fraud in medicine: cow thymus guinea pig

We are making a change in clinic. We ask all new patients to bring ALL the pills they take. Prescription, vitamin, supplement. Most of them don’t. So now we are telling patients that they need to bring all pills or they will be rescheduled.

I want to know what my patients are taking. My town is a delightful spectrum mix from very conservative to very liberal and some libertarians thrown in. But I look at the ingredients of the bottles.

With prescription medicines, people will say “I am on metoprolol.”

“What strength?” I say, “And is it the short acting, middle or long acting?”

Some patients: “Uh…. it’s blue. It’s a small blue round pill.”

Eye rolling would be unprofessional. I pick the lowest dose and type in “unsure dose”. “Bring it next time.”

I examine vitamin bottles. Some contain multiple herbs as well as vitamins. Most people don’t seem aware of this. Sometimes people have four different vitamins with vitamin A in them. “The fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can build up in your tissues and people have managed to kill themselves. I would recommend you take less then you are taking.” And then there are the high dose vitamins: one with 3999% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. Hello. Why is this being sold? I guess people have the right to take things that can kill them. But I wish they wouldn’t.

Supplements. I read the ingredients. One ingredient is cow thymus. “This has cow thymus in it.” I say. Medicine seems a bit vague on what the thymus does, though it is involved with myasthenia gravis: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myasthenia-gravis/multimedia/thymus-gland/img-20007802

“Oh.” says my patient.

“I am very unenthusiastic about taking cow thymus.” I say. “Unless you are working with a naturopath who has prescribed it for a compelling reason. Who prescribed it?”

“Uh, it’s not prescribed. It’s made by a good company.”

Right. Like I trust corporations. Scamming thieves and liars. Sell anything that isn’t nailed down in pill form. Including cow thymus.

My medical philosophy is as few pills as possible. Prescription, vitamin or supplement. Eat food, exercise, make friends, work well, be kind to yourself and others and avoid pills unless necessary. We don’t know how cow thymus and metoprolol interact. The FDA considers supplements to be natural, like a carrot. A pill is not a carrot. It doesn’t grow on a tree or in the ground. It has to be made by people. The supplement companies do not have to do any testing for medical safety and efficacy and I frankly hate the pills with multiple herbs in them. They have to use ingredients that are “generally recognized as safe” which is pretty lukewarm: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/. Also, kidney failure is on the rise from too many pills. Everything is metabolized by either the kidneys or the liver and kidney failure is in the top ten causes of death in the US.

And I don’t want to be a guinea pig. I don’t want to be the personal home chemistry trial of cow thymus plus metoprolol. No way. And I will bet that you don’t want to be a personal home guinea pig either.

I took the photograph with a zoom lens looking down from the dock in Port Townsend Bay in 2014.

Eat food not pills

As a United States board certified, board eligible rural Family Physician, I am continually mystified by many of my patients preferring pills to food.

I don’t get it.

Today I will discuss probiotics. I have tons of patients taking probiotic pills. I ask all patients to bring in all pills, prescribed or not, fda approved or “natural”, when they come for their first visit. Many people arrive with a shopping bag. People say, “I am not on any medicines.” Then they pull seven “herbal” medicines out of the bag. A pill is a pill to me. I have never seen one growing on a tree. It’s as natural as a shoe, in my opinion. Shoes don’t grow on my feet, but sometimes I wear them. I feel the same about pills.

I hold up the probiotic bottle. “How long have you been taking this?” I ask.

“For a year,” says my patient.

I then get this internal vision. The probiotic leader in my patient’s stomach speaks, “Another load of refugees. I just don’t know where we’ll put them. Everyone is starving as it is. And dehydrated and dessicated with many dead again. Call the burial team and the grief counselors. I swear, it’s like clockwork. We had a forty eight hour break last Saturday, remember? But then we had to handle all that alcohol….”

“Have you thought of stopping it?” I ask.

“Probiotics are good for the digestion,” says my patient.

“Ok,” I say and try to gently introduce the idea of as few pills as possible. Also if they are taking four preparations with vitamin A, I total it up and ask them to consider lowering their dose a bit……

Why don’t people eat their probiotics as food? I am not talking about the expensive advertised yogurt. Live culture yogurt has always had probiotics, but now they’ve standardized, advertised and raised the price. All of the pickled things are sources of probiotics: Kimchi, dill pickles, sauerkraut and all of those interesting pickles that one gets with sushi. I am not so sure about the sweetened pickles, though my mother used to make watermelon rind pickles in a crock, and I am sure there were very many interesting organisms in them. Delicious, too. A friend said that he first got interested in fungi perusing leftovers in my parents’ refrigerator, and he ended up with a PhD. My digestion has been really really healthy, though my recent strep A was hard on it.

I got live kimchi at the Farmer’s Market recently, and hard cider. Both contain love, I mean live cultures. If you make your own beer, that has live cultures when it’s brewing.

The best thing you can do for your intestinal health is stop. eating. sugar. Quit all the junk food and anything with sugar or corn syrup and make your own food. I have some really dark chocolate or two table spoons of really good ice cream most days. I did eat one donut in the last five months. Perfection is silly, boring and stifling.

Another overlooked cheap source of probiotics that anyone can find: dirt. Yes. Dirt from your yard. It contains all manner of live microscopic things and you are focusing on local bacteria. Don’t wash that carrot quite so carefully and you will be adding to the probiotic culture in your body. If you are in a CSA (community supported agriculture) and get a box from a local farmer once a week, you are getting local probiotics. Do be sure to get your tetnus vaccine updated every ten years, too.

Lastly, think about your food. Would you rather have local probiotics from a local farm or attempt to wash the pesticides off of vegetables that have had pesticide genes added to their genome?