Unfortunately, this is not the only instance in which medications are prescribed when vitamins are all that's needed, says Dr. Rubman. He cites another example. When the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis strikes aging individuals (usually women), the conventional doctor's prescription is alendronate (Fosamax).
Although Fosamax has many side effects (stomach pain, constipation, gas, nausea, joint pain, trouble swallowing, esophageal irritation or ulcers and heartburn), Dr. Rubman is most concerned about the body's long-term adverse reaction. Fosamax's process of blocking the bones' tissue and ability to move calcium in and out puts the bones at risk of dying.
By blocking calcium's exit from bones, Fosamax may also be shortening bone cell life. In fact, there have been reports of "jaw death," in which the bone in the jaw has died in people taking Fosamax, usually after a minor tooth extraction. People who take it for 10 years or more develop the "skeletons of cadavers," and when they break a bone, that's it, says Dr. Rubman.
A better alternative: In his opinion, calcium and magnesium butyrate are a safer and more effective option. Dr. Rubman does not recommend calcium from cow's milk, which is hard for people to digest and absorb, and better left to calves. Likewise, Tums, which many people take for their calcium content, may not be effective and moreover cause constipation. True calcium and magnesium supplements are best.
Other steps to promote healthy bones include eating well-balanced meals with calcium-rich greens (kale, turnip greens, collard greens, okra, etc.), performing weight-bearing exercise, limiting alcohol and not smoking.
COLLABORATIVE MEDICINE IS BEST
To avoid getting a prescription for a drug instead of a recommendation for a vitamin, Dr. Rubman recommends that you add a trained, licensed naturopathic physician to your health-care team. Conventional doctors are not trained in nutritional supplements, and are apt to apply high-tech solutions (with high-tech side effects) when a few vitamins are all that's needed. To locate a naturopathic physician in your area, visit the Web site of The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at www.naturopathic.org.