Richard Ablin, PhD, is the author of The Great Prostate Hoax: How Big Medicine Hijacked the PSA Test and Caused a Public Health Disaster.
Dr Ablin knows a thing or two about prostate cancer screening. He discovered prostate-specific antigen, or PSA: the substance that the PSA screening test measures to determine if a man has prostate cancer.
Dr Ablin points out four huge problems with using PSA testing for cancer. And he argues that many more men are harmed by being diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer based on PSA tests than are helped.
Listen to this provocative interview for the full story.
The Great Prostate Hoax – on amazon
Modern medicine doesn't have much to offer people who suffer from chronic conditions brought on by poor diets and stressful, sedentary, emotionally unfulfilling lifestyles.
Drugs and surgeries may be necessary once things progress to the point of emergency, but as methods of disease management, reversal, or prevention, they are largely useless.
Once you arrive at that conclusion, then what? There are a lot of non-traditional modalities, often labeled “holistic,” “alternative,” or “complementary,” that promise a safer, gentler, and more humane experience of health care.
Trouble is, they may still not get at the cause. Which, if you'll recall from the first paragraph of this article, is poor diet and stressful, sedentary, emotionally lifestyle.
So when is chiropractic, or naturopathy, or Reiki, or past life therapy, or aromatherapy, or drumming, or whatever the modality, a good idea?
Here are three criteria:
The modality can't be harmful, even if it's less harmful than the medical alternative
When we compare holistic treatments to medical ones, it's tempting to choose the lesser of two evils. So thermography to screen for breast cancer is less dangerous than mammography. But it still involves risks.
Glucosamine is less toxic than NSAID pain killers, but still can lead to side effects.
There has to be some evidence of efficacy
The thing with many alternative practitioners is that they are really good people who care deeply about their work, and about helping others. Yet they may be practicing a modality that simply doesn't work. Or doesn't work better than placebo.
Thermography doesn't reduce the risk of dying of breast cancer. Glucosamine can reduce arthritic symptoms, but doesn't improve outcomes. In fact, the reduction in pain can allow the underlying disease to progress even faster and more profoundly, since the patient no longer is motivated to solve the problem.
The treatment must either address the cause or buy time for the patient to address the cause
Just as drugs and surgery target symptoms, or secondary mechanisms, most supplements and manipulations also deal with the “downstream” effects of root causes. A chiropractic adjustment of the bones may offer relief, but what caused the bones to misalign in the first place? If you don't solve the postural and structural and mobility issues that engender misalignment, you're not making progress.
Some therapies can be very helpful in bolstering your mindset, so that you are better able to improve your habits and lifestyle. Used in that way, many mind-body therapies have a valuable place at the table.
Talking with alternative and complementary practitioners
Basically, ask them the same questions you would (or should!) ask any healthcare practitioner:
- What are the risks and benefits of this treatment? (ask for evidence: clinical trials, case studies, traditional uses; and be aware of the difference between stories and science).
- What's the root cause of my condition, and how does this treatment deal with that?
- If it doesn't directly address the root cause, how will you help me do that?
Most of the time, the real danger of holistic healthcare is that it's a kinder, gentler distraction from the real work of getting well: cleaning up the diet and improving lifestyle.
If you have high blood pressure and/or elevated cholesterol, you're probably taking meds. Is this a good idea?
Depends. If your numbers are through the roof (that's a medical term for “really high”) and they haven't responded to diet and lifestyle changes, then medication is usually called for.
If you're already had a major cardiovascular event (that's medical jargon for “something bad and painful, like a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, etc.), then medication can help.
But millions of Americans have been put on statins, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics who should not be on them.
The side effects and risks of harm so outweigh the benefits, most people shown an honest risk/benefit analysis would say no to drugs.
So how come we swallow all these pills? One big reason is the way the benefits are hyped by drug companies, drug reps, and doctors.
Here's the only bit of medical jargon that you need to take away from this article: relative vs absolute risk.
Once you understand the difference, and know how to talk to your doctor about it, you may decide to reduce your dosages or eliminate some drugs entirely.
Today's TriangleBeWell TV show (see below) is a 7-minute segment on the difference between relative and absolute risk.
Want to get off the pharmaceutical treadmill and achieve true wellness? Start by joining TriangleBeWell and get informed and empowered!