Is Modern Medicine Killing You? – Episode 7

By Michael Edmonds 24/11/2012 2


Is everyone in New Zealand magnesium deficient?

That is the impression I am getting from this TV series, as the majority of clients are being prescribed it.

Fish oil and vitamin C are also fairly commonly prescribed, though this is probably a fairly reasonable suggestion given some of the poor dietary habits that their clients are admitting to.

This week Dr Pitsilis worked with Mathieu at 22 year old diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. However, despite this diagnosis he seemed woefully uniformed about the effect of diet on his condition, however, I guess a 22 year old student has other things on his mind than diet. The good doctor soon sorted this out putting him on a dairy and gluten free diet as well as introducing him to probiotics. Using blood tests she also determined he had low levels of vitamins D and B12 recommending supplements as well as “miraculous” magnesium (I don’t think there was an explanation for why this week) and more protein in his diet.

After a few weeks the changes appeared to result in an impressive improvement in Mathieu’s health, the only concern was some hair loss, linked to ongoing low B12 levels. Supplements were recommended and a few weeks later all symptoms of Crohn’s disease seemed to have disappeared. It was impressive to see a young man have such a turn around and starting to live life as a healthy 22 year old.

In the second case, Dr Twentyman worked with 47 year old Debbie to try and get to the bottom of her vertigo. After an extensive chat he identified several possible causes, one potentially aggravated by the medication propanadol, a drug previously prescribed for her condition. Dr Twentyman then arranged for an MRI to check the blood vessels in and around her head and cranial osteopathy to look for and treat any neck issues. A slow reduction in propanadol was also recommended, and fish oil, vitamins and magnesium supplementation.

After a few weeks, while Debbie thought there had been some improvement she was back on the propanadol to relieve symptoms. Dr Twentyman quite freely admitted that further improvement might take more time and was very humble about that. In spite of having not been cured of her vertigo, Debbie was very appreciative of Dr Twentyman, stating that for the first time she felt like a doctor was “listening to me.” A very important think for any doctor to remember.

All in all, I like Drs Pitsilis and Twentyman – they listen to their patients well, they think very carefully about possible treatments and they don’t recommend some of the pseudoscientific treatments common to some other doctors who advertise themselves as practitioners of “integrative” medicine. Indeed, as I have said before, the main thing this show is highlighting is the challenge that many doctors face in trying to diagnose problems within the typical consultation time of 15 to 20 minutes.

However, there are some things about this problem which annoy me. The title for one, “Is Modern Medicine Killing You?” is just plain irritating and misleading. The diagnoses of Drs Twentyman and Pitsilis is based on modern medicine and uses “drugs” where appropriate. Also, in this episode they used before and after photographs of Mathieu where the before photograph used dull lighting and had him dishevelled and unshaven while in the after shot used better lighting with him clean shaven, well groomed and well dressed. Talk about creating an artificial comparison!


2 Responses to “Is Modern Medicine Killing You? – Episode 7”

  • “Indeed, as I have said before, the main thing this show is highlighting is the challenge that many doctors face in trying to diagnose problems within the typical consultation time of 15 to 20 minutes.”

    Indeed!!!

  • Are New Zealanders magnesium deficient? Or is it perhaps a safe bet that the chronically ill are?
    I’ve wondered about the reasons for this deficiency for a while. The amounts in water were never that high, and the amounts in the diet must vary so much that a drop in the soil content would be easily offset by the modern higher, year round consumption of nuts, fruits and green vegetables.
    There are two factors that might explain it – the uptake of magnesum into muscles seems to be insulin-dependent and it’s been suggested that insulin resistance leads to increased excretion of magnesium. Magnesium is a co-factor for most of the glycolytic reactions so this makes some sense, but I haven’t yet found research to make it convincing. Most of the patients on the show either have insulin resistant conditions or are helped by a lower-GI diet.
    Secondly, do we consume more fluid than we used to? Think of how many tempting and mind-altering consumables are in liquid form; energy drinks, coffee, tea, soft drinks, herb teas, bottled water, alcoholic drinks. Not only are we tempted by these or obliged to drink them to stay alert, we are also conditioned – on what authority I don’t know – to think that we need to drink X amount of water per day. Added to that, chronic disease and medications can play havoc with our sense of thirst. Magnesium would seem to be a mineral that, perhaps because it is or was relatively ubiquitous, is loosely regulated (compared to say calcium or potassium) and vulnerable to this kind of leaching.
    Well those are the explanations that suggest themselves at present.
    I’m in the position of having benefited from magnesium supplementation myself, only to wonder after a while “if I’m now able to get pretty much anything I need from my diet (which wasn’t always the case) why is magnesium, of all things, the last hold-out?”.
    This seems to me still an unanswered question.

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