Are you playing with your body’s chemistry?
Could you be creating a serious health problem?
Chances are if you take prescription medications, over the counter vitamins and a pain reliever now and then, the answer is YES! Americans as a whole are unaware of the billions of chemical reactions happening in their body each second and have become immune to the fact that everything which they put into their mouth impacts these reactions. Your metabolism is every chemical reaction happening within your body to maintain life. The substances we place into our mouth either promote these reactions helping to maintain life or they have the ability to cease the chemical reactions leading to a slow death.
Growing up I saw commercials constantly telling me if I have a headache, take this. If I have a backache, take this. If I have depression, take this. It seemed as if I had experienced any pain or symptom the solution was to take something to get rid of it. When we hear this repetitively, it seems normal to just take something to solve your physical and mental health problems. Although there are times when we do need a medication or supplement to help us improve our health, this programmed thought to just take something is very dangerous in many ways. Let me share with you just my personal experience with pills and how they have impacted my life.
1.The Teen Years- As a teen, my mom had to work a lot. My father was not in the picture and my step father was not a good resource for parenting. Needless to say I spent a lot of time with my friends. I originally had a great group of friends which focused on school, good grades and movie night. Through certain events, I slowly migrated towards a group of friends who had less leadership in their life and had more interest in drinking, skipping school and drug use. With my insecurities in myself and lack of quality family time, I became drawn to this environment. As I surrounded myself with people who experimented with drugs, the only one I felt safe to take were in the form of a pill. I would not do heavy drugs such as cocaine, crack or acid. I felt these were unsafe, looked trashy and had too many risks. I did feel safe to take pills. Why? They seemed harmless. Everyone took them and they were very easy to swallow. Smoking caused coughing, smelly clothes and cancer. Although I tried smoking, I always felt pills would be a much easier way to be part of the crowd without too much danger. At this time deadly pills such as OxyContin were not available or popular. Ten years later, a young girl locally who took a half of one pill died that same night in her sleep. Children who have watched their parents take these pills are also following suit and have now lost their life. I was the lucky one, but could you imagine a gifted student who graduated with honors and was most proud of state science fair, falling into the thought process of pills being safe?
2.The Diet Industry: When I first entered the fitness world, I was looking for a pill which could give me natural energy to improve my workouts and help me get through my work day. I entered a popular nutrition store and the representative recommended a product which was made from MaHuang, the herbal form of Ephedra. He said it was all natural and a great way to receive safe energy. I was excited and felt like this was a good choice. Well the bottle with a picture of a 200lb body builder on the front said to take four per serving. So the next day I took four pills and within an hour thought I was going to explode. My body was racing, my head was tingling and I could not stop. At 118lbs and 18 years old, I guess the four pills were a little much. Did anyone tell me this? No. Did the bottle warn me? No. The kid in the store said this was safe and why would I doubt him since he sells these products all the time? Needless to say anytime I took these type of pills, I felt as if I was on the speed I experimented with as a young teenager and knew these pills must not be good for me. I definitely did not have lasting energy and if anything, when they wore off, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. This experience helped me later in life working with a mentally ill client searching for weight loss. The client had went to her psychiatrist expressing symptoms of tingling in her head, a racing feeling and itching. He then gave her a prescription for anti-psychotic drugs. Her symptoms seemed closely related to what I felt when I took my energy pill. I asked the client if she had been taking weight loss pills and/or drinking energy drinks at the time the symptoms began. Sure enough she was taking 4-6 pills per day and drinking 2-4 energy drinks. No one asked her what she had changed, nor what she was taking when her symptoms appeared. Instead she was given a very powerful drug which added to her negative symptoms. Luckily I was able to attend a consult with her and her doctor. After hearing this information he felt confident he could remove the prescribed drug from her daily regimen. Simple diet changes and elimination of weight loss products cleared up the client’s problems almost immediately. What’s happening to those out there who do not have an advocate? Are they on a pill to address the symptoms of another pill? Are they becoming an addicted member of society which can not add value to their community in the workforce and does not feel valuable to themselves?
3. Pills a Safe Way to Die- This is going to sound rough and maybe unbelievable, but it’s critical we share our experiences to help save others. After years of an emotionally abusive relationship in which my boyfriend loved to make me feel lesser about myself, I felt as if I wanted to pay him back for the pain he had caused me. I had secluded myself from friends due to his possessiveness, felt too ugly to do things normal people in their twenties did and was ready to hurt him the way he had hurt me. I decided one day to take pills left over from my step father’s previous surgery. He happened to have an entire bottle of the pain reliever Darvocet in the medicine cabinet. I decided if I took the pills I could die painlessly and make my then boyfriend suffer for all the pain he caused me. Of course I didn’t want to die, but I wanted my feelings validated. No matter how bad he hurt me mentally or physically, he never seemed to let it bother him. I wanted him to feel the pain he had caused me. After taking 17 pills, I planned to go to sleep. Thank you to God (who was always watching over me, even in the times I was a total idiot) a friend showed up and came to my rescue. I told her what I had done and why. My mother then came home and called her friend which was a nurse. My mom kept me awake per instruction of her friend. They started giving me water and I began to vomit. Imagine vomiting at least 20 times in one day. I could first only handle a sip of water and then a quarter of a glass and then a full glass. After hours of vomiting and a day of rest, I finally felt like myself again. It was the stupidest thing I ever did, but something I needed to go through to see pills are not painless and that I was much more valuable than what I had felt. My mom, although scared and angry, showed me love and understanding. I had done such a good job hiding my feelings from her and others. She had no idea I ever felt this way. This was a big life lesson for all of us.
4. Pills to Cover Severe Stomach Pain- This was my third year into trying to live perfect, go to college, work at night and exercise an hour or more per day. I ate healthy, made good grades and worked hard. I thought I was doing everything right. I began to experience severe abdominal pain, bowel issues, melasma and skin rashes which mimicked lupus. My doctors told me I was stressed, I should drink water and eat salad. I was diagnosed with IBS and given a pill. The pain continued. Two colonoscopies later and continued use of Metamucil with no long term relief from symptoms. I was told my colon was moving at the rate of a 40 year old and I was only 21. Still no solutions other than take this pill and live with it. I later discovered I was eating too little on my healthy diet, over training and was creating a sluggish system with a spastic colon due to my daily choices. After changing my work out regimen, eliminating diet foods and achieving a realistic body fat, all pain and bowel issues went away. I was even able to menstruate again after a year and a half without a period. All symptoms were accounted to stress according to my Physicians, but no one could tell me how to balance this stress since I was exercising, eating what we thought was “healthy” and drinking water. I later learned through my training at the CHEK Institute how to help balance the various stressors and which factors were impacting my health. I now teach people how to assess their stressors and how to take control of their life. The pills never helped.
5. Nutrition Deficiencies– After years of doing what mainstream media told me to do, exercise, eat the right amount of calories, go, go, go- I continued to have vague symptoms such as fatigue, depression, peripheral neuropathy and dull chest aches. I approached my doctor with the symptoms. She tested my thyroid and everything showed fine on paper. Yet I had very low blood pressure, low pulse, low body temp and general fatigue. Nothing in blood work could be revealed. One day when the tingling in my arm and face took over the doctor instructed me to go to the ER. After two visits and a $5,000 bill nothing was discovered, yet my symptoms were getting worse. I finally researched vitamin deficiencies and my symptoms. I found many vitamin B deficiencies which matched my ailments. I then found a company SpectraCell Labs which could test each of my nutrient levels. This is not something generally ordered by Physicians. This is the first time I actually received answers to what was causing my symptoms. The test revealed a Vitamin B3 and Vitamin B6 deficiency, along with lower rates of CoQ10 and B12. Each of the deficiencies matched the exact symptoms I was was having for more than a year. I discovered my on the go diet of “healthier” snack foods and busy lifestyle was depleting my body of essential nutrients needed for proper metabolism, hormones, nerve health and brain function. I quickly purchased the exact vitamins I needed, made additional dietary changes and improved my symptoms within weeks.
6. Cookie Cutter Programs- Many people are being advised to take the same vitamins, the same medications, the same vaccines, the same diet plans, yet everyone is chemically in a different place. I have found even local health professionals do not understand the danger of recommending the same supplement plan to all of their clients. I have seen clients told to take vitamins designed for a vegan, when their lifestyle matches nothing of a vegan. I have seen people told to take loads of calcium pyruvate for weight loss to later lead to heart problems. Although vitamins may seem harmless and medications may seem to eliminate our symptoms, it is critical we understand we are each uniquely made with drastically different lifestyles. Taking a vitamin to hopefully help prevent disease, without knowing what your body needs, can cause more problems than prevention. Taking the same Statin drug as most people are taking without solving the underlying cause of your cholesterol issue, can cause additional issues such as joint pain, liver problems and continued disease progression. You are not an inanimate object such as a car, lawn mower or motorcycle which can be given the same fuel over and over again. You are a person working to maintain a quality of life. It is important that you assess your symptoms and then analyze what you could be doing to cause your symptoms. Once the causes are determined, you work to eliminate the ones you can and supplement specifically to your needs.
My goal of this blog is to help open a dialogue. A better understanding of how complex our body is. An understanding as to how even smart people can make poor choices and feel as if pills are painless. Although these are quick synopses of a much bigger picture, these stories are reality and a reality many innocent people are dealing with on a day to day basis. People looking for help in all the right places and mostly innocent professionals trying to offer quick solutions. These seemingly harmless prescriptions for pain relief, weight loss and better health are leading to much bigger issues within our society. Issues of drug addiction which stemmed from common back pain or an internal insecurity which went unrecognized during a 15 minute office visit. Issues of chronic vitamin deficiencies being misdiagnosed as depression, MS and Fibromyalgia. Issues of a society who looks to the pill and the doctor to cure them versus looking within at their own personal habits, insecurities and choices. Forgetting to search for ways to take ownership and improve. After hearing recently that our county is the second highest in the state with drug addicted babies being born to their drug addicted moms and overdose death on the rise, I asked myself what was it that made me think pills were harmless? What made me think I could solve my problems with a pill?
I realized these pictures were planted in my head and the notion of pills being painless was eventually just assumed. My TV told me they were a solution, Physicians prescribed them to fix my illness, the nice guy at the store told me I could have more energy and anyone I respected in my life seemed to think it was good to take the vitamins their friend told them to and to just pop an Advil when you felt a headache coming on. These are pictures planted in our mind. Pictures of approval, of something not so bad to do.
When you cut yourself, you see blood and you feel pain. If you burn yourself, there is an immediate response. Innocently, as a society, we have failed to realize the tiny wounds which are being placed within our body each time we take a pill which is not intended for us. Whether it’s a pill , a drink or a special meal, if we are ingesting fuel which was not designed to improve the rate of cell renewal in our body, we are slowly creating pain. Vague symptoms which will appear rapidly or over time without us knowing we are creating the problem. In order to change the pill addiction problems in our community we must work together to recommend medications responsibly. We must educate on the complexity of the human body and how valuable we each are. We must understand most of us are not chemist and can not safely play around with medications no matter how harmless they seem. We must start to think about what may be causing our symptoms versus finding ways to cover them up. As Physicians, as friends, parents and educators, we must lead by example. We must show respect to the power of medicine, good and bad. We must try to take care of ourselves through good food, good thoughts and good rest. We must not just assume we can abuse our bodies and burn the candle at both ends without a consequence. We should work to heal ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally reaching out for resources. And once we have covered our part, then if still needed, we shall utilize the correct supplements and medication to help maintain our quality of life. As others start to see the respect and value we place on our body’s and our life, they will know they can turn to us for assistance versus medicating themselves into a never ending road of unhappiness and addiction.