In this episode, you will learn about the consequences of common medications. Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Consequences of Common Medications
Everything we do, say, think, has a consequence of some sort right? The medications we take, both over-the-counter and prescription are no different. I want you to know and understand some of the implications or consequences of common medications when long-term. Some are even consequences of common medications in the short term
There is so much information out there, I decided to break this up into 2 parts. And even in these 2 parts, we are only talking about a handful of medications and a consequence or 2 for each. I selected these based on the ones I see most often in my virtual and in-person practice. This week we are talking about NSAIDs like Advil and Aleve, Birth Control Pills, and Prednisone. Next week we will touch on Proton Pump Inhibitors and Antacids (like TUMS, Prilosec, Nexium and the like), SSRIs, and Metformin.
As a practitioner that doesn’t use medications in my practice but also take a “yes and” approach to wellness, I want to preface this information by saying: This is not meant to shame you for taking meds or even your provider for prescribing them. Medication can be a wonderful blessing in life-threatening, urgent, acute, and triage situations. Sometimes medications can even be necessary for longer-term situations, but by in large medications are taken or prescribed without full informed consent. Meaning the risks or the unintended complications and even the alternatives are either not fully understood by the patient or provider or they are never disclosed.
It may surprise you, but I actually frequently build plans around medications if getting off of them isn’t possible or priority.
In short my goal here to inform you of the consequences of these common medications, help you connect some dots, and maybe even spark a question that leads you to shift towards wellness. Let’s dive in.
Non-steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen, etc)
The very first one, you may have seen information from me about this class of medications before, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Sure you can get prescription versions of this, but by in large I am talking about the regular old over the counter painkillers. You know the kind you get at the grocery store or pharmacy.
It's kind of funny how pain is treated, especially here in the U.S. and in our healthcare system. It’s not honored like it is in other cultures. Pain is a very important signal from the body that something is not right, something needs to change. It’s a wake-up call if you will. I’m not talking about severely debilitating pain, but I am referring to a mild to moderate pain - it's a really important signal that lets us know there is an imbalance in the body.
Unfortunately, we are heavily marketed by pharmaceutical companies that pain must be stopped or never felt in the first place by taking all of these medications to help it, but at what cost?
Adding a layer of danger to these medications, really it just kills me, is that because they are over the counter, people assume that they gotta be 100% safe. People just take the max dose whenever they want, and they give it to their kids whenever there is a slight ache or pain. Sometimes
people use them on a daily basis before the pain even starts, to prevent pain.
I can’t tell you the number of people that come through my practice that will tell me “oh I garden” or “oh I workout” or “oh I play golf and I don’t want to have any aches or pains” and take Advil every morning or a couple of times a day to try and stay ahead of this potential for discomfort.
The simplest way I can explain the way this happens is that Advil and NSAIDS work is by reversing or inhibiting the action of Cox enzymes, as a result of that inhibiting action, we end up with a deficiency of something called prostaglandins in the gut. Cox enzymes produce prostaglandins, and prostaglandins are responsible for activating the cells in our body that protect the lining of the stomach and intestines. As a result of the inhibition of these Cox enzymes and ultimately prostaglandins we end up with damage to the ever-critical lining of the intestines and stomach itself.
You may even have been aware of this issue in the stomach itself, many people have heard that these medications can cause things like ulcers. We now know that these NSAIDS cause deep injury in the lining of the gut.
Many people assume that this type of damage happens after years and years of use, but we now know that this actually starts after DAYS of use, and once you cross from days of use into weeks of use you are talking about serious damage.
Often my client’s troubles, when we are digging deep and looking for a root cause, started after an injury, like a strained back, minor knee surgery, twisted ankle followed by NSAID use. In other words, their autoimmune disease, chronic illness, and sometimes even big big diagnosis, like cancer...is a consequence of common medications.
You see, the stopping or the inhibition of those cox enzymes and ultimately the prostaglandins does a great job of stopping the pain signals, it numbs the pain. However, just like cholesterol or cortisol or estrogen, pain (and the messengers that make it happen) are publically labeled as bad. In reality, all of these things necessary in the body. Even if we end up excess levels and temporarily need to use something to reduce levels of cholesterol or cortisol or estrogen, they are all needed. Prostaglandins are the same, required in the body to constantly rebuild, build up, and restore the intestinal tract which maintains the right level of the right substances going through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream and cells.
When you damage that intestinal wall with NSAIDs like Advil, or ANYTHING else (like gluten), this becomes one of the top pathways for a variety of debilitating diseases and autoimmune conditions. Generally starting out with a food sensitivity here or there, then skip up a couple of steps to full-blown arthritis.
It’s kinda funny, right? Not funny haha but funny sad that the very thing you or your loved ones may be taking for your arthritis is also quite likely causing you more arthritis. Or the thing you take for your chronic pain from your autoimmune disease is worsening your autoimmune condition or causing a secondary or even tertiary condition to develop.
Oral Birth Control Pills
These pesky things, ugh. I was on them too, for a LONG time. Until I wised up about 10 years ago, then about 8 years ago I was convinced to do an IUD with hormones, and that is a no go too. With these oral contraceptives or birth control pills, you would agree with me that they are not prescribed for short-term use. And therein lies the problem.
Here’s the kicker, this science, this information, is NOT new information,
there is a really good body of research demonstrating that we know birth control pills cause serious downstream effects and troubles. There are so many of them, so I will touch on a couple.
One problem is that oral birth control pills increase the level of copper in the blood and body. You may be thinking this isn’t a big deal because copper is a necessary mineral in the body. The caveat is copper and zinc must be in a very delicate balance in the body, both of these minerals compete for absorption in the GI tract and in the cell.
When we take birth control for extended periods of time, this increases copper which intern increases the conversion of dopamine (the happy hormone) to norepinephrine and epinephrine, and guess what that does? Increases anxiety, paranoia, restlessness, insomnia, and panic.
A female can end up with significant issues with anxiety, panic, and/or insomnia, and even further downstream high blood pressure, or a number of other issues - all from taking birth control pills. Has anyone else experienced this? I have, personally.
On top of this anxiety issue, the higher levels of copper lead to low levels of zinc...which leads to an insufficient immune system.
Much like a gameshow, at this point I get to say… ”but WAIT that’s not all…” it is also very well known that ongoing birth control use depletes vitamin D-6. Vitamin D-6 is not as popular as its cousin D-3, but it still has lots of jobs. One of them is to ensure that the byproducts of estrogens in the body are not carcinogenic. Hello, breast and uterine cancer...Mind blown, right?
Now, this isn’t to say that everyone that takes birth control pills will have the same issue, everyone is still different and has a unique path their chronic or autoimmune condition. I am just giving you the rundown of what these “harmless” drugs do in the body.
The last medication I will cover today is Prednisone. This is an immunosuppressive drug that I am particularly grateful for. I have had Prednisone administered to me in the Emergency Room to stop a life-threatening anaphylactic allergic reaction. I have also had to use it on my kiddo to stop a very aggressive autoimmune reaction. Sometimes prednisone is necessary to save a body part, a life, or just to pause the cycle when the immune system is in a hyper-alert state. That is what it is good for, address short-term, urgent, also known as acute issues.
Sadly, Prednisone is often used because conventional medicine generally believes and would have you believe that autoimmune disease isn’t improvable or reversible and that at best you will need long-term medication. Sometimes this can be the case, but not often.
In the majority of autoimmune or even other chronic disease cases, with commitment from the patient or client to make progressive lifestyle changes, autoimmune disease, can be significantly reduced, put into remission, and even reversed.
The alternative to lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation and resulting chronic disease is to chronically suppress the immune system with immunosuppression drugs, like prednisone (or low-dose chemotherapeutic drugs and the like). When you take immunosuppressive drugs, you are grinding the immune system to a halt. People,
unfortunately, die from simple things like strep and flu viruses or underlying infectious issues when they are prescribed prednisone long term for chronic illness.
This really highlights why it's so important to take a functional approach, to consider the holistic picture, and not just a singular organ system before consenting to start a particular intervention. And frankly, that goes for natural interventions as well.
I won’t harp on the subject too long - but it's like using Lemon Essential Oil in your water to detox the liver every morning. Does lemon detox the liver? Sure. But that is taking a natural remedy and applying it to a particular organ, a very conventional medical approach. It doesn’t consider the holistic and functional view. If you zoom out from the liver at the macro level - you are damaging many other organs in the body for that micro liver detox! Flip that around and apply lemon oil to the skin over the liver and you are taking a much more holistically effective route to the detox of the liver.
Medications like prednisone are necessary and even life-saving but at the least, they are overprescribed. And we have to be realistic about the consequences of these common medications. We have to understand the implications of use and overuse of these medications. I see this happening frequently as a first choice when the situation is either non-critical, chronic, and/or lifestyle hasn’t been addressed at all.
Additionally, Prednisone, after just a few days, causes breakdown in bone tissue, wrecks the adrenal glands, and fuels all sorts of other symptoms.
It is critical that we are realistic and acknowledge the intended and unintended effects of taking these medications long term. We need to be realistic and acknowledge the consequences of these common medications to understand what the future will hold with continued use.
So let’s do a quick recap.
Know that medications can be important and lifesaving - I'm not against them in acute situations, but we have to be realistic about the consequences of common medications that are used and overused frequently.
Make sure that when you are prescribed any medication, you ask:
- Is there any other option before trying medication?
- What are the intended and unintended consequences of taking this medication? (hint: all medications have side effects - so don’t take “there’s not any” as an answer)
- What is the plan to get off this medication?
This is so important and it's important to have your entire holistic basket of systems and symptoms addressed to ensure that you are addressing the root cause.
As always if you need more help? Be sure and check out AudreyChristie.com/work-with-Audrey to schedule a complimentary virtual session.
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