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!