An Integrative Approach: To Take the Pill or Not to Take the Pill… That is the Question
I must admit, that since traveling down my integrative medicine path, I have become a bit “pill wary”. I have experienced, first hand, as a mother, daughter, patient and practitioner the complicated side effects pills can create in a person’s body. Modern medicine, with the advances of technology, has had a tradition of symptom management creating a “pill popping” nation- be it medications or supplements. There has even been a recent option to have DNA testing done to look at your individual metabolism and which medication, based on your metabolism, would work best for you. It does not look at your personal physiological issues, just your kidney and liver metabolism. We seem to believe that the tiny creations we swallow hold the answers to our problems. This can be true, in certain circumstances- not as the answer, but as a short-term solution. However, they can be like a band aide, helping to prevent further disease or irritation, yet, used long term, they can create an irritation, rash or adverse reaction. This is where an integrative approach comes into play. A balance between allopathic and natural/holistic treatments. Instead of simply managing symptoms, look at the root cause of the problem. Make changes, big or small, in environment, lifestyle, and foods to start to address the foundation of the problem- that which is creating the symptoms.
I will say, first hand, that there is a time and a place for medication and supplementation. However, they are not without consequences, cautions and the need for accountability. Over the past few months, I have had to make the decision to take medication, as my allergies had gotten so bad that I could not function. I took antihistamines to calm my body’s natural allergic response to environmental stimuli. I tried my sinus rinse, honey and other natural remedies, but I wound up with an eye infection, ear and sinus infection. This led me to need antibiotics. I had a horrible case of poison ivy and hives, which was creating sleep, breathing and major comfort issues. I wound up taking an oral steroid. I must say, I did not want to take them, but nothing else worked and my body was in overload. I needed help to calm the acute reactions and get my body back in balance. In addition, my son’s anxiety resurfaced after several months without medication. It got so bad that all the independence, security and freedom he worked so hard to gain became hijacked by worry and panic attacks. As much as he and I worked hard to have him off the medications, we quickly realized that his body and brain needed help to quiet the fight or flight, physiologic response. It is only once the physiologic reaction to fear/ danger becomes lessoned that we can work on the natural, non-pharmacologic cognitive behavioral therapy. Sometimes, you need a pharmacologic/ chemical “reset” to bring the body back in balance. The integrative approach recognizes this, and also looks to get to the root cause and prevent future extreme body imbalances with a combination of natural, lifestyle and alternative therapies. It starts with being accountable for choices, for the body messages over the course of time to facilitate homeostasis and health. Check out these leading Integrative Medical Practitioners and their advice:
- Dr. Andrew Weil– specializes in anti-inflammatory practices
- Dr. David Brownstein– specializes in hormonal/endocrine treatments and therapies
- Dr. Chauncey Crandall – specializes in cardiothoracic treatments and support
- Dr. Ed Hallowell– Specializes in ADHD
- Dr. Michael Lara– Psychiatrist with an integrative, “Food and Exercise as Medicine” approach. (Has lectures for purchase at The Institute for Brain Potential)
When are medications necessary?
- When you are in an acute, hyper-reactive, body way out of balance situation.
- When activities of daily living and your “normal” life is severely compromised/ disrupted.
- When you are in a crisis, flare up or hyper stressed situation and you cannot function. (Such as with: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cancer, Cardiovascular Incident, severe Depression or Panic Attacks/Disorder.)
- When your body cannot make the necessary hormone, neurotransmitter or enzyme necessary for it to function. (Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto’s, Cushing’s etc.)
When should you take supplements?
- When you cannot get enough fruits and vegetables, in spite of true effort, into your diet. I, personally, like Juice Plus, a natural, bioavailable form of dehydrated fruits and vegetable which research to support efficacy. I have recommended this to Cancer patients going through chemo, to people on restricted diets and people needing nutrient boosts.
- When you have a deficiency of a nutrient, (diagnosed from blood work) or when your body cannot convert nutrients to essential forms, such as with MTHFR (responsible for folate metabolism).
- When you are on antibiotics/ or have some digestive issues- probiotics are helpful.
- When you do not get 2 servings of fish a week and have memory/motor/impulsivity or dry eyes/skin- recommended to take Omega3 fatty acids.
CAUTION: Supplements are not regulated as medications by the FDA, yet can be detrimental if taken in excess or taken when there is no deficiency. Some herbal remedies can have dangerous interactions with medication and can shift the body out of balance. Always consult a qualified professional before starting any supplements or “natural remedies”. Be cautious with anyone prescribing/suggesting numerous supplements/ powders or natural treatments as some are expensive, extreme and excessive. Be especially cautious with those practitioners selling or having financial stake in the supplements.