a specific clinical condition.
I forced myself to read an “award-winning” article by Jonathan E. Prousky from the Townsend Letter which purports to be the Examiner of alternative medicine. He starts by presenting two cases (fictional compilations he admits), and then proceeds to slander most medical care and all psychiatric care (with the exception of brief interventions for psychosis). In fact he lists psychiatric treatment and the “mental health system” as “oppressors causing a negative load on the allostatic system”. (meaning they are bad for you)
But then he goes on to list the alternatives that will make you well again and keep you well. They are:
- Good diet
- Connecting with Nature (a walk in the woods)
- Limiting computer/TV/video gaming time.
- Religious involvement, or at least paying attention to this
- Regular adequate sleep
- And finally, supplements of vitamins and Omega 3
My mother would have agreed in the mid 20th century. Though she insisted on fruit and vegetables for Vit C and A, meat and beans for the B vitamins and iron, milk for calcium, playing outside for Vitamin D, a little extra D through the winter, and Cod Liver Oil for brain development. She would also talk of balance, a good nights sleep, and moderation in all things.
We medical doctors spend a lot of time reviewing exercise, diet, finding a balance in life, limiting gaming and virtual reality, seeking comfort and solace in nature (or vacations, dancing, music, art, work, hobbies, relationships, helping others) finding a way of accepting the realities of life and living with the unknowns, getting a good night’s sleep, eating breakfast, and taking Vit D and Omega 3.
All good advice providing that we don’t overdose on vitamin supplements, for excessive quantities can do damage.
But not as a replacement for medical or psychiatric treatment for illness. Not as a replacement for vaccination. Not as a replacement for real blood tests, scans, medical examinations and investigations, treatment with antibiotics, treatment with modern medicines, medical treatment for depression, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar illness. Not as a replacement or “alternative” for science.
The nonsense of naturopathy and homeopathy is not harmless when it convinces people to ignore or forgo real medical prevention and treatment for themselves and their children.