Misinformed Patients Believe Some Strange Things Thanks to the Internet


by Dr. Craig A. Maxwell


Why do some people believe strange things? It used to be, when I first started my practice, that I had to contend only with the advice of well-meaning relatives and the articles found in a handful of health magazines.


Now, it’s the Internet. Although there are plenty of reputable websites with sound medical advice out there on the World Wide Web, medical misinformation can get passed around as fact just as liberally.


I’m amazed at what some people will attempt do to themselves after spending only a day or two with “Dr. Google.”

6 of the Strangest Things Doctors Now Hear in Their Practice


1. “I Can Live on Air and Sunlight Alone”


While prolonged periods of fasting are often practiced for spiritual or health reasons, attempting to live off light and air alone will eventually kill you. “Breatharianism” is a fairly new word for an ancient concept that states if you are spiritual enough, you will no longer require food or water to sustain your life. The belief is that you can simply live off air and sunlight.


In 2012, a Swiss woman reportedly died during a spiritual journey in which she tried to live this way.


Recently, the self-proclaimed “Real Life Barbie”, Valeria Lukyanova, claimed she plans to do this. This young woman also believes she can speak with aliens and continually alters her appearance to look more like the popular Mattel toy than a human being.


Let me put it this way: A one or two day juice fast can be beneficial to your health. Attempting to live without food or water is a sure-fire way to meet your maker far sooner than He intended.


Please do not ever attempt to do this.


2. “Staring into the Sun Improves My Health”


Sun gazing, also known as solar healing, sun staring, and solargazing, is an ancient ritual in which practitioners are encouraged to stare at the sun for its healing and spiritual benefits. This practice originated in India over 2,000 years ago and is being revived again today.

While reasonable sun exposure is beneficial to your health, staring directly at a high-noon sun can do permanent damage to your vision and even make you go blind.


The ritual, when practiced as the ancients practiced it, involves gazing at the sun no more than one hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. The gaze lasts only 10 seconds and then increases to 10 seconds more each day. This is also to be done while “earthing” or standing with your bare feet on the earth.


After a period of six months, you are to gaze at the sun 35 minutes per day and will experience a supposed decrease in the need for physical nourishment. After nine months, you are to discontinue the practice for the sake of your eyesight but will need to “recharge” by earthing.


The practice is believed to activate the pineal gland, a “mystery gland” associated with the third eye and the attainment of spiritual enlightenment.


There is no scientific evidence that gazing at the sun will improve health or help you attain enlightenment.


I just know it can be quite risky.


3. “Eating Nothing But Fruit is Good for Me”


Frutarianism is the practice of eating nothing but fruit and raw seeds. Again, while this practice is not new, it has been made popular by the Internet.


Ashton Kutcher, while preparing for the role of Steve Jobs in the feature film about his life, adopted this diet in an effort to get in touch with who the Apple computer founder was as a person. Within a short time, the actor landed in the hospital with severe pancreatic dysfunction.


I recommend limiting your total fructose consumption to no more than 25-30 grams per day. Anything more than that can significantly increase your risk of pancreatic dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.


Furthermore, subsisting on fruit and seeds alone can cause a host of nutritional deficiencies that could cause a domino effect of chronic health problems.


A varied diet of organic produce, grass-fed beef, poultry, wild-caught fish, organic eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, and yogurt can give your body the complete nourishment it needs to function at its best.


If you are a vegetarian, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, hummus, and nut butters will likely make up the bulk of your protein intake. This is healthy as well.


Just be mindful of the possibility that vegetarianism can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.


4. “The More Supplements I Take, the Healthier I Am”

Bunch of Dietary Supplements 

Once upon a time, our soil was rich in nourishing vitamins and minerals, our farm animals fattened on organic grass, and our butter and milk rich in enzymes that aided in healthy digestion.


Unfortunately, this isn’t the case anymore. In the past 100 years, the nutrient density of food has declined by an average of about 50 percent. This means you would have to eat twice the amount of whole food your ancestors ate just to get the same nutritional benefit.


That being said, high-quality dietary supplements are a great way to fill in these nutritional gaps. Before taking dietary supplements, it’s a good idea to find out if you have any significant nutritional deficiencies that need to be addressed. Doing this will allow you to customize your supplement plan.


Vitamin D3, magnesium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 are some of the most commonly diagnosed vitamin and mineral deficiencies.


When testing for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, I recommend the micronutrient profile offered by SpectraCell Laboratories. This lab checks your white blood cell micronutrients. Serum blood testing is often misleading, especially for minerals.


However, Vitamin D3, B-12 and iron can be checked quite accurately with serum.


Testing for these deficiencies will give you and your healthcare provider a place to start when recommending the right dietary supplements.


The right dietary supplements can improve your health, but continually mixing them or switching them is not the best choice. Do your research online but confirm your findings with your healthcare provider first before supplementing your diet.


5. “Meat with a Side of Meat Makes Me Thin”


The Paleolithic diet has recently gained in popularity over the past couple of years and while it has its merits, it can easily be used as an excuse to indulge in too much meat.


When you follow the Paleo diet, it’s imperative the meat you choose comes from optimal sources. This means grass-fed beef, organic poultry, wild-caught fish, and organic eggs.


Also, don’t skimp on the organic vegetables and healthy fats like coconut oil and grass-fed butter. You need the nutrients and fiber in vegetables as well as healthy fats to regulate your digestion.


Nuts and seeds are also part of the diet, so be sure to consume them as well. Keep your diet as varied as possible to reduce the risk of nutritional deficiencies.


6. “This Symptom Means I Have Cancer and I’m Dying”


It can be very easy to do an Internet search on a symptom or two and become convinced you have the worst possible disease within minutes. Medical misinformation happens when a patient has a vast array of websites and opinions to choose from with no real guidance from a professional.


The Internet is widely available. Telling someone not to Google their symptoms is like telling most people to give up their Facebook account or stop emailing. If you’re going to do your own research on your health, there’s nothing wrong with starting with “Dr. Google.”


Notice I said….starting. You don’t want to end there.


No matter the disease you believe you may have, or the advice you’ve read online on how treat it, be sure to discuss your findings with your healthcare provider.


There’s a lot of good information on the Internet, but there’s just as much medical misinformation. Avoid falling into a trap by teaming up with an open-minded practitioner who listens to, and understands, both your healthcare concerns and proactive approach to treatment.


It’s one of the best things you can do for your health.


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