Despite the never-ending attacks against supplements, over half of U.S. adults use vitamin or mineral supplements. Many are using them to treat chronic diseases or to prevent certain risk factors from turning into disease.
What’s more, most doctors have no idea that their patients are using supplements. Why is this? And how effective are those supplements when it comes to keeping them out of the hospital? A recently published study looked at the answer.
Researchers polled 3,331 men and women who were either in the hospital or were being treated for medical conditions outside of the hospital. Almost all of the patients were also taking medications. Of these participants who were in the hospital, 20.4% of them were taking specific supplements as a treatment for their condition. But when it came to the patients not in the hospital, 39.1% were taking supplements. That’s almost twice as many people. So, why the difference?
The results of the study are pretty clear – taking supplements decreased the chance of these men and women ending up in the hospital by a solid 50%. Why is that? The reason is also clear. Taking supplements along with medications not only decreased many of the side effects of the medications, but it also made them work better. And that’s not all.
According to the authors, almost 70% of the patients taking supplements did not mention their use of supplements to their doctors. That’s unfortunate because if they did tell their doctors, perhaps the doctors would start to notice that the patients taking supplements were doing much better than those who weren’t. And that might change this ridiculous bias that so many doctors have against supplements.
So Why Don’t Patients Tell Their Doctors About Their Supplement Use?
It’s because being honest with your doctor isn’t always going to work for you. Let me tell you about a case I had just last week that is so typical of the way many doctors tend to look at patients who take supplements.
Cary was being treated by me for an advanced cancer condition. I had him on a supplement program that was designed to help improve his response to chemotherapy as well as to decrease the toxicity of the treatment. But, as soon as he told his other doctors about what he was taking, the response was, “That’s silly! Supplements don’t do anything, and you are naive for thinking any differently. So, stop taking them. They are going to interfere with your treatment.”
Now, here’s the question. How can a doctor who knows absolutely nothing about any of the supplements Cary was taking be so dogmatic as to tell him to stop taking every single one of them? The answer is easy. And it illustrates why most patients refuse to tell their doctors about their supplements.
The Reason? The Arrogance of Ignorance
The sad state of affairs is that some doctors are so arrogant that they actually believe that unless they know about something, it can’t be of any value. They somehow think that they received all of the information in the universe about health and disease during their years of medical school and specialty training. They fail to remember that during all those years they never had one single class on herbal medicine, homeopathy, detoxification, or nutritional medicine.
And, here’s the problem. When doctors don’t know anything about something, you would think they would take the time to learn about it before making a decision. Most of them are lazy, and just immediately tell the patient to stop doing whatever it is that they know nothing about. It’s a classic example of ignorance acting like intelligence. Not all doctors are like that, but many are. So, here’s what I tell my patients.
If you’re seeing a doctor who has you on medications, and for some reason tells you to stop taking one or more of your supplements, ask him to provide you with some kind of reference that you can look up that shows why you should stop taking the supplement. If he can’t do that, then he’s just an example of what I mentioned above. He’s just shooting off his mouth without having a clue about what he is talking about.
If you find yourself faced with this problem, don’t stop taking the supplements. Instead, seek the advice of a practitioner who is familiar with the supplements you’re taking. And ask that person if there are any problems with them and the medications that you have been prescribed.
The bottom line is this. Don’t ever let yourself be bullied by a doctor who doesn’t know what he is talking about. Because, as this study shows, statistically, taking supplements along with your medications will double your chances of staying out of the hospital.
Chiba T, Sato Y, et al. Inappropriate usage of dietary supplements in patients by miscommunication with physicians in Japan. Nutrients. 2014 Nov 26;6(12):5392-404.