A woman ended up in hospital with lead poisoning after taking trendy Ayurvedic medicines to treat infertility.
The 39-year-old went to A&E three times in six weeks suffering from abdominal pain, constipation, nausea and vomiting.
On her third visit, she was admitted to the hospital for anemia and possible gastrointestinal bleeding.
Doctors in Canada were unable to work out what was wrong with her until, during a follow-up visit weeks later, she reported having taken Ayurvedic pills daily for more than a year to treat infertility.
Her blood lead level was found to be more than 27 times higher than normal.
The patient, who has not been named, is now on the road to recovery.
But an investigation of the Ayurvedic clinic resulted in the seizure of hundreds of lead-laced pills due to noncompliance with health regulations.
The ancient Indian medical system, also known as Ayurveda, is based on ancient writings that rely on a “natural” and holistic approach to physical and mental health.
Dr. Julian Gitelman, of Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, said: “Given that lead toxicity is uncommon and its presentation nonspecific, patients are often seen by many health care providers before the diagnosis is made.
“A careful exposure history is essential to suggest the diagnosis.”
The patient’s blood lead level was high at 55 µg/dL, compared with a normal level of less than 2 µg/dL, according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).
Dr. Gitelman said: “The patient stopped taking the Ayurvedic treatments and began chelation therapy.
“Her blood lead level decreased and her symptoms resolved.
“Once the diagnosis of lead toxicity was made, the medical team contacted Public Health Ontario (PHO), which tested 17 different pill samples provided by the patient.
“After testing revealed high levels of lead in most of the pills, PHO involved the local public health unit, Toronto Public Health, and Health Canada, as it regulates natural health products.
“A joint investigation of the Ayurvedic clinic resulted in the seizure of hundreds of pills due to noncompliance with the Natural Health Products Regulations.”
She added: “A recent systematic review of case reports on lead poisoning found traditional or herbal medications to be a common cause.
“Heavy metals are sometimes intentionally added for their perceived healing properties.
“When consumer products may be contaminated with lead, or when lead exposure is linked to sources in the community, involving public health can facilitate broader actions to reduce and prevent exposures to other people at risk.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Arnab Nandy