Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Black Sheep of the family

Every family has a black sheep. It's like Sesame Street: "One of these things is not like the others; One of these things just doesn't belong..."

Or as Meredith Grey once described "He's dirty Uncle Sal. Who embarrasses everyone at family reunions, and who can't be left alone with the teenage girls, but you invite him to the picnic anyway."

I think we encounter quite a few "Dirty Uncle Sals" in our and in many other professions. There are always going to be chiros, naturopaths, nutritionists and dieticians who bring down the profession and give us a bad name in the public eye.

I had to learn this lesson last week when a friend posted an "article" - which was actually another blog post - from a nutritionist in the states. The advice she posted seemed really absurd, so I took it upon myself to contact her for a list of her resources. It turns out all of her references were either cell culture studies, in vitro studies on rat tissues or mice studies (with small subject groups) and she used this information to come to the conclusion that a specific supplement was dangerous for humans.

I replied to her with several human studies (one which had 11,000 human subjects) which showed the exact opposite of what she was claiming. I then offered her the advice that she should be looking at human studies or meta-analyses rather than in vitro studies when she's giving health advice to the world.

Saying that something we prescribe is "dangerous" to all humans is a scare-tactic which the media often uses. It's really unfortunate that this is the way she's trying to reach others and give them health advice.

I had to do this research for myself, but it came with a lesson: Although I'm worried that the general public will take the wrong message from publicly-made information such as this, it's really not my job to seek out these people to prove them wrong. I don't have to justify my profession to anyone.

It's an unfortunate circumstance that the media (and basically anyone with internet access) can post whatever they want on the internet and when that information comes from a "professional," people accept it without question. So I'm going to take it upon myself to teach my patients when they come to me with questions, but I don't need to prove someone wrong. If you want to post really unreliable information on the web, that's your prerogative, but I'm going to be the type of practitioner that gives Naturopathic Doctors a good name.

So to all the Dirty Uncle Sals in the natural medicine world, I think most people can pick out the fact that we can't trust you "around the teenagers" but we'll invite you to the picnic anyway, and let you make your insane claims about what you think is right and wrong.