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Top 5 Medications You Shouldn’t Take Without Trying the Natural Alternative First November 18, 2015

Posted by Dreamhealer in Healing, Medication, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine, Supplements.
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2 comments

Natural supplements, or nutraceuticals, have been given a bad rap lately – which, in some cases, has been absolutely warranted. But natural formulas that actually contain what they claim to contain, and that are formulated to have maximal efficacy can be equal to their pharmaceutical counterparts – but without the laundry list of side effects.

1. Statins (the class of drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol) accounted for 3.8% of all money spent on prescription drugs in Canada in 2013. High cholesterol is blamed for heart attacks and strokes via formation of arterial plaques. But the real culprit is inflammation, without which the plaques wouldn’t form in the first place. Bottom line – you can lower cholesterol all you want, but as long as there is inflammation present, plaques can still form.

Some common side effects of statins: muscle pain, cognitive impairment, sexual dysfunction, and increased risk of cancer and diabetes.
Nutraceutricals: Omega-3 fatty acids (best sourced from wild-caught fish oils) and curcumin (the active component in turmeric) are two excellent supplements to lower inflammation. Garlic extracts have been proven to improve cholesterol levels. As well, red rice yeast extract is the natural compound statins were derived from, and works in a similar manner – however, it has been suggested that because of this, some of the same side effects may be seen.

2. Antacids 5 million Canadians suffer from heartburn symptoms weekly. Prescriptions for the acid-blocking drugs PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) accounted for $24 million in BC alone in 2013. Risks of taking these mostly involve nutrient deficiencies from poor absorption DUE TO LOW STOMACH ACID (see the problem here?). Examples include bone fractures from poor calcium absorption or anemia from decreased levels of B12 or iron. B12 deficiency can also cause dementia and neurological damage. There has also been a correlation shown between PPI use and C. difficile infection, which causes life-threatening diarrhea.

Nutraceuticals: long story short, most people don’t have too much stomach acid. The problem is the acid they have is getting into the wrong place (the lower esophagus) where it burns. This can be from the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach not closing properly, either from poor tone or insufficient stomach acid, which is the signal for the sphincter to close. Limonene (an extract from citrus peel) helps strengthen this muscle and promotes movement of food downward to the stomach. DGL (an extract from licorice root) stimulates mucus production in the stomach, which acts to coat and protect the sensitive lining of the esophagus.

3. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most common class of anti-depressant drugs. One in twelve Canadians will experience major depression in their lifetime, but it’s still one of the most poorly understood conditions. Standard treatment protocols typically target neurotransmitter activity (most commonly serotonin). However, new research indicates the underlying cause may actually be inflammation. Either way, natural medicine has you covered.

Nutraceuticals – 5-HTP is used to make serotonin, with the help of vitamin B6. The herb St. John’s Wort has been studied extensively and appears to work in the same way as SSRIs. Both 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort have shown similar efficacy to SSRIs when given for mild to moderate depression. And as I mentioned earlier, omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin decrease inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.

Side effects of SSRIs include sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and worsened/chronic depression. St. John’s Wort also has a side effect which should be considered if taking other medications – it affects liver function, which can result in either higher or lower blood medication levels.

4. Anti-hypertensives Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) affects 6 million Canadians, and is responsible for approximately 13% of all deaths. Various classes of anti-hypertensives include diuretics, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). Diuretics increase urine output, which can negatively affect sodium and potassium levels, which can cause muscle cramps. ACEIs and ARBs may both cause a chronic dry cough. All anti-hypertensives can cause dizziness, headache and low blood pressure.
Nutraceuticals – CoQ10, magnesium, garlic extracts, omega-3 fatty acids, L-arginine and vitamin C have all been shown to lower high blood pressure by various means. Dandelion leaf is an effective diuretic that doesn’t lower potassium levels.

5. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs most often prescribed for anxiety disorders and insomnia. They work by binding to receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that calms activity of the nervous system. Interestingly, this is the same mechanism by which alcohol acts in the brain. One obvious effect of benzodiazepines is sedation – great when the treatment target is insomnia. Not so great when you just want to decrease your anxiety but still function. Other side effects include dizziness, loss of balance, and even cognitive impairment at higher doses. They also have a significant risk of developing physical or psychological dependence and rebound anxiety when discontinued.
Nutraceuticals – you can take GABA itself (but there’s mixed evidence on whether or not it actually gets into the brain), or herbs such as passionflower (same mechanism of action as benzodiazepines), valerian, chamomile, kava – the list goes on.

So now you think you’re ready to ditch all your pharmaceuticals and go natural? Not so fast – the examples used above are by no means the only supplements that have been used effectively for these conditions. And equally as important are diet, exercise, sleep habits, relaxation techniques and other lifestyle factors. The next step – sit down with a naturopathic doctor and work together to develop a personalized approach that takes all your health concerns into consideration.
Written by: Dr. Reuben Dinsmore BScH, ND

Statin Benefits Questioned for Heart Disease Prevention June 8, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, exercise, Government, Healing, Health, Healthcare, Heart, Medication.
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2 comments

adam mcleod, dreamhealer

Cholesterol-lowering statins are heavily promoted for heart patients but research is calling into question their use as a preventive medicine.

Statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor) are among the widely used prescription drugs.

Since the drugs were first marketed 30 years ago in the U.S. for preventing a second heart attack or stroke in those who’ve already had one, there’s been a shift toward prescribing statins for otherwise healthy people in Canada and the U.S.

“These are patients who really haven’t had an event, a cardiovascular event, but they seem to be at high risk,” said pharmacy Prof. Muhammad Mamdani, who works at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“You also get populations where people seem to be relatively healthy, their cholesterol levels aren’t that high, but for whatever reason, they are placed on a statin. That’s a patient population that is a lot more debatable and some practices may not be warranted.”

The medical community is debating the pros and cons of using statins for prevention as more independent research comes out on side-effects. This week, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested statins may be associated with an increase in musculoskeletal conditions and pain, especially in physically active individuals.

“If you look at all the studies that have ever been done with statins for primary prevention, so for people who have never had a heart attack or a stroke, if you give a statin to a patient for about five years we can reduce the chance of a person having a heart attack or a stroke by about one per cent,” said James McCormack, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of British Columbia.

Shifting focus from cholesterol numbers

Other potential side-effects include risk of Type 2 diabetes, reversible muscle damage and short-term kidney damage.

In Canada, as in the U.S., the majority of statin prescriptions go to primary prevention patients, not people with established heart disease, said Dr. Lee Green, a professor and chair of the department of family medicine at the University of Alberta who has surveyed doctors on their prescribing.

“It seems we need to retrain physicians, and the public, to focus on actual risks, not on a convenient number like cholesterol level,” Green said in an email.

In March, epidemiologist Colin Dormuth, an assistant professor in the department of anesthesiology, pharmacology and therapeutics at the University of British Columbia, looked at the use of high potency statins and rates of admission for acute kidney injury.

“There are a lot of patients out there taking the drugs right now who don’t have a history of heart disease who are hoping to prevent heart disease and in all likelihood will derive absolutely no benefit,” Dormuth said.

In medical circles, discussions continue. A review published in January by British researchers who combed through trials sponsored by drug companies concluded that “statins are likely to be cost-effective in primary prevention.”

People like Jim Matheson, 62, of Toronto, are left to decide with their doctor.

“Within five years he told me that I had a 20 per cent chance of either having a stroke or a heart attack,” Matheson recalled. “He offered me the pill but I didn’t want to take it.”

Instead, Matheson opted to eat healthier foods and exercise more. His brother on the other hand decided to go on statins.

“I have sent him, probably for every article he has sent me on how good they are I have sent him 20 that says how bad they are. We’re still having the dialogue,” Matheson said.

“We’ll see who lasts longer,” he quipped.

Article retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/06/05/statins-cholesterol-heart-prevention.html

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