Diplomate, Board Certification of Emergency Medicine
Department of Emergency Medicine Ma'ayenei Hayeshua
First, let's answer some of my readers' questions. Mrs. S.,
of Bnei Brak commented on my article about dehydration that
water is not a good fluid to replace lost salts such as
potassium or sodium. Her children drink a lot of water, and
she wonders if they are not getting the salts they need.
My answer to her was that salts are available from other
foods in a person who is eating a regular diet. Our concern
is in people who are dehydrated and not eating, such as a
person suffering from diarrhea and/or vomiting. Such a person
would need to replace these salts. Children who drink lots of
water and are eating normally are doing just what they
Rabbi Cohen of Kiryat Sefer asked me to publicize the problem
of secondhand smoke. Smoke from cigarette smokers that is
then breathed in by nonsmokers can result in the same
diseases that smokers get.
I personally think people who are so careless about their own
health and are selfish enough to smoke in unventilated areas
are unlikely to listen to any advice. I tell such people I
have asthma or that it is interfering with my learning or
I thank Rabbi Cohen for this anecdote. He told someone to
stop smoking because in the U.S., they know it's dangerous
and so most Jews do not smoke. The person answered him, well
it takes things 10-15 years before they make it here to
Israel, so I guess its still safe to smoke.
To finish up my series on selecting the specialist for you, I
promised to discuss alternate therapies. Alternative medicine
is extremely popular. In the USA alone, people spent over 1.2
billion dollars on it in 1998.
Alternative medicine has not fared well in well controlled
studies. Chiropractors have been the best studied and the
results were not encouraging. Herbal medicines and homeopathy
have done somewhat better. It is definitely true that
valuable medicines come from plants (such as aspirin). The
Germans have compiled extensive reports on herbal medicines,
and some do indeed have benefit. Vitamins and biofeedback
have shown little benefit. If you would like to know which
herbs or vitamins have been shown to work, please write me.
Acupuncture definitely works, and is well studied.
In all these cases, I am definitely in favor in using
alternative medicines in conditions that conventional
medicine does not treat well, such as back pain. I am against
its use in disorders that are potentially dangerous without
proper care that is proven to work, such as in Hodgkin's
disease, where the treatment for this cancer is 99%
In other cases, whether it is effective or not is immaterial.
If it works for you, and you believe in it, that's the most
important. Certainly, one's mind influences disease. If you
don't feel that you will get better, then even the best
therapy won't work. This is called the Placebo effect.
What is more of a concern is the safety issues. Since these
medications are not well studied, whether or not they are
dangerous can be a big concern. People who tell you it is
safe because it is natural, or that in twenty years of using
it they have never had a reaction are not giving you proof.
There can also be problems with impurities.
Dolomite, for example, is a source of calcium, which often
has within it lead, a known poison. There can be potential
kashrus problems as well: calcium supplements are
often made from oyster shells. Often, the exact contents can
not be determined. This is often the case in Chinese
medicines. Often the person giving the medicines is untrained
or took only a three week course.
Alternative medicines can be beneficial in many ways. Please
use them safely. Write me at the Yated.