If only that was true. If the simple ‘Granny Smith’ prevented the swathe of minor ailments that came in each day, I’m sure a GP’s workload would be far better. But did you know that eating an apple daily could stave off the discomfort of acid reflux? And so it would seem can many items found in your local supermarket.
Recently, I’ve had two incidences of positive feedback (yes – it’s amazing!) regarding treatment advice I gave for nausea. In both cases, I had advised eating a humble ginger biscuit and in both cases the feedback was it worked surprisingly well. One patient was shocked that a young-ish doctor like myself would suggest ginger over a prescribed anti-emetic. From personal experience of being on a boat pre- scuba diving, ginger was a great cure for my sea-sickness.
Following on from those episodes, a colleague emailed everyone asking if there were any non-pharmalogical cures for reflux. Homeopathy was mentioned but I suspect a millionth dilution of ‘eye of newt’ or such like is unlikely to cure acid reflux. And that’s where using Dr Google brought up a plethora of websites toting natural remedies for reflux – some of which I had previously heard of such as chewing gum and some that seemed counter-intuitive, but seemed to work, like necking a teaspoon of mustard.
GPs tend to prescribe a lot of medications for common ailments, based on patient demand and the evidence base, but often the horrible side effects can put people off taking the drugs, further leading to re-attendance. I recently found out that a drug I used to prescribe regularly as a hospital doctor, has a less than flattering nickname in some circles because it can make some patients quite paranoid and anxious – not a side effect you want to get just for treating sickness!
Whilst I’m not advocating natural remedies for all ailments, many doctors are probably already suggesting treatments because of previous knowledge or experience, for example sage for menopausal hot flushes, peppermint tea for bowel cramps (peppermint oil is a prescribable drug anyway!), camomile tea for relaxation to name a few. Since the time of Hippocrates, the bark extract of the willow has long been used in medicine for treating inflammation and fever and now is prescribed regularly for secondary prevention in cardiac disease. Any ideas what it is?
If suggesting natural remedies with little or no side effects can improve a patients’ well-being, save the NHS a few pennies and increase my positive feedback rate, I reckon that’s no bad thing!
Dr Avradeep Chakrabarti is a locum GP in Bristol