Tom Ballard, ND's blog

Caution: Supplements are Deadly
December 29, 2010, 10:20 am
Filed under: Commentary | Tags: , , , ,

Oops, I’m wrong, as are all the other dire warnings you’ve heard about vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements.

In fact, there were NO REPORTED DEATHS from supplements in 2008 (the most recent information collected by the National Poison Data System) This included all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbal products, even the much-feared kava kava and ephedra.

That’s zero, zip, nada.

Compare those statistics to these from The JOURNAL of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, July 26th 2000:

  • 12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery
  • 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals
  • 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medications

These total up to 225,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from iatrogenic (doctor induced) causes. That places iatrogenic causes as the # 3 killer – right up there with heart disease. And, it is believed that only around 10% of medical errors and adverse reactions are ever reported.

Does this mean never go to the hospital or take a medication?


But it puts the dangers of supplements into perspective and alerts you to where the real dangers to your health lurk.


Corruption in Drugville?

“Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the medicine chain, from research and development to dispensing and promotion,” from a World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet.  According to WHO data, unethical practices such as falsification of evidence, bribery, and mismanagement of conflicts of interest are “common and throughout the medicine chain.”

The fact sheet goes into detail, such as findings that clinical trials of drugs are conducted without proper regulatory approval, that drugs are approved with incorrect or insufficient information, and that doctors are unduly influenced to dispense drugs to gain the greatest profit rather than to produce the greatest benefit for the patient.

Unfortunately our current medical system isn’t the paragon of scientific virtue that they would have us believe. Medical care is a commodity and as such: Buyer beware.

Antibiotics Make Us Fat
December 16, 2010, 8:46 am
Filed under: Commentary, News | Tags: , , ,

Just to show how complex we are, research published in Scientific American and Science magazine has shown that antibiotic use contributes to weight gain. Apparently the disruption of healthy gut bacteria slows the burning of fat.

Antibiotics are not the only drug feeding the obesity problem. According to Lawrence Cheskin, MD, Director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, “Medication-related weight gain has become far more important over the past decade as obesity increases in prevalence and more people are taking medications for chronic illness.”

Didier Raoult, MD, PhD, professor at Merseille School of Medicine, has discovered that antibiotics act as growth promoters and proposes that they are a factor in the pandemic of obesity that is occurring.

No one is suggesting to never take antibiotics. However, do remember that they are having effects far beyond killing off unwanted bugs.

This web of relationships between systems, like digestion and metabolism, is one reason natural medicine emphasizes not disrupting the ecology of the body. Instead the major role of health care should be in reestablishing the delicate balances that keep us healthy.

ADHD and Pesticides
December 9, 2010, 10:40 am
Filed under: Commentary, Research | Tags: , , ,

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is thought to affect 3 to 7 percent of U.S. children. Various reasons for the increasing incidence have been proposed, including mercury preservative in vaccines, food additives, dietary sugar, and the ubiquitous “genetics.”

New research out of Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley have added pesticides to the list of potential causes of ADHD. The studies found a striking correlation among children with ADHD and their level of organophosphate pesticides.

Looking at ADHD as a microcosm of how medicine is practiced is an interesting exercise.

1.   Few doctors ever ask why a child has ADHD. Treatments are designed to modify the symptoms, not treat the underlying cause.

2.   Rarely would a doctor read a journal such as Environmental Health Perspectives where the University of California study was published. They’re reading journals associated with their specialty which are heavily subsidized by the pharmaceutical industry.

3.   Of the list of potential causes, genetics is the one they usually cite, although the evidence for this is no better than any other. Furthermore, the latest genetic research shows that toxins and nutrition influence the expression of genes. That is, they turn genes off and on.

4.   It is counter to all we know about disease to propose a single cause. This is rarely the case. Most diseases are caused by a web of factors. Even bacterial infections are not merely the result of single bacteria, but also depend on the state of the victim’s immune resistance. Science supports a whole-system, wholistic, orientation to diagnosing and treating disease.

5.   The recommendation by the researchers was “…thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables…” That’s it? What about eating organic, detoxification therapies, eliminating the use of 73 million pounds of organophosphate pesticides sprayed annually onto our crops? These pesticides contaminate our soils, water and ourselves, while at the same time encouraging the growth of new and stronger pests.

Is it too “radical” to ban organophosphate pesticides? Too “unproven” to use detoxification therapies? Too” expensive” to eat organic? Not at all. These are the rational, whole-science  and, long-term, least expensive options.

Government policies currently subsidize millions of dollars for pesticides. Drug companies make billions treating symptoms. Doctors fall back on the old straw man “genetics” instead of asking “Why?” and treating appropriately.

ADHD, like the other chronic diseases, will not be cured by finding a single magic pill, but by a wholistic approach that forces the medical system to close the door on simplistic pharmaceutical answers and exploring what lies beyond the door marked “Environmental toxins – Beware!”

Weight Watchers Endorses McDonalds
December 2, 2010, 1:09 am
Filed under: Commentary, News | Tags: , , , ,

Some nutritionists (although not nearly enough) were shocked when Weight Watchers (WW) endorsed Chicken McNuggets as a “healthy meal.”

I wasn’t.

Weight Watchers has a long history of recommending questionable foods. More importantly, their entire approach to losing weight – cut fat and calories – has a 95% failure rate. It does not work for long-term weight loss for 95% of its clients.

I’ve asked WW to provide some proof for the effectiveness of their program. All they have are a few sketchy studies showing that lifetime members lose weight. Well, yes, lifetime members are the minority that is more likely to be successful. They remain members because it’s working for them (I suspect these are the ones with the worst diets going into the program). But what about all the millions who drop out because they lost a few pounds, then gained more? They aren’t counted.

What I dislike even more about WW than their endorsement of unhealthy food and failed program is that they crush people’s spirits. Millions have signed up for their program because it has been around so long that it’s become part of the fabric of our culture. It is so ubiquitous, so recommended by doctors and nutritionists, that it becomes the first stop for many people trying to lose weight.

When it doesn’t work, when the person finds their body won’t allow them to be on a low-nutrient diet, they blame themselves. The message becomes: If you were a strong person, you could do this – it’s your fault you failed.

Who wins when we feel defeated? The food and beverage industries and the medical industrial complex. They thrive on our misery.