Doctors are handing out more pharmaceutical drug prescriptions than ever, a practice that has prompted new drug-issuing guidelines and a call for more conservative prescribing. The new guidelines, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, call for physicians to think beyond drugs, treat underlying causes, and focus on prevention instead of reaching for the prescription pad right away. In addition, the recommendations ask doctors to only prescribe one new drug at a time, to monitor the patient closely for harmful side effects, and to be generally skeptical of new drugs. "Avoid seduction by elegant molecular pharmacology; beware of selective drug trial reporting," the guidelines warn. In other words, be an old-school doc.
We're not saying all pharmaceutical drugs are bad. In fact, many are lifesavers. But doctors could also ease many patient ailments by suggesting natural remedies that have been used for centuries with fewer side effects.
If you have one of the following conditions and your doc's trying to push a prescription your way, you could benefit from talking natural remedies with an integrative health care specialist:
Depression and ADHD.
A recent study found a connection between women who took certain antidepressants and an increased risk of having a child with autism, underscoring that some prescription drugs cause unanticipated problems. "Even though the FDA has placed antidepressants in a category C for pregnant women, meaning they are neither proven safe nor unsafe during pregnancy, many doctors are still freely prescribing these and other drugs without looking closely at other safer, more natural alternatives," says Isaac Eliaz, MD, founder of The Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Sebastopol, CA, noting that natural antidepressants could also be effective.
Some doctors are also worried about giving an unprecedented level of young children pharmaceutical drugs for mental health problems. "The number one issue here is the overprescription of psychiatric drugs, particularly among children and teens," says Dr. Eliaz. "Children as young as 2 and 3 years old are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, and depression, and medicated accordingly. Giving children powerful pharmaceutical drugs with a long list of harmful-and often unknown-side effects is something that needs to be examined very carefully."
There are many alternatives to psychiatric drugs that can be far safer than prescription meds. Dr. Eliaz says the best way to heal mental and emotional imbalances is to improve nutrition and make lifestyle changes.
Here's what he recommends:
"Incorporating these habits will not only help with immediate concerns, but they will also set the foundation for lifelong wellness and vitality," explains Dr. Eliaz. "If you are an adult struggling with these issues, the same recommendations can make a dramatic difference."
Many chronic diseases, such as arthritis and autoimmune diseases, are rooted in inflammation. When inflammation is left unchecked, a dangerous, degenerative process occurs, which can contribute to arthritis, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and other conditions. "Inflammation can be caused by a multitude of other health problems, including poor circulation, hyperviscosity of the blood, digestive issues, and others," explains Dr. Eliaz. "However, prescription anti-inflammation drugs never address any of these root causes or manifestations. Instead, they simply mask the symptoms while at the same time limiting the body's natural repair process."
Here's how to get a grip on inflammation:
If your doctor suggests putting you on statins, which are known to cause muscle pain and other unpleasant side effects, discuss alternative options, including lifestyle changes like stress management and spending time in nature. Dr. Eliaz also suggests regular exercise, a whole foods diet, and supplementation with magnesium, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), hawthorn, and other circulation-boosting compounds. He also uses modified citrus pectin because it binds to and blocks harmful excess galectin-3 molecules, which are biomarkers for cardiovascular disease. This nutrient, which also reduces inflammation and detoxifies, is also used for integrative cancer treatment, and the American Cancer Society notes side effects rarely occur when used as directed.
A 2008 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine also found that high-quality red yeast rice lowered bad cholesterol levels without the painful side effects of statins.
Natural allergy remedies could help you breathe easier without all the woozy side effects associated with some allergy drugs. For nonpharmaceutical allergy relief, try using a Neti pot, which uses a saline rinse to soothe inflamed sinuses, washing pollen away. Food is also your friend in your fight against allergies. Foods like citrus fruits, kale, and broccoli provide a rush of anti-allergy nutrients and compounds to keep you breathing easily.
For more alternative allergy ideas, check out Soothe allergies: 10 Food and herb fixes for allergy relief.