Most of us must depend on our doctors, the media and the government for health information. That is a problem if what a former dean of Harvard medical school, Sydney Burwell, proclaimed is true. He reportedly told students “Half of what you are taught in medical school will be wrong in 10 years’ time. And the trouble is that none of your teachers know which half.” From all appearances, he was right. Below is a small sample of why I tend to take “doctor’s orders” and official government pronouncements with more than a grain of skepticism:
- Wisdom teeth. I had mine out and I’ll bet you did too. Now they say that routinely doing so if there isn’t a problem is likely to cause one.
- Acid blockers. We have been reassured by doctors and the impression left by commercials that the 24-hour proton pump inhibiting acid-blocking heartburn drugs are safe to take for months and even years. (The package directions said they were only proven safe to use for a couple of weeks periodically.) As I predicted in the first edition of my book, Natural Alternatives to Nexium, long term users pay a heavy price. In addition to increased risk of hip fracture, dementia, heart disease, kidney disease, pneumonia and other problems, the latest news is a doubled risk of stomach cancer. Study.
- Drug side effects. It isn’t just acid blockers to worry about…all drugs have side effects. Many are hidden by drug companies to gain FDA approval. Others don’t appear until the medicine is in common use. Some side effects are tolerable like say fatigue or dry mouth. (Even those may be a sign of bigger trouble under the surface.) Others are tougher to swallow. For example, the diabetes drug Metformin depletes vitamin B12 which in turn leads to cognitive decline. (If you are on this med, work to reverse your diabetes naturally and meanwhile supplement with B) Januvia and several other diabetes drugs increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. (Yikes!)
- Fluoride. Although literally forced down our throats since the 1940’s, many experts still question whether the practice really does markedly prevent dental cavities. What isn’t questioned is the fact that consuming fluoride interferes with the mineral iodine. Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormone. Normal levels of thyroid hormone are needed for proper brain function and development. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that a recent study showed that the more fluoride moms were exposed to during pregnancy, the lower their child’s IQ scores.
- Autism, learning and behavior. Mercury was supposed to be safe in dental fillings and vaccines and was ignored after it was routinely found in high fructose corn syrup consumed so frequently by children. People were declared wild-eyed wackos for daring to suggest that toxins like mercury and food colorings and/or a deficiency of nutrients (e.g. zinc, selenium and omega 3 fats) might cause learning or behavioral problems in kids. Oops – check this study which is one of many.
- More Flipflops. The following and many, many more chiseled-in-stone procedures have fallen out of favor because, after research, it turned out that they didn’t work as expected.
- Shaving hair around a surgical site to prevent infection (but it apparently doesn’t)
- Giving shots in the butt muscle
- Doing an episiotomy. That incision is made during childbirth assuming it would prevent tissue tears but instead made them more likely.
- Stretching before beginning exercise (do it after warmed up)
- Telling us that we are not more likely to catch a cold if we are out in the cold (turns out we are)
- Warning that modest amounts of vitamin A weaken bones
- Testing, testing, testing. Many tests like biopsies, PSA, mammograms and other scans have been scaled back because it was found they led to overtreatment and the fact that some involving radiation create
So, what is a person to do? Well, if something doesn’t make sense in the context of human history, be skeptical. Ask questions and push for the least harmful alternative. Ask what is the worst that can happen if you do nothing?