Quite the month for it, I hear. My inbox has run hot with practitioners deeply concerned about some serious finger pointing that’s been going on.

The fingers in these instances have belonged to medical practitioners and the direction they’re all pointing, is seemingly at any complementary medicine their shared patient is taking.

Here’s a couple of good examples: “Your high blood pressure is the result of the combined mineral formula you’re taking!”   These were the words of a GP to a 50 something female patient when he discovered she was taking a calcium, magnesium, potassium containing formula.  The patient was hypertensive at the initial appointment, at which time the naturopath encouraged her to actually seek review, assessment and prescription of an anti-hypertensive, however the patient declined.  The nutritional prescription was recommended in response to high acidity (raised anion gap) and prematurely low GFR (impaired renal function). Patient’s HBP continued to be problematic so the next doctor she sees, points the finger and says, it must be this product!

Would anyone like to explain that to me? In fact, that was my advice back to this very concerned and understandably rattled practitioner…just to cordially request the GP to outline the mechanism by which this might occur.  

While high dose calcium supplements can affect haemodynamics, this speculated to be via increased blood clotting and longer term artery calcification, and the dose in this product is below that level (< 500mg per serve and < 1400mg/day) and of course markedly less than the beloved Caltrate that continues to be dished out in spite of potentially negative cardiovascular effects.  Oh and the latest and largest study (almost half a million) of calcium supplementation has thrown these fears and figures into question anyway! On the other hand there is a large body of evidence suggesting that calcium, magnesium and potassium of course have good hypotensive effects attributed to them, not hyper and while there is a mention of sodium in the formula, it’s there as a carrier for another nutrient and the actual sodium content would be less than you get from just opening of jar of Vegemite…just saying. If the patient was already on certain anti-hypertensives, some of these minerals in high doses would be contraindicated and the GP might have a point…but you might recall she wasn’t. Ahem.

“The raised liver enzymes must be because of the SAMe!” says the GP and a medical specialist to a 30 something female. This was news to both the prescribing practitioner and to me and I’ve had the task of extensively researching and reviewing SAMe for over 15 years – including of course all the research speaking to its capacity to treat different liver diseases (NAFLD, Hep C in conjunction with interferon, alcohol related disease) and reducing the effects of hepatotoxic drugs, because whenever there is hepatocellular dysfunction one of the first jobs the liver falls down on is its methylation cycle and its capacity to produce adequate SAMe. The lower the SAMe, the more vulnerable the liver is to worsening liver pathology…weird but true. Ahem.

Make no mistake, non-doctors play the blame game too at times – with over attributing health effects to pharmaceuticals, without evidence of this side effect or at the very least a plausible mechanism.  Whoever it is that is doing the finger pointing, however, should always ensure they have solid evidence to base it on – otherwise it is just a whole lot of grief based on misinformation and fear for everyone…especially the patient.  As one of these patient’s said, ‘Who thought I’d be so happy to see my LFTs actually get worse when I came off the SAMe…it seemed to really point to a different cause than the one they had pointed the finger at!’

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