Medicine is a tough business, with increasing complexity in decision making, vast amounts of information that are available to the doctors and their patients, and challenges to maintain solvency within the logistics of running a practice such as ever-changing legislation, billing and collections. But all doctors have graduated from a medical or osteopathic school, and all at some time have taken the Hippocratic Oath.
I reviewed a translation of the Hippocratic Oath(s) on Wikipedia recently, and if you haven’t had a chance to read it, I recommend it. In medical schools, training rounds and post-graduate lectures the oath is loosely (and frequently) translated into the phrase “no nocere”, Latin for to do no harm; but a closer read of the translation reveals some interesting things. The most notable is the complete absence of the oft repeated phrase “no nocere” in the text. Two other noteworthy phrases stand out.
The first oath regards diet, and is in the third paragraph in the manuscript. It states that I will, “devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means.” We should all take a closer look at the relationship that modern medicine has with diet, and reflect back upon the oath that we have all sworn.
More interesting is the next oath in the following paragraph, which starts with the phrase, “Nor shall any man’s treaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel them to do so.”
I contend that modern medicine is failing our patients on both of these preceding points: diet and poison. And in failing in two of the most significant components of the oath, we as physicians are not upholding our creed and out crest.
So how, then, is it that I believe that our doctors are making us sick? This is not a new concept. In the novel Candide written by the French satirist Voltaire in 1759, the protagonist Candide and the beautiful Cunegonde seek medical care at one of the local hospitals to take care of an illness- and they both leave sicker. In our current hospitals there is no doubt that a patient is at risk for contracting what is known as a nosocomial infection, one which can only be contracted in a hospital setting and not in the community. So it is fair and reasonable to suggest that hospitals are not always the safest place to be.
But is it possible that our well intended, rural family physicians are making us sicker as well? Was the old doc Marcus Welby in this category? Probably not. I don’t imagine that he had access to many of the wide variety of poisons- oops I meant medicines- that are in widespread use in our current medical armamentarium. And I don’t imagine that his dietary recommendations included processed foods with misleading allusions to health printed on the label.
Are Cheerios really heart healthy? I assure you that there has never been an intervention study looking at any of the processed “heart healthy” products and cardiovascular risk or overall health. Is a diet high in fiber healthy?
Unquestionably. Do Cheerios contain fiber? Well, by definition yes, but one cannot apply the transitive property to this relationship and overtly state that a processed, sugary food with some fiber is healthy for the heart. So let’s look at the data. The Cheerios label, has a stylized heart shaped bowl with a banner stating “clinically proven to help reduce cholesterol”. This is a flat mistruth. Yes, there are three grams of fiber in a cup of Cheerios, but one should note that there are 21 grams of carbohydrates per 1 cup serving. 21 grams of carbs- that’s equivalent to about half of a can of Coke.
So why was I surprised when I spoke to a diabetic patient recently who told me that his cardiologist (his cardiologist?!) had told him to eat the cereal for his heart health. I believe that he would have seen greater heart health by eating the box. It probably had the same amount of fiber, but without the sugar. This is false advertising and a distortion of the fact that indeed fiber is good for the heart: fiber found in broccoli, celery, and apples. Not the fiber found in a processed cereal with a paltry three processed grams of the stuff. I recommend to my patients that they consume about a half gram of fiber per pound of weight. You can do the math. Could a doctor really believe that a half a can of Coca Cola and about 1/20 of our daily fiber requirement is good for health? In a diabetic?
The other question is why the FDA and the US government allow these distortions to be put on the front of a cereal box- but don’t get me started.
So while the television show Marcus Welby was a bit ahead of my time, I am sure that when the good doctor recommended healthy food, it was not processed. Was the cardiologist well intended? Likely yes. Did he make a sound recommendation against taking a poison? I would say resoundingly no. Is a cardiologist upholding the Hippocratic Oath by recommending this food to his diabetic patient, who should be avoiding all excessive carbohydrates (with a sugar quantity equivalent to half a can of Coke)? No. No. No.
So much of the processed, chemically infused food is causing us harm; nocere. I don’t think that I’ll get much argument about all of the food found in fast food restaurants as being dangerous: foods fried in sub health hydrogenated fats, super-sized boluses of sugary drinks, and hormone infused meats.
But what about medicines? I made the preposterous claim earlier in this blog that our physicians were dispensing poison on a daily basis. So before we get any further, let’s go to the source for some clarity. Let’s take another look at how Old English Dictionary defines poison. According to OED, it is “a substance that is capable of causing the illness or death of a living organism when ingested or absorbed.” Could this apply to conventional medicine? Unquestionably. Every single medication advertised on television includes a litany of horrendous potential (although not frequent) side effects, often including death. But these medications are prescribed in whopping numbers to the benefit of the drug company stockholders. Are our physicians plying us with medications that are functioning like poisons? Let’s look at some specifics.
For starters, click on the following link, and look over it. It is the FDA, our regulatory Food and Drug Administration’s review of the potential deleterious side effects of the medication Ibuprofen. This is commonly known as Motrin, and my 13 year-old daughter could buy a bottle of a hundred at the local Walgreens for a buck or two. But let’s take a look:
The first 15 pages of this government sponsored paper, (notice the fda.gov component of the internet address above,) are all dedicated to side effects of the drug. But if you take a moment to look at the text, you will see that these are not just benign side effects. Potential conditions include: increase of liver function tests in up to 15% of patients (page 11); aseptic meningitis (page 13); or “bleeding, ulceration and perforations of the stomach, small intestine, large intestine which can be fatal”(page 7).
But medications can have poisonous effects indirectly as well. The research is full of examples of medications contributing to significant nutritional deficiencies. Hormones cause a depletion of B vitamins. Anti-hypertensive medications rob the body of CoQ10, magnesium and zinc. Diabetes drugs such as Metformin or Glyburide seriously deplete the body of CoQ10 and vitamin B12- ironically two essential molecules for fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Steroids like prednisone basically deplete the body of everything.
The statin drugs, a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol, are notorious for depleting the body of magnesium, vitamin D and CoQ-10. CoQ10 is also known as the molecule ubiquinol, so named because its presence is ubiquitous and essential for the production of energy in every cell in the human body. But is it necessary? Certainly Merck Pharmaceuticals, the makers of the statin-industry darling Lipitor thought so. In 1990 the company applied for a patent for their statin drug to be combined with the nutrient CoQ10, acknowledging that statin therapy is associated with nutritional depletions of this ubiquitous molecule.
Here’s the link to the patent request. And by the way and by no surprise, this drug never made it to market, possibly because the drug manufacturers couldn’t bear to publicly demonstrate that the drug contributed to illness, as opposed to health in the human body.
I feel that the current paradigm of medicine in our country has departed from the ideals, ethics and responsibilities of patient care that were expounded in the time of Hippocrates. I think that it is fair to ask yourself, “is my doctor making me sick?” If he or she is utilizing only a pharmaceutical approach to health, with multiple drugs and inevitable drug-drug interactions, I would propose yes. In some of us, the side effects may not be noticeable, affecting our functional biology, but not really apparent clinically. Although sub-clinical, toxins contribute to early cellular aging, as we slowly acquire stressors on our health, and changes of biological functions.
Others may a fall into the worse spectrum of effects in which the drug caused alteration in the biology causes a rapid and severe decline of health, such as a bleeding ulcer from Motrin, muscle damage from your Lipitor, or a blood clot caused directly by your birth control pill. This is the real deal. These are documented and significant. But these examples represent only a fraction of the numerous known drug caused ill effects.
In conclusion, I sadly feel that our well intended physicians have become so blinded by the pressures and advertising of the large pharmaceutical companies, that they have lost sight of what is really required to acquire health. There is medical renaissance afoot, and if you have made it to the and of this paper, I am optimistic that you are at least open to the consideration that our medicines and food are making us sicker. Find a doctor who will make you well. Find a doctor who is thinking functionally.
Dr. Scott Resnick