A reader asks: In regards to your recommendation to avoid all prescription drugs, what about situations where people are in an accident, or an athlete tears his knee up? Do you recommend pain medication then, or do you recommend going to the doctor and being treated?
Thanks for asking. I want to be perfectly clear about my recommendations on medications and prescription drugs. When it comes to acute injuries, conventional medical doctors here in the United States are among the very best in the world. If you have a sports injury, or you've been harmed in an industrial accident or a car accident, or some other kind of acute injury, definitely go to the emergency room -- get the assistance of a western-trained medical doctor. And if you need pharmaceuticals as a temporary measure to control physiological functions or reduce pain, then absolutely avail yourselves of those pharmaceuticals.
I am not against the use of pharmaceuticals in cases of acute injury or trauma. What I'm against is the use of pharmaceuticals for a lifetime, because even when you take pain medication for the short term, you are still stressing your liver. Every pain medication is a liver stressor (a liver toxin). Your liver has to work harder to detoxify the chemicals in that pain medication, and your kidneys have to work harder to eliminate that medication from your system. When you are in acute pain, of course, it is very much worth it to stress your organs temporarily in order to reduce the pain. No one should undergo a tremendous amount of suffering when there is an available alternative. But the point is that you don't want to come to depend on these pain medications.
Too often in modern medicine, people are looking for simple solutions to eliminate their pain that will not require them to make lifestyle changes. For example, when people's joints hurt, they think they have arthritis or they think they're getting old. They might go to the doctor and request pain medication, and many doctors would readily give them that pain medication. The problem is, the pain goes away so quickly that the patient says, "Okay, the problem's solved -- I don't have to make any changes in my life."
So they continue on with whatever lifestyle gave them that pain in the first place. It's typically a lifestyle that avoids physical exercise, that involves a lot of television watching, a lot of sitting behind a desk, eating a lot of processed foods, avoiding natural sunlight, and so on. By taking the pain medication as prescribed by their doctor, they are in fact worsening their health situation, because they are masking the message from their body that's telling them something needs to be addressed.
Remember, pain is not just something designed to annoy you, it's supposed to inform you, and when you have pain flaring up in your body, that's actually your body sending you a message to make some changes in your life. An intelligent health consumer, when they feel pain in their joints, would start asking themselves, Why am I having this pain? What is the root cause of this pain, and how can I fundamentally change my life in order to eliminate this pain for the rest of my life?
They might start taking up a physical exercise program. They might take up Tai Chi. They might begin taking glucosamine sulfate nutritional supplements or MSM. They might start eating cherries or cherry extract because of how cherry extracts have been shown to eliminate arthritis pain. They might start taking astaxanthin supplements because of their ability to reduce inflammation and arthritis pain.
They would take a nutritional approach, and they would also examine their own diet -- what kinds of foods or beverages are they consuming that promote joint pain? Maybe they're drinking a lot of dairy products, and dairy products are food allergens for most people that create an inflammatory, stagnation response in the human body. So an intelligent consumer would really take it to the next level and say, Hey -- here's some pain... what's the cause of this pain, and what kinds of changes can I make in my life to eliminate this pain for the long term without using synthetic chemicals that will serve as toxic chemicals to my liver and body organs?
When I say people need to avoid pharmaceuticals, I'm talking about an overall strategy, not specific medical advice. As a strategy, it means that pharmaceuticals are only useful in temporary situations. They should only be relied upon in acute situations and where they can help a person get control of their health just long enough so that they can effectively make the lifestyle changes they need. Pharmaceuticals should never be used for the long-term.
There is no such thing as a drug that is safe to use for long-term consumption. Let's get real, folks -- some of these pharmaceuticals are approved after being studied for just a few weeks. Some drugs are prescribed to tens of millions of people after a12-week trial involving only a few dozen people. It's absurd what's going on out there. These drugs are not safe. They have not been adequately tested. Even the studies showing the dangerous side effects have been buried and suppressed, we're now learning. The FDA is under intense fire these days for shoddy drug approval practices.
The whole system of doctors having to report side effects of prescription drugs is entirely voluntary. There is no law that forces doctors to report dangerous drug side effects to the FDA. So there really is no system in place for people to understand the dangers, or even be aware of the dangers of these drugs, until they're knee-deep in it. All of a sudden when people start dying from these drugs, that's when the news starts coming out. As the body count piles up, people start to realize that maybe these drugs are dangerous. Maybe these antidepressants really do cause people to kill themselves. Maybe these statin drugs really do cloud people's brains and cause neuromuscular disorders and causes suppression of the creation of cholesterol and sex hormones. Maybe Vioxx does cause heart attacks.
So, it's a good question to ask -- when is it appropriate to use pharmaceuticals? And the answer is: only in temporary, acute situations where you need some help in order to get back in control of your life so that you can make fundamental lifestyle changes that will eliminate the root cause of whatever symptoms you're trying to cover up with those drugs in the first place. And if you visit an intelligent doctor, that is, a good doctor who practices ethical medicine and is fully informed on the dangers of pharmaceuticals and the benefits of nutrition, he or she will tell you the exact same thing I've told you. And if your doctor doesn't agree with this strategy, I strongly urge you to fire that doctor, find yourself a new doctor or visit a naturopathic physician, because naturopaths will agree with everything you've read here, and they will use pharmaceuticals intelligently to get you back in control of your life.
One final thought on all of this is that you have to be willing to make changes in order to follow this strategy and make it work in your life. If you are kind of the typical patient who goes in to a doctor and says, "Doctor, fix me", who doesn't really want to make changes in their life, who doesn't really have the courage or the determination to start exercising or changing the foods you consume, then you will be stuck on pharmaceuticals for the rest of your life.
No doctor in the world can help you if you're not willing to help yourself. If you're not willing to get up off the couch and move your body, and get a little bit of sunshine, and give up drinking coffee and soft drinks, and give up smoking cigarettes and start taking some nutritional supplements, then I'm sorry folks, there is no naturopathic physician in the world that can help you overcome chronic disease. You have the most important role of all in this.
And sometimes I don't emphasize that enough -- it's easy for me to look at conventional medicine and criticize the practices of the pharmaceutical industry, and criticize the lack of knowledge among medical doctors, and criticize the highly distorted training given in medical schools, but often I don't comment enough about what's wrong with the patient's lack of responsibility in this whole process.
Even though I'm highly critical of medical doctors, I know a lot of doctors and I talk to them frequently, and they tell me stories that would blow your mind about patients coming into the clinics and demanding to be cured of various symptoms and diseases, and yet having absolutely no willingness to make any changes in their own life. They will continue to smoke, they'll eat fried foods, they'll go to all you can eat buffets on a regular basis, they'll stuff themselves with ice cream, they will avoid exercise, they will buy the most processed, disease-promoting foods you can find, and then they'll come into the doctor's offices and blame the doctor for not being able to cure them of high cholesterol or heart disease or diabetes.
I think that is highly irresponsible on the part of the patients. It is dishonest, and it is part of what's wrong with our modern health care system. There's too much shifting of responsibility from patients to their doctors for correcting their health problems. What works is when you have a responsible patient who's willing to take on the ownership of their health outcome, combined with a physician or a naturopath who is well-informed and knows how to give that patient responsibility through education and through the intelligent use of temporary pharmaceuticals combined with lifestyle changes that really work. That, my friends, is good medicine, and that's the kind of medicine that is almost never practiced in the United States today. But it is the only medicine that will keep you and everybody else in this country free of disease for their entire lives.