Medical Misinformation is Dangerous & Confusing

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I want to take vitamin E to protect my heart, and the pharmacist said any brand is fine, that all of them are the same. I know how picky you are about supplements. Do you agree?”

D.P., Nashville, Tennessee.

ANSWER: No, if you are going to spend money on supplements, why not take the best? I recommend the natural form, d-alpha tocopherol, over the synthetic form, dL-alpha tocopherol. I’d be even happier if you bought a brand that contained mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. There is so much medical misinformation that I’m devoting the rest of my column space to dispel other medical myths.

During a radio interview, I overheard the host tell his listeners that the flu shot completely protects you. He said, “Get it and you no longer have to worry about catching the flu.” That’s not true. You can absolutely still get the flu, depending on the strain, so it’s better to strengthen your immune system and think preventatively.

On a recent flight, I overheard an airline attendant tell a passenger to take his medicine with regular coffee. She told him, “It’s okay to take your pills with coffee because there’s not enough caffeine in there.” False, if combined with anxiety drugs or heartburn medication, coffee negates the effect of your medication, and if caffeinated drinks are taken with breathing meds, thyroid pills or attentiondeficit drugs, you will stress your heart.

A reader clipped a column by another syndicated health columnist and mailed it to me. He was perpetuating the myth that too much stomach acid is the cause for heartburn and that acid-reducing meds were appropriate treatment. Let me tell you, the acid-blocking business is a gold mine. But some people who experience heartburn have too little digestive acid, not too much. That’s why apple cider vinegar can help. It’s acidic, and when your esophageal sphincter, a pH sensitive valve, senses the acid, it slams shut to protect your esophagus from the acid reflux. Too little acid, and it flops open periodically. Hello reflux.

The other day I was in a health food store and overheard the clerk tell a woman that she could take as much hawthorn herb as she’d like explaining, “Your body takes what it needs and gets rid of the rest.” Wrong. I love hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) for blood pressure, cholesterol and heart health, but the clerk’s statement is false. Hawthorn works best in lower dosages, taken continuously for its cumulative effect.

At a grocery store, I overheard the cashier tell a person that cough and cold medications were all basically the same and that none of these products can affect your heart. That’s insane. Pseudoephedrine (found in hundreds of cold remedies) is known to speed the heart and cause hyperactivity, insomnia and heart palpitations.

Did You Know?
Grapeseed oil is healthy because it contains antioxidants and can be heated to higher temperatures than olive oil.