Always read the label, especially before taking your medicine, and you'll be amazed at what you can find.

Beechams Flu-Plus, for instance, contains - apart from the customary paracetamol and decongestant - added sucrose, aspartame and the colours carmoisine (E122), sunset yellow (E110) and green S (E142).

In some individuals, such colours have been associated with hypersensitive reactions from skin rashes and bronchoconstriction to abdominal pain, vomiting and indigestion.

Commonly used sweeteners are linked to numerous unpleasant symptoms including migraine.

Additional preservatives, sweeteners, solvents and dyes in medicines are common but are less of a concern than some of the active ingredients they contain.

The side-effects of medicines, prescribed and over-the-counter, have been well documented.

In the UK alone, it is estimated that as many people die every month from prescription drugs as were killed in the World Trade Centre.

Incapacitation and hospitalisation of people due to the side-effects or interaction of drugs runs into millions.

In America, researchers have revealed the risk of an adverse drug reaction increases from 13 per cent for patients taking two medications at the same time to 82 per cent for those taking seven or more.

Less well-documented is the fact that antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antivirals, anxiolytics, bronchial decongestants, female hormones and medication for diabetes and gout deplete the body of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

It is disturbing that most of us already fall short of the basic recommended daily allowance because the nutrient content in our diet has fallen dramatically over the past century.

Tough luck on us that we now have far higher nutritional requirements than 100 years ago because our food, water and air has been permeated with ten million new chemicals.

It makes sense to use preventative and therapeutic methods to improve your health but, if you ask in your local health shop, you will find that measures are being put in place to ban or restrict access to vitamins, minerals and herbs.

Many of these proposed measures have been sponsored by large drugs companies who prefer us to rely on and keep buying their products.

A healthy, vibrant population cannot represent a viable marketplace for these companies - nutritional therapy is therefore seen as a threat.

Some pharmaceutical companies have recently admitted being involved in fraudulent activities. Bayer has pleaded guilty to a scheme for overcharging for antibiotics and been ordered to pay the US government $257 million.

GlaxoSmithKline also stands accused of overcharging for drugs and relabelling them.

Is it reasonable to trust the ethics of the most powerful and profitable industrial sector in the world?

If not, it is plainly ridiculous that we continue to believe their experts who hold influential positions on various advisory groups.

How heartening to hear that the government is spending just over a million pounds on research projects into complementary medicine.

It's only a drop in the ocean but there may be some recognition that relying on a magic bullet is never going to be the foundation for good health.

Better late than never.

Martina is a qualified nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: