THE DOSE MAKES THE POISON
By: Luke Hassan
“All things are poison, and nothing is without poison, the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison” – Paracelsus, 1538.
Have you ever heard the saying, “The dose makes the poison”? The idea being that anything we consume could potentially harm us if we consume enough of it?
My first contact with this adage was in the form of a misquote. I was explaining how people with intolerances to food components, generally will have SOME tolerance to it, even if they can only tolerate very little amounts. “Oh, so the poison is in the dose, right?” “Right!” I exclaimed – later finding out what the actual quote was. Either work, really; the point being that anything can be considered toxic at a certain level of intake – even water.
But as I thought about this more, it was clear that food intolerances were not the only area of nutrition, or other health disciplines, that this principle applies to.
Everyone walks into a consulting room for an appointment with a medical professional with preconceived ideas about a few things: what the problem is, what might be helpful, and what won’t be helpful. Some may have already begun a type of therapy when they walk in to see you. In my work as an invisible illness dietitian, I know that most of my patients, when they come to see me for the first time, have already changed their diet in some way, most commonly with some form of restriction. Whether it be a gluten free, dairy free, low histamine, low carb/keto diet… but these modifications haven’t ‘cured’ their illness or their problem, hence why they have come to seek advice.
Unfortunately, these particular food components have been made to look like the ‘poison’ that is contributing/perpetuating their health problems. While some of these dietary changes are crucial in a small amount of people, the vast majority are restricting their food intake for often, very little outcome, missing out on vital nutrients from crucial elements of the food supply that, as I alluded to before, will potentially just be contributing to other issues, ranging from nutrient deficiencies to eating disorders.
The point of this short article is a simple reminder – as an allied health professional, in ANY discipline, please be mindful of the extremes that patients will go to with modifying parts of their lives. Food is a good example and the experience that I draw on, however, it may be exercise, or sleep hygiene, or restricting range of motion well after an injury is healed. I encourage all of you to remind your patients in these situations that ‘the dose makes the poison’ – and moderation is key.
About the author:
Luke’s mission is to ‘make invisible illnesses visible’ by advocating for those with Invisible Illnesses and supporting them in their nutritional health. He is the lead dietitian at Active Health Clinic in Melbourne, where they specialise in providing care to people who live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Pain conditions, Dysautonomia and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders. He is passionate about making quality nutrition accessible for every BODY, no matter their functional capacity.
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