A new study out of Singapore found that over half of hospital patients who take supplements don’t tell their doctors about it. The authors of the study say this could put them at risk of adverse drug reactions.
Oh really? Well, what about the other risks hospital patients face? I mean, just being in a hospital is a known risk factor for death. And drug-to-drug interactions are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Yet these authors are pointing the finger solely at nutritional supplements.
As they put it: “The use of dietary health supplement [sic] has increased considerably over the last decade in the general population. This phenomenon is even more worrisome in hospitalized patients due to their multiple co-morbidities and the potential interaction with medications.”
This type of archaic, alarmist thinking is what makes people terrified to disclose the supplements they’re taking to their doctors.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard the same story from a patient who has recently been to see one of his or her other doctors. It goes like this:
Doctor: “Wow, you are doing so much better than any of my other patients.”
My Patient: “It’s because I watch what I eat and take supplements.”
Doctor: “I don’t know want to know what you are doing–just keep it up.”
End of appointment.
Now, if that isn’t malpractice, I don’t know what is. How could any self-respecting physician not want to know everything there is to know about why someone’s feeling so good, so that they could potentially use that knowledge to help even more patients? The arrogance and disinterest astound me. (Yet they don’t surprise me.)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should lie to your doctor. But this little scenario is commonplace among my patients. And it explains why so few people are forthright with their practitioners about their supplement use—both here in the U.S. and abroad.
The Singapore researchers found that out of 100 patients surveyed, 42% were dietary supplement users. And most took more than one supplement. Fish oil, calcium, glucosamine and vitamin C were the most common. But more than half of these patients, didn’t disclose they were taking supplements. Mainly because they weren’t asked. Typical.
I mean, why bother telling your doctor about the supplements you’re taking if they don’t even want to know?
Even worse, many patients don’t disclose their supplement use because they’re afraid their doctor will tell them to stop. And that fear is perfectly justified. Because, unfortunately, far too many mainstream physicians DO make blanket recommendations against supplements. (Yes, even if their patients are having great results.)
I mean, this shortsighted thinking has become the “official position” of many so-called health authorities here in the U.S. For instance, back in 2005, The American Dietetic Association (now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—as if they could correctly answer anything about nutrition if their lives depended on it) released a position paper stating that concentrated nutrients in supplements pose a greater risk of toxicity, drug or nutrient interaction compared to nutrients in whole foods.
Again, the sheer arrogance is absolutely shocking to behold.
But there is some kernel of truth here. With conventional medicine so hopelessly out of touch with the astounding amount of research regarding the positive effects of supplements, it IS dangerous to rely on mainstream doctors for advice on supplements.
It’s far smarter—and safer—to seek out a knowledgeable physician who hasn’t buried his head in the sand. Someone who actually realizes that the world has changed and people use nutritional supplements not only to stay healthy, but also to fight illness. And someone who stays up-to-date on the exciting research being published every single day about natural supplements.
If your doctor has never asked you what supplements you take, or if you’re not comfortable telling him or her about your supplements…well, then it’s time to find a new doctor. The good news is, there are some fantastic resources available that make finding a supplement-savvy doctor easier than ever.
The American College for Advancement in Medicine (www.acam.org) and the International College of Integrative Medicine (www.icimed.com) both have searchable databases on their websites that can help you locate a physician near you who can help you make informed decisions about supplements.
Like I always say, knowledge is power. And unfortunately, when it comes to supplements, knowledge is something mainstream medicine is sorely lacking.
“Consumption of dietary health supplements among hospitalized patients at an acute tertiary Hospital,” PharmaNutrition 2014; 2(4): 135-140