Dangers of Doctor Google
With the advent of google and everyone being able to access health information, the general public has never been more aware and informed about health and disease. This is, for the most part, a wonderful thing. I am a major proponent of patient education and information and most of what I do is to promote self reliance in your diet and lifestyle choices and help you achieve optimal health and prevent disease.
The internet can be a wonderful tool for accessing information, recipes, ideas and other health tips. However, all this comes with a warning. ‘Google’ and other search engines are not always your friend and may indeed be a foe when it comes to health. There are dangers in seeking online advice, particularly when it comes to diagnosing an illness. Without the medical training and knowledge of the body, it can be hard to interpret the information and make sense of the often conflicting information. Research in the UK, found that around 25% of women made a wrong diagnosis based on using the internet for their health issues. In many cases they misdiagnosed breast cancer, thrush, high blood pressure and asthma. Researchers also found that at least 10% of women experienced unpleasant feelings and worry after their self-diagnosis.
I have had many instances of patients who have come in after googling their symptoms, and they are full of anxiety that they have a serious illness. Anxiety and panic attacks themselves are often the source of much googling and of course can mimic a range of other serious illnesses. We can get into overwhelm and worry very easily when researching health issues for ourselves or loved ones online. In the worse case scenario, we may make changes to our diet or take inappropriate supplements that can jeopardise our health. High profile cases that have been reported, include Melbourne parents who fed their new born infant rice milk as they were worried about dairy allergy. The infant ended up getting severe malnutrition and died from a systemic candida infection.
Another, often overlooked pitfall of managing your own health via online or virtual support is that you get exhausted managing your own health and you may be too close to your own case or your child’s cases to get perspective. There is something really liberating in receiving support and care from a trusted practitioner who can give your a clear picture of what is going on and prescribe appropriate measures to take. Letting go and receiving support is healing in itself and is why I still seek the support and care of other holistic practitioners for managing aspects of my own healthcare.
Do You Know Where Your Nutritional and Herbal Supplements come from?
The ability to easily access health information online has lead to a massive increase in self-prescribed medicines and people can now buy all sorts of things online from local and overseas companies. Sourcing your own vitamins and herbal supplements may be safe and appropriate. However, it is important to know that there are no safeguards in place for either what you have decided to take or the quality of what you end up purchasing. The quality of online and over the counter supplements can be highly variable.
Manufacturing standards are not as stringent in many countries producing herbal and nutritional supplements as they are in Australia. This includes the USA, China and India who are some of the leading manufacturers of herbal products. Products produced in some of these countries may have elevated levels of heavy metals, pesticides, or microbial contaminants, as herbs are not screened for contaminants in many countries. They may also contain low levels of stated herbal active ingredients, the wrong herb entirely, or be adulterated with other unknown ingredients. Many reported cases of serious side effects from herbal or nutritional products have been traced back to heavy metal contamination or poisonous herbs that were disguised or misidentified and included in the product. Clearly, taking products that are contaminated or adulterated poses a serious risk to the general public, especially those who are already unwell and more vulnerable.
As a practitioner I only source from companies that I can rely on for quality and effectiveness. I need to know that what I am giving my patients is what it says it is to ensure the best effect and outcome. I also need to be confident that there are no hidden nasties in any product such as fillers, binders or preserving agents that might cause allergies or have other negative impacts. For most Australian practitioner quality products, there is a high level of testing and quality assurance.
- Herbal ingredients are sourced where possible from organic, fair trade, sustainable or wild-crafted (harvested) crops.
- Herbal ingredients are tested to ensure the correct material is used and the active ingredients of the herb are at an appropriate level.
- Nutritional products are formulated with nutrient combinations that are appropriate and synergistic for the desired effect.
- Nutritional ingredients are tested to ensure correct composition and include the ones that are most active and bio-available for the body to utilise.
- Products are manufactured under stringent Good Manufacturing Practice conditions.
- Finished products are tested again to confirm that active ingredients have survived the manufacturing process.
- Microbiological tests are performed to ensure safety before released for sale.
- Products are placed on stability trials so that you know what is on the label is in the product and that the product will be active until the use by date.