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Medical Treatment for the cause

  1. Sep 13, 2018 #1
    In many deficiency-related diseases doctors prescribe to supplement, that which is deficient.

    For example, if insulin is found deficient they replace with insulin. Similarly the case with vitamin deficiencies, calcium deficiency, thyroid deficiency etc.

    I have a few doubts on this regard,

    1) Have they ever try to ascertain why such deficiencies have occurred? How long can one keep on supplementing them? Why the cause of deficiency is never found out and treated?

    2) Has it ever occurred to them that this kind of deficiencies could have been the body's way of adaptation to deal with something else? It could have been a temporary armour against something. For example, it is found that the body intentionally brings down the iron level during fever. There may be some advantage to it. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3938201/

    If so, supplementing deficient items may prove detrimental too. Unless the cause is analyzed, we can't blindly supplement. So I'd it right to supplement the deficiencies blindly?

    Is there any rationale behind my doubts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2018 #2


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    I don't understand your post. Doctors here in the US do not just blindly hand out supplements. Actualy, they are probably opposed to supplements. Maybe that is the case in your country. The things you cited in 1 & 2 just don't happen here. You would need to cite medical sources.
  4. Sep 14, 2018 #3


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    Likewise here in the UK. They will ask you about your diet and possible causes before handing out pills.
  5. Sep 14, 2018 #4
    Yes. If you just google up the mentioned deficiency types one by one then (after brushing aside an unimaginable amount of crackpotry, diet advertisement and stupidity) I believe you will find satisfying amount of medical science.

    It is just that for some deficiencies the cause is exactly the low intake.
  6. Sep 14, 2018 #5


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    The cause is usually found and treated. It's just that the cause is usually insufficient intake of a nutrient, which can easily be fixed by altering ones diet, or the failure of a particular organ to create enough of a hormone or other necessary compound. The latter is rarely able to be fixed short of replacing the organ, which is why supplements are given for disorders with the thyroid, pancreas, etc.

    That's not what we usually think of when we talk about a deficiency. The body still has plenty of reserves of iron, it's just temporarily altering the availability to combat a disease. These are short term effects that would only become a problem if you somehow weren't able to fight off the disease in short order. But in that case you're probably in far greater danger of dying from the disease before temporary iron 'deficiency' becomes a problem.
  7. Sep 14, 2018 #6
    Take, for example diabetes type 2. Here it is surmised that either the insulin is secreted less or it is ineffective.

    Hence steps are taken to 1) supplement it by insulin injection 2) prescribe sulfonylureas 3) GLP-1 agonists 4) Meglitinides 5) DPP4 inhibitors.

    All of these either directly or indirectly influence and enhance insulin production. In my view a supplement need not be a direct supplement like insulin injection.

    Without finding the cause (of diabetes) the effect is being treated by supplementing (insulin). I consider dpp4 inhibitors and insulin supplement as more or less similar. They both make more insulin available for action.

    I was trying to refer to this kind of supplement/replenishment.

    Another example would be hypothyroidism. Here (without finding the cause of less thyroid production) thyroxin is given. Is it not supplementing?

    I am not denying the effects (short term benefits) of such treatments. But we stop there. We do not try to find the cause of the problem and remove it.

    I am thinking is in the lines only. I want your comments. Thanks.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
  8. Sep 14, 2018 #7


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    We are trying to find the cause of the problem (or rather we usually know the cause, we just don't know how to fix it). Research into more effective treatments for diabetes, hypothyroidism, and other such diseases is ongoing. Right now we don't really have any other widely available options other than to provide supplements for many of these diseases.
  9. Sep 14, 2018 #8


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    I take thyroxin for hypothyroidism.
    In my case, it was noticed by my doctor that my throat felt weird to him during an exam.
    I went to a specialist and got it biopsied and it turned out to be Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
    In my case, the thyroid gland was almost all gone.
    After that was figured out thyroid hormone measurements (and of the hormone that controls the release of the thyroid hormone) were done and the the hypothyroid condition was diagnosed.
    I then started taking the thyroid replacement (the levels were calibrated by measuring the levels of the Thyroid Releasing Hormone and adjusting the amount of thyroid replacement I took).

    So, in this case, it was not just prescribed blindly based on lacking thyroid hormone, but was a fix to a problem found through other means.
    A non-replacement treatment would seem to involve something like transplanting in a new thyroid gland (something I have never heard of and which could well be more expensive and involve greater possible negative health effects (operation, immune suppression drugs, etc.).

    Incidentally, I feel ripped off because one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is supposed to be a lack of energy, but taking the thyroid replacement did not give me any noticeable power boost!
  10. Sep 14, 2018 #9


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    You picked the wrong problem to get :-) I had to be admitted to hospital twice at short notice due to Ulcerative Colitis They put you on IV steroids for 5 days. After 24 hours the steroids make you feel a million dollars.
  11. Sep 19, 2018 at 11:13 AM #10
    Yes, in general terms medicine is obsessed with identifying the causes of problems and building up a detailed picture of what is happening in the body. Several of your examples involve the loss of a capacity to produce hormones and if the cells that produce a hormone has died currently we don't have the technology to replace them, but this is also being investigated. Even when we know why cells have died we either don't know how to stop this or we discover the disease after the damage is done. Just knowing the cause as yet doesn't mean we can treat it and these hormones are given not just for short term benefit, they keep people alive.
    Its a common claim among alternative therapists that they treat the cause while western medicine simply manages the symptoms this is nonsense and many of these therapists haven't a clue about the underlying pathology and they have no requirement to test their ideas or in fact to even make sense. There is only so much that can be squeezed into a weekend course and that has to include marketing.
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