“Natural” Does Not Mean “Safe”

March 27, 2009

Mystery Pills
“Natural”. “Alternative”. “Herbal”. Take a walk down the aisle of any health food store, and you’ll see these words everywhere. They make people feel good. They seem so safe. Natural supplements are often cheaper than prescriptions, so it seems reasonable to think that experimenting with them could do no harm. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking could get you into hot water.

Natural remedies are not “One Size Fits All” – they need to be adjusted to your conditions.

Some websites recommend taking certain supplements as a cure-all. Unfortunately, they often neglect to mention the risks involved for certain conditions.

For example, many IBD sites recommend Glutamine, an amino acid. However, people with liver disease should avoid amino acids like Glutamine, because they cannot fully break it down. In these people, taking Glutamine could cause ammonia to accumulate in the blood, eventually resulting in brain swelling, even coma.

ALWAYS speak to an licensed health professional before combining your medication with supplements.

Treating and self-diagnosing medical conditions without training is dangerous. In the right hands, natural remedies can be a safe and powerful tool. An experienced health professional will always trump any forum, article, or book, because a professional will account for all of your conditions.

One of my patients, Joseph D. (not his real name) had a stroke 13 years ago. For future stroke prevention, he was prescribed the blood thinner Coumadin, to prevent blood clots. In addition, without informing his doctor, Joseph started taking Vitamins E, C, and Coenzyme Q10. Joseph had read online that they were effective antioxidants.

What Joseph didn’t realize was that Vitamins E, C, and Coenzyme Q10 are also effective blood thinners. When he came to me, I told him to immediately stop taking these supplements. When taken together with Coumadin, these supplements could further thin his blood, eventually resulting in deadly internal bleeding. Sure enough, when Joseph went for a blood test, the doctor told him that his blood was too thin. More proof that “natural” does not equal “safe”.

There are many wonderful natural treatments out there. Herbs, vitamins, and supplements have amazing properties; they have the power to heal, and the power to hurt. That’s why it’s so important to work with someone who knows these treatments inside and out. Put your health in capable hands and the difference will speak for itself.

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