My client Sasha, age 78, had suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for many years. She was taking several prescription and over-the-counter medications that helped somewhat, but she still had unpredictable flare-ups that made her reluctant to leave her house. Stress from the pandemic did not help either.

“I’ve been looking up supplements online, and I think I want to try these peppermint oil capsules that are supposed to help,” Sasha told me. “Especially since the probiotics I bought didn’t work like they claimed.” Over the years she had tried everything from fish oil and flaxseed oil to a variety of herbal remedies, without relief.

Sasha, like many of my clients, has explored alternative or complementary health approaches when traditional treatments are not working well. However, the internet is chock-full of inaccurate or misleading medical information, along with promoters of all kinds of treatments and supplements. How can you evaluate whether an alternative medicine or treatment is valid and safe?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) cautions that when considering complementary health approaches, it is important to take charge of your health by being an informed consumer. I help my clients find and consider what scientific studies have been done on the safety and effectiveness of the product or practice that interests them. And of course, it is important for my clients to discuss this information with their health care provider before deciding.

Even when products are touted as “natural,” it does not mean they are harmless. Certain herbal remedies, for instance, can negatively interact with prescription medications and cause side effects of their own. Some may also contain harmful contaminants. Lately I have seen many FDA recalls of over-the-counter dietary supplements that contained undeclared and unapproved ingredients. In addition, there is no guarantee that the supplement you purchase contains what the label says. CBD, for instance, has become immensely popular but some studies show that many CBD products are fake or contain harmful contaminants.

The biggest red flag for me is when an unproven product claims to be a ‘miracle cure’ and an easy solution for a variety of problems, from obesity to cancer. Not only are these products almost always totally useless, but they cheat people out of their money and time and sometimes their health. In Sasha’s case, her doctor told her she could try the peppermint oil pills but warned her they could cause heartburn or indigestion. Unfortunately, she found that while the pills did not hurt, they didn’t help her IBS either.

If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at (920) 740-8441 or email us at sue@coylecaremanagement.com. We’ll be happy to assist!