It seems that recently there has been a flurry of activity from the FDA in the past few months. First, problems with Zicam®, a homeopathic preparation with full strength zinc, began causing loss of smell in several people. Apparently, zinc wasn’t designed to be sprayed or shoved into your nose for extended periods of time (more on this later). Now, our old friend Tylenol is in trouble. Liver failure is a common problem of overdosing on acetaminophen (which, by the way, is why I always tell my patients to use ibuprofen) and now they are finding that smaller doses are causing the same problem. The FDA is recommending pulling Vicodin completely. This is fine with me, acetaminophen shuts down something called glutathione our major detoxifier of toxins. And low levels of glutathione are implicated in conditions like Autism. So, we have an unregulated, natural product AND a regulated, synthetic product both in hot water. At least the score is even.
Now, to comment on the Zicam® issue. I was interviewed by a local paper about my opinions on the safety of homeopathic preparations that are sold over the counter. Homeopathy is very safe for use over the counter. This issue with Zicam® is that while it contained some homeopathics in the formula, the zinc was full strength, meaning it was not prepared homeopathically. The zinc was what caused the loss of smell, not the homeopathics. Couple the fact that it had full strength zinc with the mechanism of administration straight up the nose, several times per day, and you have a recipe for problems. The body is pretty good at processing nutrients through the gastrointestinal tract, but if you start to use different routes (i.e. the nose), you are less likely to get the same result.
So what’s safe? Its hard to know. The best choice is to have a knowledgeable health care practitioner that can help you navigate the best products for your condition. When buying a product over the counter, be wary of pharmaceuticals, but don’t assume natural products are completely safe. Products developed from companies (like Naturopathic Alternatives) that are developed from knowledgeable medical professionals, are more likely to be safe. But, like most labels say, consult your doctor.
If you have any questions about this article, or anything else, please feel free to Ask Dr. Tara!! You can also comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.