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Alternative Treatments or CAM

Posted 7/3/2013

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  I have written many times before about alternative treatments, supplements, or high dose vitamins. The bottom line is always to speak with your doctor before ingesting anything as there are some negative interactions between some products (e.g. antioxidants) and both radiation and chemotherapy. If you are not on active treatment, the concerns are reduced, but it still makes sense to discuss your plans. Conversely, it also is important to tell your alternative treaters what you are doing at your doctor's office or hospital. Any reputable and thoughtful provider wants to know the whole picture.

  Once we move beyond the possibility of harm, there is the huge question of whether or not something helps. There is a zillion dollar industry in supplements and vitamins and treatments, most of which do not have substantive research to back up their claims. It is a pretty safe bet that anything advertised in the popular press (think the Sunday Parade magazine) with glowing endorsements from "real people" and promises of immediate weight loss or full heads of hair or cancer cures are suspect.

  This is a very interesting article from the New York Times about a new book by Dr. Paul Offit, the Philadephia pediatrician who has led the fight against those opposed to vaccinating their children in the belief that the vaccines cause autism. I give you an excerpt and a link to read the entire essay. Personally, I want to read the whole book.

Mind Over Matter: Debunking Alternative Medicines

His long “consume at your own risk” list contains most of the treatments and substances
composing the nation’s multibillion-dollar alternative-medicine industry. The book’s subtitle
may suggest that “sense” and “nonsense” will get equal play, but Dr. Offit spends most of his
time discussing and dismissing nonsense. In fact, the sensible treatments he identifies can be
summed up in one short paragraph.
And here it is: Dr. Offit gives a nod to 4 of the 51,000 supplements on the market: omega-3
fatty acids to prevent heart disease; calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis in
postmenopausal women; and folic acid during pregnancy to prevent spinal-cord defects in
newborns. As it happens, several months ago — presumably after the book went to press — an
influential national task force found the evidence for calcium and vitamin D to be
unconvincing. So that reduces the list of sensible supplements to two.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the remaining 50,998 products are worthless, Dr. Offit
points out, or that acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and other unproven procedures don’t
bring real relief. In fact, most of them probably work reasonably well,


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