I enjoy listening to Michael Medved’s weekly radio show where he invites callers to share their latest conspiracy theories.
This week a caller reiterated a common theory: a cure for cancer has been discovered but pharmaceutical companies and the media are preventing the public from knowing about the cure.
Michael Medved pointed out that it would be almost impossible to keep such a finding secret, as the discoverer of a cure for cancer or a similar disease would be sitting on information that would make him biIlions of dollars.
While I do agree with Michael that someone who discovers a cure or effective treatment for diseases such as cancer would do anything to get that information into the public’s hand, first-hand experience with the media has convinced me that it’s not quite as easy to do as it sounds.
For example, there’s a wonderful pet supplement made by MVP Laboratories called Cholodin. This supplement is useful in treating pets with a variety of diseases; research has shown it is particularly effective in treating cognitive disorder (Alzheimer’s disease) in our dogs and cats. Clinical experience has shown users of the product that it may even prevent Alzheimer’s disease in many pets if started prior to the development of clinical signs. Yet I’d bet that most pet owners have never heard about this product, even though it’s been on the market for over 30 years!
Why? While I’m not going to join the callers to Michael Medved’s show and claim any conspiracy, I find it interesting that the media has refused to report on this wonderful supplement despite being sent press releases by myself (I did much of the research on the product) and others. Even Michael Medved has refused to air a segment on the topic despite receiving a press release showing the benefits of Cholodin.
I don’t know the reason the media consistently refuses to air positive findings on natural therapies but yet thinks nothing of hosting representatives from the pharmaceutical industry any time a discovery is made showing the benefit of a conventional medication. I certainly do know that the pharmaceutical industry spends millions if not billions of dollars in media advertising, whereas makers of natural supplements, lacking the funding pharmaceutical companies have, rarely have the same resources to spend on media advertising.
It’s unfortunate that therapies that can help our pets and us often don’t make it on a radio talk show, the evening news, or in the pages of national magazines and newspapers simply because they are “natural” rather than “conventional” medications. Is there a conspiracy? I’ll let you decide that, while I continue to send press releases to Michael Medved and others showing the benefits of any therapy that can help improve the lives of our beloved four-legged family members.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members, doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, offer the following research-based environmental changes that can reduce the allergen levels in your home and may help stop symptoms:
1. Replace carpeting with hard surfaces. Did you know carpeted floors accumulate 100 times more cat allergens than hard floors? Switch to polished surfaces like hardwood floors, polished stone or tile.
2. Limit or remove fabric upholstered furniture. Research shows that upholstered furniture and curtains contain significant amounts of cat dander and even more than what is found on the floor.
3. Wash bedding and curtains. To remove pet dander from bedding and curtains, use one of these three techniques: wash in water at least 140°F with one rinse; wash at any temperature with two rinses; or wash in a steam washing machine.
4. Use tightly woven coverings on all bedding. Protective coverings for mattresses, box springs and pillows are often recommended, and studies show that tightly woven fabric with openings less than 4 microns wide can reduce allergens.
5. Make multiple changes for best results. Studies show that making multiple indoor environment changes is required to significantly reduce pet allergens.
And don’t forget about the value of frequent, even daily bathing, with the Dr. Shawn’s Organic Itch Relief Shampoo to remove allergens from your pet’s hair and skin.
Many of you have probably read the latest issue of Consumer Reports discussing the risk of using dietary supplements. In their article, they listed 12 supplements to avoid: aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country marshmallow, germanium, greater celandine, lobelia, kava, and yohimbe.
While it’s true that some of these supplements can be quite toxic and even fatal, it was interesting but not surprising to see kava included in this list.
While kava has been used historically by indigenous people of the Polynesian islands as a beverage for relaxation and as part of traditional ceremonies, it has also been promoted as an herb that can be helpful for people and pets suffering from mild anxiety. Several years ago, there were a very few reports in the literature of kava causing liver failure. Widely reported in the media, a minor panic ensued and the recommendation was made to avoid the use of kava due to its potential liver toxicity (interestingly, the FDA, while warning of the potential dangers of kava, continue to allow its use and sale.)
A careful review of the scant case reports involving liver failure in people taking kava failed to show a direct association between the use of kava and liver failure. Several of the reports failed to indicate the form of kava used or the dosage administered. It was clear in some of the reports that other potentially liver toxic products or medications were also used in those suffering from liver disease. In some cases patients had pre-existing liver disease or suffered from alcoholism. After reviewing the reports, it was determined that it was unlikely that the administration of kava was instrumental in causing liver failure in most of the patients. Nevertheless, whenever there is any potential indication that a natural therapy causes problems, the FDA is quick to overreact, either putting out warnings about the use of the product or simply banning the product altogether.
Interestingly, even if it was determined that the use of kava in the 30 or so patients reported to have liver failure was the actual cause of liver failure, this is a far lower number of patients suffering side effects from a supplement than is commonly reported from most conventional medications which are prescribed or administered over the counter.
While I applaud Consumer Reports for pointing out that supplements, even though they are “natural” are not always necessarily “safe,” they fail to point out that in most cases, nutritional supplements are far safer than and cause fewer side effects than conventional medications. When you consider the number of patients who become sick, are hospitalized, and even die from conventional medications annually, the careful use of properly prescribed supplements is much safer and much less likely to harm the patient. Because supplements may exhibit side effects and may interact with other supplements or conventional medications, the smartest way to use them is under the supervision of a doctor familiar with and trained in naturopathic medicine.
In my medical practice, I rarely see side effects from properly prescribed supplements and my patients tend to be healthier and live longer when supplements are used to maintain health and treat diseases as patients are weaned from the numerous conventional medications often prescribed by other doctors. Polypharmacy, the practice of using multiple medications to treat disease, is much riskier an associated with far more side effects than the use of nutritional supplements. It’s unfortunate that the media fails to properly inform consumers of the numerous dangers associated with the use of one or more conventional medications but seems to take delight in scaring the public because a very few patients experienced side effects from improperly administered nutritional supplements or herbs.
Recently there has been a discussion in the media and on various blogs questioning the effectiveness of joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin. Quoting a few studies that purport to show the ineffectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin in relieving pain in people with arthritis of the knees and hips, the erroneous conclusion that has been drawn is that joint supplements do not work.
Interestingly, those who hold this position ignore studies showing the positive effects of joint supplements when compared with placebo or the more traditional NSAID therapies.
One famous study that is often quoted by those who don’t believe in the value of joint supplements allowed participants to use the pain killer acetaminophen (at up to 10 times the normal label dosage.) It is well accepted that acetaminophen can interfere with the actions of glucosamine, so it is no surprise that the study did not find positive benefit in all of the participants. However, the study did conclude that “the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may be effective in the subgroup of patients with moderate-to-severe knee pain.”
The same people who like to quote studies that supposedly show a lack of benefit for the use of joint supplements ignore the millions of people and pets who actually improve when using these supplements. In my own practice, natural therapies including joint supplements, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal therapy, and cold laser therapy yield results far superior to the use of traditional conventional medicines (NSAIDS) with none of the side effects that can occur with conventional medical therapy. This is not a placebo effect:these are real patients with real pain (usually non-responsive to NSAID therapy) who improve dramatically when using joint supplements and other natural therapies. Dogs and cats whose owners had considered euthanasia due to the severity of their pets’ clinical signs now enjoy a few more years with pets who are walking normally and pain-free.
While skeptics often ignore the positive benefit of joint supplements seen in millions of patients clinically treated with these products, calling any positive response a “placebo” effect, they fail to offer any reasonable explanation of how this “placebo” effect consistently occurs in patients who fail to respond to conventional medical therapies.
I believe patients should be given a choice when deciding upon a treatment. If the patient chooses to use a joint supplement and it works for that patient, the patient benefits by using a therapy that tends to cost less and have fewer side effects than conventional medical therapy. If the joint supplement doesn’t work, the patient can always choose to use a conventional medical therapy.
In my experience, patients who choose joint supplements seem to be far more satisfied with the positive effects they experience than when they choose a conventional medical therapy. And for those patients who don’t respond to conventional medical therapy (and there are many,) the benefits of natural therapies such as joint supplements can allow them to heal and be free of pain when conventional medical therapies fail.
With many people out of work, and with everyone tightening his or her budget, it’s tempting to take a look at how this affects our pets.
In my experience in Plano, Texas, an area that thankfully has only minimally been affected by the economic downturn, I still see how the economy has affected the care of pets. Some pet owners are not able to bring their pets into the veterinarian’s office for routine care. Other pet owners have to make a difficult choice in how much care they can afford to give a pet who becomes ill. Sadly, for some pet owners, any amount of care is cost prohibitive, and euthanasia of an extremely sick that may be the only choice available due to the owner’s economic situation.
Additionally, animal shelters and rescue groups have reported an increase in the number of pets turned over to them. Many of these pets will never be adopted, and due to overcrowding euthanasia is often the only choice for these pets.
For those fortunate owners who can continue to afford excellent care for their pets, veterinary medicine can offer much help in both preventing illness as well as treating pets, even those with serious or life-threatening disabilities.
For owners whose economic situations may be diminished due to our country’s current economic troubles, I recommend having a frank discussion with your pets’ veterinarian. Be honest about what you can afford to do for your pet. Spend money wisely; avoid annual vaccinations as these are not necessary. Try not to skimp on an annual exam or blood test that can allow early diagnosis and less expensive treatment of problems. If diseases do occur, explore every possible treatment with your veterinarian and choose a treatment that is both affordable and will allow the best chance for your pet to recover quickly from its condition. For those owners who can continue to afford high-quality care for their pets, I encourage either getting pet health insurance or setting up a savings account for your pet, using the insurance or the savings account whenever emergency care is needed.
Our economy will hopefully improve soon. Until then, do the best you can for your pet by spending money wisely on your pet’s care.