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Local doctors mixing dietary supplements with medicine

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

A growing number of people are hearing that their cholesterol levels have to be lower, and even health care professionals are getting word from their own doctors that the numbers have to come down. Dr. Bill Woods, an oral surgeon in Springfield, learned in the spring of 1997 that he would have to reduce his cholesterol level.

"I was advised that I would have to reduce my cholesterol, but I didn't want to take the medication that is prescribed for reducing cholesterol because of the side effects. I started looking around for something else," Woods said.

He found a product made by a division of the drug company Rexall Sundown called BiosLife. By taking the natural supplement, which has high concentrations of soluble fiber, Woods reduced his cholesterol from 215 to 170 in a month and lost 10 pounds, he said.

He's now a believer, he added, in the dietary supplements.

He is among a group of area physicians who are not only using, but marketing and selling, the supplements. Once Woods lowered his own cholesterol level, he began to "review the medical literature behind these supplements. Once I knew the products were safe, I started going to physicians in town to get some local support," Woods said.

He connected with Dr. Tom Froehlich, a local oncologist, and now has about 15 fellow physicians involved in the program.

The products Woods and Froehlich distribute are sold via network marketing.

Froehlich, like Woods, got his first taste of what the supplements could do at home, but it was his wife who started using the supplement.

"I wanted to see if it would lower my wife's cholesterol, but she agreed to do it only because she was certain she could prove me wrong. ...Within a month, she lost 18 pounds; her cholesterol dropped from 252 to 170," Froehlich said.

The supplements have high concentrations of soluble fiber, and the average American needs a lot more fiber than he or she is getting each day to ward off things like heart disease and cancer, Froehlich said.

"It is recommended that you get 25 or more grams of fiber a day. The average American gets 12 grams," Froehlich said.

Froehlich advises a "very different course" for modern medicine, he said.

"It's only going to get a lot worse if we don't change the underlying societal situation behind health care in this country," Froehlich said.

Medicine has thus far focused on intervention when a person is ill, but the shift has to be made to focus on prevention of illness, Froehlich said.

Woods said that there has been some concern in the medical community about whether it is ethical for the doctors to sell the products and make money off of those products when they recommend them.

To assuage such concerns, Woods said he offers information to patients he thinks would benefit, and then allows the patients to get the products from the company wholesale or from another distributor.

"I make it clear you don't have to buy the products in my office," Woods said.

Froehlich said he is encouraged by the number of people who are looking at new ways to live their lives.

"It's important that we have prescription drugs and that people continue to get the benefit from that technology, but it's also important that we learn new ways to prevent illness," Froehlich said.

Woods and Froehlich are generating interest in the products locally through a series of meetings; the next one is Dec. 8.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Dr. Bill Woods, an oral surgeon, uses nutritional supplements himself.

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