Is Modern Medicine Killing You? – Episode 8

By Michael Edmonds 30/11/2012 4

Proudly brought to you by the mineral magnesium, and vitamins B12 and D  (with apologies to Sesame St)

This has to be one of the least impressive episodes so far, advocating the removal of mercury amalgam fillings and Neuro Linguistic Programming. Also in my opinion the “integrative” medicine approach actually overlooked at least one possible diagnosis.

The first patient this week was Shannon, who was suffering from debilitating anxiety attacks. Dr Twentyman diagnosed a breathing disorder and prescribed breathing exercises as well as (you guessed it) magnesium, melatonin and theanine (which is not really an extract of tea as described but a specific amino acid found in tea). Later on he also proposed Neuro Linguistic Programming, a therapy which has not received much support in conventional psychology and in the skeptical community. After 12 weeks Shannon was no longer having anxiety attacks so something obviously worked, but which elements of the treatment were responsible?

The second patient was Heather who suffered from neurological symptoms including pain. An MRI and consulting an ENT provided little explanation though she was eventually diagnosed with central neural sensitization and put on a series of drugs to help with the pain and to help her sleep. Dr Pitsilis, after a detailed consultation, prescribed magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, Zinc, vitamin C, melatonin, fish oil and more protein and less gluten in her diet. After a few weeks her general health had improved (given the various supplements this is not unsurprising) but there was little success with the pain. Some improvement in sleeping was put down to the melatonin. Dr Pitsilis then considered the possibility of mercury poisoning, given Heather had a large number of dental fillings. She also suggested that in Heather’s work as a nurse she must have cleaned up a number of broken thermometers exposing her to mercury. I disagree with this suggestion as there is little chance of mercury absorption from a broken thermometer. Mercury poisoning tends to occur due to various mercury compounds not mercury metal. She then went to a dentist who specialises  in removing mercury amalgam fillings and uses a galvanometer to determine which fillings should be removed first. i can find no evidence to support this way of “testing” fillings so if anyone can provide me with a reference I would love to see it. In my opinion removing fillings is an expensive and unproven approach which would provide significant stress in the patient so I was glad she didn’t consider it.

What I was surprised is that they didn’t appear to consider the possibility of an environmental poison. They mentioned that Heather began to feel ill working on her rural property and  the symptoms appeared to intensify over time. There was no mention of a blood test which would also have detected mercury poisoning as well as perhaps spotting another cause.

One thing that I also think needs to be considered is that by prescribing a range of supplements to improve the general health of the patient this alters the “background” of the patient and makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact improvement in the condition being treated.

All in all the most disappointing episode so far.

4 Responses to “Is Modern Medicine Killing You? – Episode 8”

  • I just thought I would make a comment to say that I find your articles on this show extremely fascinating and insightful. As someone who has a range of the mysterious ailments that the patients suffer I can’t help but remain slightly sceptical in the delivery of these episodes.

    I think it should be renamed, “Are overworked GPs ignoring your questions?” As I think the only problem with modern medicine these patients have had, is having them hastily prescribed by the people they’ve been seeing.

  • Thanks Matt, I think I would tweak you title to “What happens when GP’s don’t spend enough time with their patients” but I doubt either title would have been dramatic enough for TVNZ to accept.

    And just an addendum, I emailed Dr PItsilis suggesting the possibility of environmental contamination, and received a reply that they did think aobut that and do tests but they didn’t have time to show everything in the show.
    Personally, I would have thought it was much more appropriate to talk about eliminating the possibility of environmental/agricultural contaminants than going to a dentist who removes filling based on what a galvanometer tells him.

  • i went to my GP on Friday for a general check up and asked him if he was getting many comments/questions from patients based on this programme. He said he was. His general view of the programme is a positive one – encouraging people to think more about the benefits of a healthy diet, exercise and sleep. He knows Dr Pitsilis and mentioned that she is a big supporter of meditation for patient health, so this may come up (and I have no problem with it as there are certainly benefits). Though he agreed with me that the amalgam fillings section sounded a bit dodgy, and suspects that this might be more due to the producers influence than Dr Pitsilis’s.
    Missed the episode on last Wednesday (mysky was full) but will catch it online when I get time

  • The question of whether the fillings were contributing to the problems could have been tested by selenium supplementation, which would have lowered mercury levels. It’s likely that the main problem resulting from low-level mercury exposure is the sequestering of selenium by formation of selenium-mercury compounds and consequent poor functioning of selenoenzymes, including the 3 iodothyronine deiodinases and various peroxidases.

    “The increased mercury concentrations in urine after 90-day selenium supplementation suggest that selenium is beneficial to the excretion of mercury from urine.”

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