Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lasting Impressions

Over the last few months I have had several patients preemptively express a similar sentiment about the use of supplements.  In these particular cases, after the patients’ have told me their concerns and reasons for coming to the clinic, they finish with a caveat that goes something like, “Now I don’t want to be sent home with 10 different supplements to take.”

I can certainly understand the intrigue many practitioners have with supplementation and the excitement that goes along with knowing which vitamin, mineral or co-factor is required for a person’s biochemistry to function optimally - nutrition in the form of supplementation is a very powerful thing.  However, this alone is not a legitimate reason to send a patient home with 10 different supplements.  As a patient, if taking that many supplements was your desire, it is not necessarily wrong (and I have several patients who have self prescribed more than 10 supplements) but it is not indicated or reasonable for most people.

I wonder if this impression also comes from an early model of naturopathic medicine where naturopaths were associated with a health food store and correspondingly sold supplements. Being confronted with this made me realize that there is a lot of power in a mental association.  For example, when you think of agriculture, do you still think of the little red barn?  This positive association connects what we eat to a small, caring farm where healthy animals run on open fields and come into a warm little red barn at night.  Although this is unfortunately seldom true anymore, the association benefits particular brands that continue to advertise something of the sort. 

When you think of a naturopathic doctor, what do you think of?  It is interesting how the naturopathic profession still feels the obligation to prove its legitimacy to the conventional medical community as well as the general public despite helping hundreds of thousands of people every year.  Although most ND's do not over-prescribe supplements, sometimes naturopathic medicine is growing so fast that not all ND's have embraced the role of a primary care doctor and these particular practitioners choose to practice in a more exclusive and specialized way.  This diversity can be a strength and is not necessarily a bad thing.

To help you chose an ND, most naturopathic clinics have a website that explains the practitioner's philosophy and services (I wish MD's had a website to explain their philosophy) so you can see if you are a good fit.  Remember that NDs are trained as primary care doctors who follow a therapeutic order and utilize diet, nutrition, herbs, physical medicine, lifestyle counseling and acupuncture individualized to each patient's needs.


C. Jones said...

Where's your link to follow your blog (not subscribe to it)?

Dr. Richard Mountain said...

Hi Cassie,

I just added two widgets (on the lower right) for your convenience.