A few weeks ago, a patient came to me complaining of nausea, muscle weakness and fatigue. Her urine was tea-colored despite drinking loads of water. A middle-aged woman, she seemed worried she had cancer or some deadly disease.
Her lab tests revealed significant liver dysfunction. But her symptoms were not due to liver cancer, hepatitis or other disease. It turned out she had liver toxicity from a green tea supplement that she'd heard was a "natural" way to lose weight.
When she stopped taking the supplement at my suggestion, her liver tests gradually normalized and she felt better over the course of a few weeks.
I've seen the green tea issue in patients before and often witness the real-life pitfalls of eschewing traditional medicine, science and facts in favor of supplements, herbs and cleanses in the name of "natural" healing.
In an effort to be healthy, patients can easily become ensnared in the potential dangers of alternative medicine or homeopathy.
Let's be clear: Nature has a lot to offer patients. But nature isn't always so well-intended.
An important key to health is using nature appropriately.
And in the case of my patient, she was able to lose weight when we made a clear plan to alter her basic human behaviors.
Before she started taking the green tea extract, she was skipping breakfast, drinking the equivalent of two Venti coffees before noon, eating takeout meals for lunch, washing down her late-night dinner with two glasses of wine, sleeping restlessly, and spending too much time sitting and indoors.
Green tea extract was never going to be the quick fix that she - and other patients I have seen - had hoped. It may be attractive as a natural cure for extra body fat, but this promise has not been shown in any studies, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health.