Can Doctors Make You Healthier?

“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.” ~  Paracelsus

If you’ve been following along with this “Health Upgrade” series, you are familiar with the following ideas:

  1. Health is the ability to get stronger from stress.
  2. Sometimes doing nothing is the best approach to healing.
  3. Nature is the best healer.
  4. The best source for health is listening to your body.

But we still need doctors for some things, don’t we? Yes. But far less than you think.

For example, if you break your arm, you need someone to set it. Likewise, life-threatening injuries require quick medical treatment.

But for more chronic conditions, doctors are less effective.

The way to know this is called “Number Needed to Treat” (NNT). It is the number of people you would need to treat to get one benefit.

Here’s an example of this number in action. If you want to use statins to stop one heart attack, 104 people would have to take them every day for 5 years. This is in a relatively healthy population (CV risk 4%). And all 104 people would be subject to the side-effects of statins.1,2

There is a related number called “Number Needed to Harm” (NNH). The number for muscle damage in healthy people taking statins is 10. That means 1 in 10 healthy people has muscle damage from statins.1

Taken together, these two examples show that there is more than 10 times as much likely harm as benefit from healthy people taking statins over a 5-year period.

But there’s a big difference if you count only people at high risk. In such people the effectiveness of any treatment goes way up. The NNT much becomes smaller (25 people treated for 1 beneficial outcome if CV risk is 16%).2 So in such cases the risk/benefit ratio is more favorable.

This means there is a benefit to treating people who are critically ill. But if you are not seriously ill, there is a much greater chance the medical treatment will cause more harm than good.

In short, nature is almost always still the best healer for all but the most serious cases. Preventive self-care is best.

Next week, the problem with working with professional healers and the way to avoid the problem. Look for it next Monday.

All the best to you for your health and happiness,

Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

Dr. Bruce


1. Statin Drugs Given for 5 Years for Heart Disease Prevention (Without Known Heart Disease)

2. Cardiovascular Disease: Primary Prevention Guideline (PDF file)

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