Monday, February 14, 2011

Do Pills Work?

This was the question posed to me just last week. The question came to me from my 14 year old son, Drew. It came in response to him communicating with someone who takes pills (over the counter and prescription) on a regular basis for multiple nagging health issues, from colds, to allergies and more, and who seems to be sick enough to miss school on a regular basis. It was one of those moments that we often run into as parents that we should consider teachable moments. I saw it as an opportunity to help him learn how to become healthy naturally, and still see that sometimes medications are necessary.

I am sure my son would have enjoyed a brief “yes” or “no” answer, but unfortunately this question doesn’t always have such an answer. And unfortunately for him, he was blessed with a father that can be verbose, and loves to present analogies to bring home a point. But, fortunately for him, we had only a few brief minutes as he asked this question while we were in line to drop him off at school!

Let me say this. Sometimes the only thing one can do to improve one’s health is to take a drug. If you’ve got an infection so bad that your immune system can’t handle it, sometimes the help of an antibiotic may be needed. That being said, I heard noted wellness guru Dr. Andrew Weil comment on this situation. His thought process is that the pill doesn’t actually heal the person, but it keeps the “bug” or infection at bay long enough to allow the immune system to catch up and knock out the invading bacteria. This makes a lot of sense considering the immune system doesn’t just shut down because we take an antibiotic, but rather the antibiotic provides an assist to our own innate intelligence that is fighting off the invader.
So in that sense, it could be said that pills do work. They work to assist us in becoming healthy again. But that still doesn’t give us reason to have the mentality that I see all too regularly, the mindset that says “for every ill, there is a pill” and that pills are the solution to health. Think of it: How could putting a foreign substance (drugs) in our body, actually make us healthier? In actuality, the ONLY way to truly become healthier is to eat better, move better, think better and rest better. More on that later.

But back to the question at hand, I think what my son actually meant was “Are pills necessary?” The answer is sometimes yes. I’ve used the following analogy before, but it bears repeating and it is what I told my son that morning. If your house is on fire, you have to call the fire department. They come in with their two tools, axes and hoses. They spray down your house, chop holes in parts of your home, all for the sake of saving your house and putting out the fire. This is analogous to taking medications, or having surgery when your body has a health crisis (ie, your “house” is on fire). It’s something that has to be done, but it does have its side effects. However, after the fire department puts out the fire in your house, and you need to rebuild your house, you don’t call them back out to help you. Hoses and axes won’t rebuild your home. Similarly, with your body, after the crisis is over, drugs and surgery won’t help you rebuild your body into a healthy “house”. Instead, it is time to contact a “re-modeler” to help you rebuild your body and restore it to its optimum capacity. That’s where our office excels as we teach people exactly how to make the changes necessary in eating, moving, thinking and resting well.

So in essence, what I am saying is, yes pills can help in crisis times. But we cannot rely on those same things if we want to get truly healthy. This doesn’t mean one should automatically drop their medications and start on a path to eating, moving, thinking and resting well, but relying ONLY on medications would not put you on that path. Talk to your health care professional about how to go about pursuing a wellness oriented lifestyle.

Remember our wellness mantra: To BE well, we must EAT well, MOVE well, THINK well and REST well. I know it’s trite sounding, but it is so innately true. If I could play a game with you right now I’d ask you to name a disease process. After you name it I ask you if it would be managed better, or potentially totally eradicated by following our wellness mantra. The answer is most likely “yes” for any illness we name off. It really is the pathway to wellness, and it really is that simple, not always easy, but simple.

Until next time...Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

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