Limiting Side EffectsFebruary 13, 2012 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Health care consumers have greater access to information about drug safety than ever before. A recent edition of the Wall Street Journal illustrates this reality in a piece entitled, “Searching for Side Effects”. A few highlights from the article reveal that medications used to treat diseases including arthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis are associated with hundreds of thousands of adverse reactions. Point taken. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be hazardous to your health. But, what in the world are you supposed to do if you present symptoms that seem to require a pharmacological intervention? I suggest seeking out evidence-based alternatives and/or complementary therapies as the first step.
In “Searching for Side Effects”, it describes how two popular drugs (Enbrel and Humira) that treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are responsible for over 150,000 documented adverse reactions alone. Fortunately, there are other therapeutic modalities worth considering. A study appearing in the August 2011 issue of The Israel Medical Association Journal reports that combining pomegranate extract with conventional RA care reduces disease activity, oxidative stress and supports cardiovascular health in this at-risk population. Another recent trial conducted in Germany informs that dietary supplements such as fish oil and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) also safely lower inflammation in those living with rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Chantix, a medication that supports smoking cessation, is responsible for over 47,000 reported side effects. Practicing mindfulness and/or yoga can also help “kick the habit” – the difference being that the two mind-body approaches confer numerous “side benefits”, including “reduced anxiety and improvements in perceived health and well-being”. Did I mention that they’re both exceedingly safe as well?
This same pattern holds true for medications used to manage multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease. MS patients are frequently prescribed the drugs Avonex and Tysabri, which have been linked to more than 77,000 adverse effect reports. Increased fatigue and risk of falling top the list. Once again, a prescription isn’t the only option. A strong body of evidence is building with respect to the use of hydrotherapy or water-based exercise for MS patients. Thus far, some benefits that have been recorded include a decline in fatigue, pain and spasms and improvements in autonomy, mood and physical performance (balance, gait and grip strength).
If none of the previously mentioned conditions or medications apply to you or your loved ones, please take note of the following: Drugs used to treat other prevalent diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis are also being carefully scrutinized for safety concerns. For instance, many type-2 diabetics use a medication known as Byetta. In an odd turn of events, the most common complaint about the drug is an increase in blood sugar. Forteo, an anti-osteoporotic agent, has been associated with a higher risk of falls. This is the last thing someone with brittle bones needs! On the other hand, effective and safer remedies for both diseases are available and backed by current scientific studies. Two cases in point: diabetics can use fish oil and Vitamin C to lower fasting and long term blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides; women concerned about osteopenia and osteoporosis can strengthen their bones by using a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids, a purified soy extract and Vitamins D3 and K1.
None of this is to say that all natural remedies are always safe and that drugs are never appropriate. In fact, adverse reactions to holistic treatments do occur and are probably underreported in some instances. My point is simply that you inquire about and seek out the safest possible treatment options currently available. This will likely require that you broach this topic of alternative and complementary medicine with your physicians and pharmacists and then do some research on your own. The added effort may just pay off in a more positive healing experience that limits side effects to an absolute minimum.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Consumption of Pomegranate Decreases Serum Oxidative Stress and … (link)
Study 2 – Incorporation of N-3 PUFA and Linolenic Acid in Blood Lipids and … (link)
Study 3 – Mindful Attention Reduces Neural and Self-Reported Cue-Induced … (link)
Study 4 – Yoga as a Complementary Treatment for Smoking Cessation in Women … (link)
Study 5 – Hydrotherapy for the Treatment of Pain in People w/ Multiple Sclerosis … (link)
Study 6 – Community-Based Group Aquatic Program for Individuals with Multiple … (link)
Study 7 – Effects of Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Vitamin C on Glycemic Indices … (link)
Study 8 – Effect of a Combination of Genistein, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and … (link)
Study 9 – Adverse Drug Reactions in a Complementary Medicine Hospital … (link)
Study 10 – Complementary Medicine and Safety: A Systematic Investigation of … (link)
Dietary Supplements Can Improve Bone Mineral Density (BMD)
Source: Eur J Nutr. 2012 Feb 3. (link)
Tags: Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Smoking
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Diabetes