Every day on TV, we are bombarded with advertisements urging us to purchase numerous prescription and over-the-counter drugs that will cure everything that ails us (and even cure diseases and conditions unknown or non-existent prior to drug company marketing efforts).
Do these medications really work?
Do they cause more harm than good to our well-being?
Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
Are there some bothersome conditions that should be tolerated and accepted rather than treated with medications?
The number of medication-related injuries and deaths in the U.S. are estimated at over 1.5 million per year, making medications one of the leading causes of death according to a 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Dr. Leo Galland, M.D., a practicing physician and noted medical author, says that not all medications are created equal and that many have serious side effects that the manufacturers failed to adequately disclose to the FDA prior to approving them for marketing.
Dr. Galland believes that a number of common medications can be hazardous to your health. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen (also known as Aleve), cause a number of serious injuries and deaths each year. Dr. Galland’s studies have found that these drugs relieve pain and inflammation by blocking an enzyme called cyclo-oxygenase (COX), but at what cost?
“Although COX activity contributes to pain and inflammation, this enzyme also performs important functions such as protecting the stomach from the corrosive effects of its own acid, regulating circulation of blood to the kidneys, and modulating the activity of the immune system,” says Dr. Galland. “Almost all drugs today are intended to act like biochemical strait jackets which suppress cellular functions that appear to be overactive,” adds Dr. Galland. “They also interfere with the natural and healthy functions of the body. It is like throwing a wrench into a sophisticated machine in an effort to fix it.”
The net result of disturbing this delicate balance in the COX enzymes is that a number of patients suffer life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers as well as renal failure and other significant health problems as a result of ingesting these popular drugs.
The manufacturers of Vioxx sought to build a better mousetrap – a pain killer that was as effective as other popular NSAIDs without blocking Cox-1 enzymes and thereby causing bleeding issues. In doing so, however, Vioxx caused other disturbances to the COX system that rather than causing ulcers, instead caused pro-thrombotic events that led to heart attacks and strokes. “What scientists behind the creation of Vioxx failed to recognize is that all forms of the COX enzyme are important for health,” says Dr. Galland.
Many physicians are now recommending proper nutrition, which when used properly, can achieve results that drugs cannot, because nutrients are essential components of the cellular information network in our bodies.
“The regular use of Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is an excellent example of how the cells of our body use the Omega-3’s to make powerful chemicals that help to maintain normal cell function under conditions of stress,” advises Dr. Galland.
Omega-3 fats provide an alternative to drug therapy for controlling inflammation in the body, a natural process that, when excessive, can lead to cancer and disease.
Patients who change their diets and decrease their consumption of foods that interfere with the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-3 fats experience less inflammation and therefore have fewer needs for anti-inflammatory drugs. These dietary changes include reduced intake of red meats and foods that contain certain oils (including corn, sunflower, soybean, safflower or cottonseed oil). Dr. Galland recommends using olive oil or flax oil as a substitute.
“Making nutrition a cornerstone of everyone’s healthcare has been my longstanding goal and is the first step in real healthcare reform,” adds Dr. Galland. “Moving from a system based on treating symptoms to a system for achieving optimal health will enable healthcare to achieve its true potential.”
One can only hope that our healthcare system takes these maxims to heart, pardon the pun, and seeks to encourage an increase in the healthy foods placed in our grocery cart each week and a decrease in the number of pill bottles placed in our medicine cabinet.