by Stewart B. Segal, MD
A little skepticism can be a good thing. Lately, my patients have been skeptical about prescription medications. I can’t blame them. The news is full of stories about drug recalls, medicinal side effects, even death. Unfortunately, the news media’s reports are often only partially true and are highly sensationalized.
It is true that pharmaceutical companies occasionally have lapses in quality and that research occasionally leads to false expectations. It is true that a medication once thought to be safe turns out not to be safe. It is also true that the FDA monitors pharmaceutical manufacturers for quality and safety. It always amazes me that, despite the FDA’s presence and vigilance, Corporate America still has significant lapses in quality. I’m a skeptic, too; and for yours and my benefit, I spend a great deal of time researching medicinal products (their risks and benefits) so that I can provide the best of medical care.
My patients are not skeptical about “All Natural” remedies. The apple I picked off my tree is all natural. It was grown and packaged by nature. It was full of nutrients. It was wrapped in a beautiful red skin, had a nice crisp body and tasted as sweet as honey.
“All Natural” pills, capsules and powders are manufactured by some company. “All Natural” is a clever marketing term meant to imply safety. “All Natural” pills are really an insult to our intelligence. Who ever saw a pill growing on a tree? Clever marketers have belayed our skepticism and created a multibillion industry fueled by the internet. These manufacturers tell you their products are good for whatever ails you. They tell you they are physician recommended and proven in “research” at major universities. Unlike the FDA regulated pharmaceutical industry, these companies can claim almost anything in their cleverly worded advertisements as long as, in little lettering, they state that they have not been studied and are not approved by the FDA for the treatment of anything!
It’s time for a little skepticism. What is really in the capsule? Where does the base material come from? How is it processed? How come the fish oil capsule doesn’t leave a fishy aftertaste? Is it really fish oil? If it isn’t, it certainly is not “natural”!
We know that under the vigilant eye of the FDA’s stringent quality control protocols, mistakes are made, discovered and corrected. Who is watching over the companies selling “All Natural” remedies? No one! Who verifies the safety of their products? No one! Who does the research to define how your “All Natural” remedy interacts with your prescribed medication? No one!
I believe in all natural fruits and vegetables as sources of vitamins and much more. I believe in ingesting roots as the primary source of minerals. I believe fresh whole foods, properly prepared, provide the nutrients we need. I also believe that a little skepticism is a good thing.