Has anybody been watching ‘The Doctor who gave up Drugs’?
Chris Van Tulleken’s two-part series charted his attempts to reduce or eliminate the need for drugs for patients suffering from a variety of ailments, from depression to chronic pain to diabetes.
Yes, it’s television, and yes, the patients were carefully selected to get good results.
That doesn’t mean it’s all rubbish, not at all. Even in a double-blind clinical trial, patients have to be chosen according to various criteria; it’s not a random sample. And after that, they have to be motivated enough to join the trial in the first place, and to do whatever the trial demands of them. In other words, they have to want to improve their health, and be curious about new possibilities – both factors which in themselves are strong predictors of a positive outcome.
So what were the ‘guinea-pigs’ asked to do?
It wasn’t a case of simply giving some of them placebo pills, to show that the drugs weren’t doing the job, although one patient, who suffered from chronic pain, was taken through this process. But all of them were invited to start taking moderate exercise. From stretching to swimming to walking for half an hour; nothing too strenuous, just regular gentle movement.
Needless to say, there were a lot of dropouts, and all of them did better with a bit of company and mutual encouragement.
And after five or six weeks, the ones who had stuck with it had all felt the benefits: less depression, less pain, weight loss, lower blood pressure…the list goes on.
We are moving creatures, and sitting still for too long is really not good for us. I’m often asked to prescribe herbs in the same way that doctors prescribe drugs: give me a fix that will let me carry on just as I am. It’s okay up to a point, although herbs tend to be less powerful at pain relief, mood-lifting and so on. But it’s not doing justice to the wonderful work that herbs can do at a deeper level.