Nov 10, 2007

Alternative medicine

I'm alone at home, fighting a cold and drinking some wine to help with it... This has nothing to do with alternative medicine (hmmm, maybe a little ;) ). I got the idea from Paul Levy's blog, so go blame him and his daughter.

A number of medblogers posted lately about alternative medicine (Dr. Rob has a post with links, and Panda Bear had a number of posts over the last couple of weeks). I had an first hand experience with this earlier this year. I must agree with them on everything they wrote. Here's my story.

Earlier this year I decided that I need to fight the mild hypertension that I had after my first pregnancy and through my second pregnancy. I studied the DASH diet, made plans to start exercising and read about the subject. From a book on the DASH diet, I found a book - What your Doctor doesn't tell you about hypertension. It had great reviews and was written my an MD. He hypothesized that there are lots of studies that show how XYZ vitamin or supplement is lowering the blood pressure a little bit and that if you actually take all of them at once, you can significantly lower the blood pressure. He also recommends a modified and even more aggressive form of DASH.

I got that book to my doctor and he politely noticed that the author does not correctly quote the studies he's referring to, that he doesn't believe in nutraceuticals and that probably the die from all those supplements will cause an allergic reaction. This last argument actually won the fight. The book landed in the trash along with some bottles of supplements that I had. I saved any money on additional supplements and instead started to seriously exercise. Within 6 months my blood pressure decreased from hypertensive levels to normal (not even pre-hypertensive). I'm now not even exercising that much and the blood pressure is still low. Some of it might have to do with lower anxiety levels.

The irony is that if I actually followed the advice in the book and had the same result, I would say that it was that that did it. I would be a strong supporter of alternative medicine and would shout loud and clear that those supplements did it for me.

My doctor's argument that the author didn't correctly quote the studies seemed like he was stumbling on a technicality, but it is important though because if someone actually knows how to read a research study, they would quote them appropriately.

And it's scary that I think I did the right thing with the information I had at the time: this was an MD. And had great reviews on Amazon. This is scary... How are we supposed to find correct and reliable information?

Makes me also wonder about trusting any of the doctor rating engines out there. I am a great believer in reading the Amazon.com reviews for books... but I don't buy any more books with medical information based on their reviews.

1 comment:

Paul Levy said...

I hope Sarah's "medicine" was successful!