Today in holistic nutrition school we talked about, dun dun dun, The Big PH. Not pH as in alkalinity, which is grand and we actually did cover a bit of that topic too. I’m talking about the big, scary world of pharmaceuticals. No offense to any ‘ceutical lovers, but believe me, I use the word scary with good reason.
My grandfather, who I affectionately called Grandpappy, was a 6’5″ retired US Army CSM. Never even took an ibuprofen in his life. Healthy as a horse (had actually been deemed as much by the physician upon his last visit, he’d only just turned 70 and was told he was “in better health than most people in their 50’s!”). Well, in 2008 my uncle had a stroke, brought on by poor diet and a high stress career. He was in critical care in the hospital in Chicago and the emotional toll of seeing his son in such a condition caused Grandpappy a great deal of traumatic stress. He developed shingles as a result of the stress and went on base to see the doctor. As my uncle stabilized, Grandpappy’s shingles worsened. Long story short, he was prescribed a pain patch that essentially provided an IV drip of pain meds, comparable to percocet.
Now, mind you, this man had no prior history of ever being prescribed any narcotic. Which, in the very fine print of this prescription drug, was plainly listed. But how many of us pour over the fine print of our own prescriptions? Not many. We trust our doctors. We trust the pharmacist. But the truth is these people are just that – people. They’re really just at work, doing their job, most of them pushing the Big PH as they’re likely trained to do.
So Grandpappy went home with this pain patch on a Friday. He never woke up Saturday morning.
Evidently another warning of this particular drug was for one’s body temperature not to exceed a certain level. Too high heat would cause the patch to simply flood the system with the drug.
What the shitake, right?
Well that’s exactly what it did. Since it’s been five years, I’m able to talk about this far more matter of fact-ly than I used to be able to tolerate. I’m less shocked and devastated and more angry. I have made peace with the doctor (who was met Monday morning not by Grandpappy, his expected scheduled patient, but by three red-eyed, fiery mad German women and I swear to you I thought he was going to drop right there). He actually was a civilian doctor practicing through the Army hospital, so I believe he lost his license as a result of malpractice. I digress…
I’ve made peace with the tragically unfair circumstances. It was heartbreaking to lose my Grandpappy, but what hurt me more than anything was seeing the horror my mom had to endure. She picked the whole family up and carried them on her back. She handled everything. The immediate duties. The funeral. The lawsuit. The fact that my Oma, eight years my Grandpappy’s senior, was now alone…in Colorado…with frankly no will to go on by herself.
That was the other most heart wrenching part. Watching my Oma sit at her kitchen table, staring at the vase of flowers my Grandpappy had bought her the day before he died, “just because.” He’d also bought her a ring “just because.” Like the Universe knew he was going to be taken from her, and wanted to give her something to warm the bone chilling experience of having him ripped so instantaneously from her life.
I’ve never looked at medicine the same again. I didn’t stop taking it right away, but in the past couple years I have reached a place of almost total distrust when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Yes, I am fully cognizant of how miraculous modern medicine has proven to be. I don’t deny that nor do I take for granted how many times it has saved the lives of myself or my loved ones. I’m immensely grateful for it! I believe deeply that naturopathic medicine works beautifully alongside allopathic medicine. I believe they go hand in hand, and that, as a society, we are greatly missing out on the homeopathic aspect of healing. Again, I digress…
I don’t know that I have a specific point, as I’m still navigating my distrust of pharmaceuticals due to my loss, but I’m certain that I’m not here to discredit what an absolute phenomenon modern medicine is. Nor am I suggesting naturopathic medicine instead of allopathic medicine. I would definitely not take a severed limb or serious infection to my acupuncturist, Ayurvedic practitioner or holistic nutrition consultant, believe you me! I would go to the ER like any sane person, where there are trained geniuses who schooled for nearly a decade to know how to treat, repair and stabilize the human body.
What I’m calling for with this piece is sensibility, after all. And I wish for us to not have to choose!
All of that aside, what I’m here to say is that I’m growing more and more concerned with the “bandaid effect” I’m witnessing when it comes to pharmaceuticals. I’m not even going to get into the dysfunctional relationship of our government and the pharmaceutical industry…it’s too messy a web of deception and I’m too uninformed a little spider to even try and dance across the slippery surface of such a web. What I will say here is what I know.
I know that most drug commercials distract viewers with entertaining skits, attractive actors, cartoons (so many cartoon drug commercials!), dramatizations and images of people morphing from sad, fat and sick in dark, gloomy rooms to happy, glowing and traipsing through grassy meadows. Meanwhile the myriad of contraindications and side effects are being muttered at warp speed in nonchalant monotone. Seriously. It all happens so fast and then it’s over and all that most people are left with are the images of happy people and/or cartoons and the drug brand. No worries that you might suffer stroke, internal bleeding, anal leakage or death, to name a few.
In terms of the “bandaid effect,” I fear many doctors simply bandage up conditions that ought to be treated from the inside out. Conditions that ought to be viewed, heard, understood and treated holistically.
There are tons of ailments for which there are a plethora of both prescription and OTC medications at the ready, when a simple dietary, lifestyle or emotional shift is all that needs to occur. In Ayurveda we believe digestion rules our health. This is essentially embraced by the naturopathic community as well, from what I can tell thus far. In terms of our society, that sounds like woo woo hocus pocus. But it’s not! It makes sense. We are not what we eat (thank goodness or many Americans would be walking around as sleeves of supersized fries!); we are what we can digest and assimilate.
Think about that now in relation to modern society; does that hold true? Not at all. Take note of how many commercials you see for antacids and the like. Take this and you can still eat your favorite foods! Insert shots of happy (usually slim and glowing with health, mind you!) people eating ice cream, chinese food and pizza. Happily gas and bloating free.
They are selling us unreality!
The depression medication that’s so amply prescribed, the stuff that sends the pretty woman in the commercial from hunched, frumpy and melancholy in a poorly lit, gloomy window somewhere, to the coffee shop, with friends, seemingly shampooed and fresh out of yoga, clutching a tea and tossing her freshly shampooed head back in peals of laughter.
It’s. Not. Real.
First of all, they’re actors. Second of all, as the scene unfolds, the side effects are being spit out at auctioneer speed while we ogle the quickness with which she morphed into a balanced state, or sit in horror saying that’s me. or simply taking it all in mindlessly (as we so often tend to do, exhausted from our days, zoning out at the tube…don’t lie, I see you, I’ve done it too).
Most importantly, though (because I don’t want this to be me bashing drug companies – again, I am grateful for the INNUMERABLE TALENTED, BEAUTIFUL, INTELLIGENT, CAPABLE, SUCCESSFUL human beings who’ve been helped by prescription medications like anti-depressants…I admire a crapload of people who have been treated successfully by antidepressants, like Jennifer Pasiloff, who’s written in-depth about her experience), is that for many (read many, not all) folks out there just need a damn hug!
Lots and lots of people being put on meds just need yoga, a friend, therapy…loads of people taking medications to alter their digestion could possibly be healed by simple shifts like consuming more fruits and vegetables, eliminating or adding nutrients to their diet, drinking more water…masses of people taking OTC pain killers just need body work! Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga…
There are very few healthcare providers that offer full coverage of these healing treatments. Massage, yoga, nutrition consulting, therapy, acupressure/acupuncture, chiropractic, group wellness. These practices HEAL! They create a vibration in the body that so often negates the need for any little pill.
I’m moving on, at the risk of falling into that bubbling vat that is that aforementioned dysfunctional relationship I vowed to dance around…
The point is we must seek these healers out on our own, and we must pay out of our own pocket. We must inspire ourselves, and we must build our own fortress of holistic wellness supporters. You have me. You have MindBodyGreen. You have advocates like Kris Carr, Dr. Lissa Rankin, Jess Ainscough and Dr. Frank Lipman. You have your own community, social media and the internet at your disposal. Reach out. Build a network. Educate yourself. Integrative medicine is truly the medicine of the future in that it is essential if we wish to thrive as human beings. It must dance, hold hands and affably co-mingle with its sister, allopathic medicine. The two must be viewed as equally sacred and genius.
Before allopathic medicine, there was only homeopathy. Shamans, healers, nurses, witch doctors. Herbs. Healing foods. Tinctures. Broths, stews and teas. Rituals, prayer, song. So much was used in the healing and treatment process that’s been lost since the rise of modern medicine. Truly since the early 1900’s. We must reclaim the validity of holistic healing. Because, remember: our minds have the power to heal our bodies. The placebo effect is powerful, just ask the brilliant Lissa Rankin. Also read her great piece on “not needing to choose a camp” which I LOVE (yes, I joined her in Switzerland).
The bottom line is this: in my perfect world, naturopathic medicine and allopathic medicine play nicely. They’re a happy set of siblings. They work together, sun and moon, the push and pull, building one another and up and providing reinforcement where the other falls short. That’s how it should be, right? Doesn’t that just make sense!?
So let your voice be heard. Vote with your dollar. Demand healthcare coverage for holistic treatments. Question your doctor about prescriptions. Listen to your body’s signs, listen to what it’s asking for and provide it with holistic treatment. Rather than just popping an ibuprofen, book a massage (one massage might cost a few pennies but it certainly will feel a lot nicer, prove more beneficial for your body longterm, and financially save you from wasting money for the rest of your life medicating a chronic issue that can possibly be remedied by a massage therapist). If you’re feeling bloated and gassy, investigate your diet. Reach out to a nutrition consultant for guidance. In any case, drink more water! Seek out teas, herbs and spices to fortify your digestion. Do your reading. If you’re stressed, take some downtime! Pencil in some “you time” (I mean it, literally program it into your smart phone or write it – in pen – in your planner). Take an epsom salt bath with lavender oil. Go to bed earlier! Get eight full hours of sleep! I could go on and on. These all add up, but are looked at as “luxuries.”
Let me tell you something that I’d love for you to write down…
YOUR HEALTH IS NOT A LUXURY. YOUR WELLNESS IS NOT A LUXURY. YOUR LONGEVITY IS NOT A LUXURY. IT’S YOUR BIRTHRIGHT.
So often lifestyle, diet and emotional shifts can negate the need for discomfort that’s just lived with, tolerated. For medication and strain that just becomes the norm, and that takes a heavy toll on the body with time. Many people just grow comfortable with and accustomed to the bandaids and don’t want to do the work. Because that’s what it is…work. It’s not easy. I never said it was. It’s difficult but it doesn’t bandaid the problem, it gets inside and fixes it. That still sounds like too big a challenge for some. That’s fine; but know there’s another way. There’s a straighter path. A path without the side effects, warning labels and risks.
There’s a time and a place for medication. But we mustn’t lose touch with our body’s innate healing capacity and the simple tools we can provide it to bolster that miraculous ability.
To your wellness, abundance and holistic healing, my darling lovebursts…