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Ask Dr. Gott 4/5
What's in this stuff, anyway?
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: Awhile ago, someone wrote saying that doctors are brainwashed. I believe this person was correct to some degree. There are plenty of problems with modern medicine, but there are also some big problems with homeopathic remedies.
    I was told I should take ginkgo and hawthorne. The good brand of ginkgo costs $18 per bottle. The brand I use costs $10 but may have little or no ginkgo in it. The hawthorne I am taking costs $3.50 a bottle, and I am willing to bet that it is mostly filler.
    I get a lot of information from the Health Sciences Institute, Health Alert and several others.
    About four months ago, I paid lots of money to the Institute for Vibrant Living for a product called Natto to prevent strokes and heart attacks. I recently had a stroke. I have not yet called them to ask why this happened if their product is supposed to prevent strokes.
    DEAR READER: Your experience is common. That's why most physicians do not subscribe to the outlandish guarantees promised by these get-rich-quick companies.
    A reader recently sent me a copy of an e-mail he received from the Health Sciences Institute. After reading it over, it appears that the company is using scare tactics to push their products to consumers. Whether the company is in fact headed by a group of physicians and researchers as they claim, I do not know. Whether their products work and have truly been pushed to the back shelf by government agencies and drug companies, I do not know. I am willing to accept that some alternative medicines work and that there are still natural products that have yet to be used to their full advantage. Most of the medications we have today are the result of extensive testing of a natural source. Aspirin, for example, is the result of an old remedy used to treat pain. But until these remedies have gone through rigorous testing, been proven to work and are regulated to control content, I don't believe they should be used on a regular basis.
    Vitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and can contain ingredients not listed on the label and may not even contain what they do claim. This can be dangerous. A prime example is Red Yeast Rice. This is a product that claims to lower cholesterol. It does in fact work well for some, but that is because it contains a natural form of the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor. Despite the fact that the medicine is natural, it still needs to be monitored as if it were a prescription drug because it can cause liver damage and many of the same side effects of a statin drug. I received a bottle in the mail as a promotional tool. Nowhere on this bottle does it list potential side effects or adverse reactions.
    I recommend you stop wasting your money on these unproven remedies. Medication, regardless of whether it is natural, alternative or prescription, will solve only part of the problem. If you want to be healthy and stay healthy, it is up to you. Proper diet, exercise and prudent lifestyle choices, such as not smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, can prevent many of the problems we experience as we get older. Thanks for writing.
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