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Acid reflux treatment and naturopath advice

November 9, 2019

I saw a patient recently, a healthy young man in his 40s, who was having, for many months, severe heartburn, regurgitation, and bringing up small but significant amounts of blood on a frequent basis, i.e. every few days.

His family doctor had provided a prescription for a PPI, and referred the patient to me, and we brought him in for gastroscopy within 2 months of the referral.  When I met him, he told me that he had not started the prescription, and when I asked him why not, he said he was advised by his naturopath, his chiropractor, and a variety of other resources, primarily from what sounded like Internet research, to avoid this medication.  I was quite disappointed to hear of his reasons, he was an intelligent patient, and he thought he was following professional advice, which he rated higher than the advice from his family doctor.

Not surprisingly, he had severe reflux esophagitis with ulcers that were oozing blood, and this is a recognized precancerous situation.

I calmly asked him to consider taking the medication that was provided, by a good family doctor, and with which I strongly agreed.  I provided the reasons and reassured him about the absence of serious side effects.  I offered him a follow-up appointment, at which time we will discuss long-term medical issues, and further science-based choices that he can make, in partnership with me, and his family doctor.

If you have read this far, you will probably know that I have detailed information about acid reflux, on my website, under "helpful documents" under "health information".

If you are a patient of mine, you may or may not know that I am skeptical about some of the beliefs and recommendations from naturopaths.  I believe naturopaths provide "patient care", based on a different model which is not scientific, and clearly falls into the realm of "complementary and alternative treatment" (I do not call it complementary and alternative medicine).  CAM is that which is either not proven to work, or is proven not to work - if it works, it is called medicine (Dara O'Briain, and Tim Minchin).

Much of naturopathic advice is dietary, lifestyle-based, and these are actually conventional, "non-alternative", treatments, and are clearly complementary to standard medical treatment.  Unfortunately a significant part of the training and beliefs of some naturopaths includes supplements, herbals, homeopathy (and make sure you know what this is - it's not natural, it's not herbal, and its not based on any science at all), and also they often demonstrate an opposition to standard prescriptions, and to vaccinations.

For these reasons, and because of the patient example I have provided (which is not rare, just recent), I remain skeptical, and quite often very disappointed in this type of advice provided to patients in need.  Folks, this is not rocket science! Caveat emptor (buyer beware!).

PS Let's celebrate Remembrance Day this weekend, and give thanks for all those armed force personnel, past and present, who defended and continue to defend Canadian principles of freedoms, rights, and lawfulness.