Does Alternative Medicine Work?
As the song says, “I don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like me.” Or maybe they don’t, because it seems to me that most pharmaceutical medications I’ve taken have either tried to drive me crazy or kill me.
All medications and supplements have potential adverse effects, some more so than others. The effect and severity thereof are dependent on the body chemistry of the person ingesting the substance. There are various categories of negative reactions to medications and other supplements.
These are categorized as follows by the FDA:
Type A: Augmented pharmacologic effects – dose dependent and predictable
Type B: Bizarre effects (or idiosyncratic) – dose independent and unpredictable
Type C: Chronic effects
Type D: Delayed effects
Type E: End-of-treatment effects
Type F: Failure of therapy
With certain drugs, it takes far less than the normal dosage for there to be an effect on my system. At one point the doctor prescribed propranolol to me for high blood pressure, which turned out to be caused by Synthroid.
The prescribed dose for the Propranolol was 80 mg a day, but I actually ended up breaking the tablet in half, and then in quarters, and was still experiencing negative effects such as respiratory distress, bradycardia (40 bpm) and sedation. I had to discontinue use of both Synthroid and Propranolol.
Sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines tend to have a rebound effect wherein the symptoms of anxiety for which they were prescribed return at a higher level than before I took the medication.
Antidepressants cause me to go into a manic state. As a person with Bipolar type II, I normally experience hypomania rather than full mania, so this is certainly not an improvement.
Prescription pain killers tend to turn me into a zombie, which may not be particularly surprising. However, some of them, such as Demerol, also cause respiratory distress. Others cause me to hallucinate. Not fun hallucinations either.
Bats with 15 foot wing spans, red eyes, and fangs dripping blood hallucinations. The only drug I ever thought I had a potential to get addicted to was IV morphine, and given the difficulty of starting an IV in my deep, tough veins, this is pretty unlikely.
These difficulties with medications tend to make health care providers upset with me. They don’t like to hear that a person can’t take the drugs that the pharmaceutical companies are telling them to prescribe.
I’ve heard everything from “it doesn’t do that!” to “stay on it anyway” when reporting adverse reactions to medications.
Well, either “it does do that” or the bat with the 15 foot wing span and the bloody fangs and red eyes was real. And no, I am not going to stay on Zoloft when it is not turning me into a bouncy happy face but is instead making me literally feel like my brain is trying to tear its way out of my forehead. Thus, receiving little or no help from the mainstream medical community for my concerns, I turned to alternative medicine.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004, I researched the available medications for treating the condition. Quite frankly, the adverse effects of most of them sounded like a pretty bad trade-off. Lithium sounded like the only real possibility. Lithium Carbonate is the formulation that is generally prescribed, however, I discovered that there was a form of Lithium that is available without prescription.
This form is Lithium Orotate. Because I had taken St. John’s Wort for many years to help me deal with my depression, I was amenable to trying Lithium Orotate, which can be ordered from the Urban Nutrition Company. Within a week of doing so, I felt more emotionally stable than I had since I began to hit puberty at the age of nine.
Although the Lithium actually caused my cycles to become more rapid and made me lose some of my creative intensity and focus, it is a trade-off that I am willing to take. My paranoia and irritability are under much better control. I do not wish to ever again punch holes in walls or go into tirades at family members. It is a source of great shame and sorrow to me that I ever behaved in this fashion. I will not risk doing it again.
After the Prorpanolol fiasco, I also discovered a natural supplement blend called Pressur-Lo, which is made with ingredients that tend to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. This product is a blend of essential vitamins and minerals plus ingredients such as Garlic Bulb Powder
Concentrate, Hawthorn Berry Powder Extract, Horsetail Leaf Powder, Juniper Berry Powder, Valerian Root Powder, Cayenne Fruit Powder, Beta-Sitosterol Comple, Rutin, and Betaine Hydrochloride. I also traded St. John’s Wort for 5-HTP, because St. John’s Wort can elevate the blood pressure in some people. My blood pressure readings have actually dropped from average 130/88 to an average of 124/82.
For my anxiety concerns, I utilize a naturopathic/homeopathic supplement called simply Nerve Blend, which is made by Solaray. It contains Skullcap, Chamomile flowers, Blessed Thistle, Valerian root, Passion Flower , Wood Betony , Ginger root, and Hops. I take this product on a daily basis.
For acute anxiety, I now turn to Kava Kava and Rescue Remedy. Kava has a calming effect similar to Diazepam (Valium) and does have a sedative quality, but it does not have the rebound potential of benzodiazepines. The effects simply wear off after a time. People with liver disease SHOULD NOT TAKE KAVA KAVA.
Rescue Remedy is a blend of Bach Flower Remedies known for their calming properties. For me, it begins to work almost instantly. Adverse reactions to Rescue Remedy are unlikely, however, persons who have experienced difficulty with alcohol addiction should not utilize this product, because the formula does contain alcohol.
For sleep problems, I recently began using Sleep Support, a supplement formulated by Dr. Andrew Weil, which contains melatonin, 5-HTP, lemon balm, and Valerian root.
This is a new product for me, but I want to give it a good try because I am reluctant to try any of the prescription sleep aids. Reading about their potential adverse effects made me fear for my safety.
Many can cause respiratory depression and even apnea. My 19 year old son still lives with me on and off throughout the year, but much of the time I am alone, and the potential for breathing cessation does not exactly inspire confidence.
I prefer to use a less powerful concoction to start with and see if it can help me regulate my very troubled sleep patterns. I have had insomnia all my life, and doing night shift work for many years has not helped matters.
For digestive regularity as well as to keep my bones strong, I order a multi-mineral supplement from Puritan’s Pride. The magnesium in the supplement (500 mg) is enough to stave off constipation without resorting to methods such as chemical laxatives, which can cause their own set of problems, such as dependency. Magnesium works with the body and is a necessary nutrient. While products such as Senna are natural, I find them to be too harsh.
Without being unnecessarily graphic, let it suffice to say that sitting on the toilet doubled over in agony with sweat pouring from the brow for two hours is not a pleasant way to spend an evening. For some people, simply including yogurt in their diet is enough to stave off constipation. I know individuals who swear that Activia really does work wonders when it comes to digestive regularity.
I am somewhat lactose intolerant, however, and for some reason had an unexpected adverse reaction to Activia. My lips and tongue went numb after eating it and my sinuses filled up.
This is not my normal reaction to dairy products, so I am uncertain why I had this problem. I also had to discontinue drinking Ovaltine (which I was putting in soy milk) for similar reasons.
However, I can eat small amounts of certain brands of yogurt. So if you do not have adverse reactions to dairy products, yogurt may be worth including in your diet. Otherwise, there are many varieties of encapsulated probiotics available for digestive tract health.
Alternative or naturopathic medicine has been far more helpful in my case than standard Western medicine. However, I am not obsessive about using naturopathy exclusively. I will use antibiotics in the case of certain infections such as urinary tract infections or bacterial pneumonia.
I will use antiviral medications if I am stricken with the flu. I feel that immunizations are important and have helped control certain diseases so that the majority of people in developed countries do not have to suffer from these afflictions.
And where minor surgery which would not require general anesthetic is needed, I will not only accept but will ask for a sedative. However, in my daily life, if there is a natural formulation that will work for me, I will choose it over prescription medications every time.
I prefer medicine that works with my body rather than that which makes me feel like its purpose is to either kill me either outright or indirectly by making me jump off a cliff to escape from its unpleasant adverse effects.
To sum it up, my disagreement with modern medical practice is that rather than starting with the mildest treatment possible for a given situation, they prescribe extremely powerful medications from the get-go.
While this might be the best procedure in extreme cases, in most situations, it is analogous to the Monty Python sketch where the big-game hunter uses high-powered weapons to kill a mosquito and a machete to cut off its wings for a trophy. There is no need to bring out the big guns when a simple swat with the hand will do.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is anecdotal in nature. I am not a doctor, nor am I an affiliate or employee of any of the companies mentioned in this editorial. Do not attempt to diagnose or treat any health condition without seeking the advice of a medical professional.