And the safe, natural alternatives
I prescribe to my patients instead
Prescription drugs cause more deaths each year than car accidents.
They’ve also become the biggest cause of fatal drug overdoses. (Yes, in many ways, that makes them more dangerous than heroin.)
But even so-called “normal” doses can be risky. In fact, prescription medications taken as directed kill roughly 106,000 Americans each year.
And the older you are, the more likely it is that you’re on one or more of these medications. So it’s time to take on the overdosing of America.
I could have easily filled the entire issue naming all the drugs I despise. And if you’ve been reading my Reality Health Check e-letter, then you already know some of my least favorites–like statins, aspirin, and certain diabetes medications.
So today I thought we should discuss some of the other drugs I love to hate. Particularly because there are plenty of safe, natural alternatives for ALL of them. Starting with…
Boniva: No bones about it
I’ve loved Sally Field since she was a flying nun but the osteoporosis drug she’s the poster-girl for– Boniva–is incredibly bad for you. So are its cousins Fosamax and Forteo.
They may increase bone mass, but with a side effect of decreasing bone stability. Which actually raises your risk of bone fractures. And leaves you vulnerable to a painful condition called osteonecrosis. Which has NO cure. That clearly doesn’t make much sense. So here are some alternatives that do:
- Vitamin D3. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are associated with poor bone density. Which increases your risk of osteoporosis. Not to mention broken bones. Your body needs ample amounts of this vitamin in order to produce a specific protein, called osteocalcin, required for the formation of new bone.You should have your blood level of vitamin D checked periodically. It should be in the 50+ range. I usually recommend taking 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day for bone health.
- Vitamin K2. This vitamin works with vitamin D to help your body form new bone. It also helps guard against excess bone breakdown.According to the famous Framingham Heart study, people with the highest vitamin K intake were 65 percent less likely to break a hip than people with the lowest intake of this nutrient.I recommend a product called MenaQ7. It contains the most absorbable form of vitamin K2. As for dose, I generally advise 45 mcg twice per day.
- Calcium. Like vitamins D and K2, your body needs calcium to produce new bone. But contrary to popular belief, milk isn’t the best source (that’s another myth I’ll discuss one of these days). You’re much better off taking a supplement. But no need to go overboard–600 mg per day is plenty to help maintain strong bones.
- Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy. A 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women taking bio-identical HRT along with calcium and vitamin D had 43 percent less bone loss than the control group. But keep in mind this isn’t the standard, garden-variety HRT most doctors prescribe. That form–which is made from horse urine and synthetic chemicals–won’t help build bone density. But it WILL put you at risk for heart disease. So be certain you’re opting for bio- identical hormones.
- Exercise. This one really should have gone at the top of the list. Bone mass starts to decrease in women starting around 25 to 30 years of age. Resistance training in particular helps to build and strengthen bone.
Tylenol: The most dangerous drug lurking
in every medicine cabinet in America
You can include Aleve, Motrin, etc. in this category, too. They all relieve pain by reducing inflammation. But they wreak havoc in your body in the process. Tylenol itself is the leading cause of liver failure in the United States (not to mention cirrhosis and chronic liver disease).
I haven’t taken one of these drugs in probably 15 or 20 years. There’s simply no need to when the following alternatives are widely available.
- Arnica. This is a homeopathic remedy that works extremely well for acute pain. I recommend 5 tablets under the tongue 5 times per day.
- MSM. This natural sulfur compound has powerful anti-inflammatory properties–without the organ-damaging side effects of the medications listed above. I recommend 2,000 mg three times per day.
- Wobenzyme. This is a unique combination of natural enzymes that help your body deal with inflammation, both long-term and when you’ve got an immediate ache or pain. In fact, it’s used by the Austrian ski team for its acute injuries. I recommend 4 pills three times each day.
- Alkaline foods. If your body’s pH balance is too acidic, it can create excess inflammation. And that leads to pain. Luckily, incorporating more alkaline foods into your diet is quite easy to do. Most of them are things you can find in the supermarket or your local farmers’ market. Cucumbers, kale, and garlic are just a few examples. You can find more complete lists of alkaline foods all over the internet.
- Avoid nightshades. This group of foods includes: tomato, potato, eggplant, pepper, and tobacco. They contain an alkaloid called solanine that can cause inflammation in some people. But not everyone. The only way to know for sure if they’re contributing to your pain is to eliminate them and see if it makes a difference for you.
Beware the beta blockers
These are blood pressure drugs like Atenolol, Lopressor, Metoprolol (really any drug ending in “olol”). And if it were up to cardiologists, everyone in America would be on one.
The reason I don’t like these drugs is because they tend to make people fatigued. Plus, they can slow down your metabolism (which, obviously, isn’t good if you’re trying to lose weight or are diabetic).
And here’s something your doctor and pharmacist may not tell you about beta blockers…They can actually bring on asthma attacks, so they should never be taken by asthmatics.
If you need to get your blood pressure under control or need to slow your heart rate down because you have atrial fibrillation, try these safer alternatives:
- Hawthorne. This is an herb that can help keep your heart in the proper rhythm. It comes in pill form or as drops that you take under your tongue. I generally recommend 500 mg three times per day for the pill form. Or 5 to 10 drops of the extract under the tongue.
- Cayenne. Don’t worry. You don’t have to eat spicy food to get the overall heart benefits. You can get cayenne in supplement form. I recommend 40,000 HU (which stands for “heat units”) twice per day.
- Garlic, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, taurine…The list of heart-and blood pressure-supporting supplements is practically endless. I could really devote an entire issue to this topic. In fact, I’ll add that to my to-do list. But in the meantime, there are still a few more entries on the list of drugs I love to hate…
A bitter Pill to swallow
It’s not that I have anything against birth control. But I do have issues with interrupting your body’s hormonal regulation. There can be long-term ramifications…things like not being able to get your menstrual cycle when you do want it. Increased risk for blood clots (especially if you smoke). And, most important, oral contraceptives can cause dysbiosis, or leaky gut. And that leads to an entire host of problems, like yeast overgrowth, and any number of inflammatory conditions.
Other birth control methods have been discussed ad infinitum in many other forums, but here’s the method I most commonly recommend to my patients…
- IUDs. These have made a comeback in recent years and are much safer than the ones used back in the 70s. Primarily because they don’t interfere with hormones. There are a few different types to choose from, including one that releases a small amount of progestin. At this point, any type is better than the alternative.
The sad facts about anti-depressants
Just about everyone seems to be taking SSRIs and/or SNRIs these days. These anxiety and depression medications include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Cymbalta, etc. But just because they’re common doesn’t mean they’re good for you.
Not only do they mess with your brain chemistry, but they also wreak havoc on your metabolism. It’s close to impossible to lose weight while taking one of these types of medications. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, there are more logical alternatives you can try:
- SAM-e. This is an amino acid that can help regulate stress and brain chemistry. I recommend 400 mg in the mornings.
- 5HTP. Another amino acid that’s great for helping to restore a more natural brain chemistry. (Plus, added bonus–it can help you fall asleep.) I recommend between 100 mg and 1,000 mg at bedtime. Start with the lowest dose, and gradually increase it until you notice your symptoms have improved.
- L-theanine. This is the calming agent found in green tea. I recommend using it on an as-needed basis at 200 mg a pop.
- Probiotics. Since the gut is our “second brain” and helps to produce neurotransmitters, it makes sense to keep it healthy. And these probiotics will help do the trick. Just be sure to take a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria, along with prebiotics.
As you can see, there’s absolutely no reason to become one of the statistics I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
And I’ve only listed a small sampling of the natural alternatives to drugs here. There are literally hundreds–even thousands–more.
So, the next time your doctor reaches for his or her prescription pad, remember that there’s probably a safer solution to whatever ails you.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask him or her to support you in trying something natural to start. Bring along this list. And look for a naturopath in your area to help if your doctor isn’t knowledgeable about alternatives or willing to learn. You can contact the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) at www.acamnet.org or by calling 1-800-532-3688. Or email the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists at firstname.lastname@example.org.