Recently, a 50-something year old buddy of mine was trying to get new health insurance for his wife and himself. While shopping around one of the insurance representatives asked him how many medications he and his wife were taking. When he said none the rep was surprised!So much so that she repeated the question. According to the insurance rep, it’s very rare for a person in their 50s in the United States seeking health insurance to not be taking multiple medications. This is truly sad. Our expectations as a society are upside down. I am not against medications when absolutely needed, but my goal is to keep people off them. I don’t think a 50-year-old person should have to be on medication! A few daily supplements, yes. Medications, no!
I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. I’ll take a Tylenol for a headache or an antibiotic for a real infection, but I don’t picture myself being on any chronic medication–ever! It could happen, but I don’t picture it no matter how old I get. I also try to live my life like I will never have to take medication. This is the type of shift in our thinking we all should have. If you go to a physician’s office with the expectation of getting “fixed” by a medication or vitamin supplement, you are missing the boat. You should be going to a health professional mostly for coaching, teaching, reassurance, and maybe an occasional short-term medication(s) with the intention of getting off of it.
Oddly, I am confronted with this “fix me” attitude working in an integrative or complementary medicine practice. You wouldn’t think people would have a “fix me” and “medication” mentality when seeking alternative approaches. But they do. Just like with traditional medical practices, when visiting an alternative practice the rule should be: Do not expect supplements or an alternative modality to magically “leapfrog” the need to get off your butt and move your body daily, eat whole foods, get leaner, get some sleep, deal with relationships, etc.
While supplements are inherently much safer than pharmaceuticals and ideally work to “normalize” body biochemistry, what people don’t realize in our “pill-popping” culture is that adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are one of the top ten leading causes of death in this country, at over 100,000 deaths annually (and this figure was for hospitalized patients only). How can this figure be minimized? Use pharmaceuticals correctly (of course, when absolutely needed), get off them and stay off them!
Here’s a tip: When you go to your doctor’s office always ask (especially if medication is being prescribed), “What do I have to do, change, or achieve to get off this medicine(s)?”If you don’t ask or have that mentality, it’s much easier for your health practitioner to just check off that you’re taking the medication right and not having any obvious side effects.
In a traditional doctor’s defense, they really don’t have the time to spend with patients to really look at the whole person. They have very little, if any, experience with seeing how food manipulation in a patient can really change people dramatically. Traditional doctors also are not studying as their main focus, foods and how to apply nutritional biochemistry to solve their patient’s problems. To them the solution to everything is medication because that’s who “reps” their offices and funds their educational symposiums. Sadly, the emphasis on medication is also the basis of their training. All most doctors know is the “disease care” model and how to treat acute and chronic symptoms with medication. But all these prescribed pharmaceuticals do for chronic diseases is treat the symptoms of the disease not the disease process itself. Simply put: They don’t cure!
If you do not change your habits so you don’t have to take medication, you’ll be on them (and probably more and more medications) for the rest of your life. You may even have to take more pills and run the risk of exposing yourself to more side effects — with some of them being potentially life threatening particularly as the body is subjected to varied combinations of medications. Instead why not say to your health practitioner, “Dr. __________, I want to get off these medications. How do I do it? What do I have to do with my lifestyle to get this done? What do I have to change?”It will be interesting to see what answers you get.
It is imperative to understand and visualize that the “normal” state of humans is not being sick, having to take multiple medications, and visiting doctors frequently. It’s just the opposite. I believe a key to being and staying healthy is doing things as part of your lifestyle that are fun and that help maintain your health. My brother has ridden his bicycle to work for more than 30 years. In addition, my brother likes to coach and referee soccer. As a referee he runs up and down a field for a couple of hours each game which is solid exercise. My brother also teaches wilderness photography. For “work” he takes people on beautiful scenic hikes to Yosemite. These are a few perfect examples of how you can make being healthy a fun part-time job! Of course, you can also incorporate healthy activities into your leisure time. For example, I am a swing and salsa dancer. These have become major forms of movement and aerobic exercise for me, with a little running, stair-stepping, and elliptical training thrown on top.
If you build a healthy lifestyle that you enjoy, then you will be many giant steps ahead of those whose time commitment to their health is spent in suffering and frustration. Simple health habits when part of your lifestyle, practiced daily and consistently, will provide you with incredible health in the long run. Would you rather live life to the fullest or stop doing things you love in order to go visit the doctor and spend extra money on medication, office visits, tests, and procedures that are anything but pleasant? I don’t care if your health insurance or the government pays for your visits, medications, or procedures 100 percent! It’s still not fun to spend the time and energy doing these things, not to mention not feeling well. Either way, taking care of your health is a part-time job. It’s up to you whether you want it to be fun and life-enhancing or miserable and all about taking medications that aren’t cures, inconvenience and suffering.
As a certified physician’s assistant specializing in nutrition, prevention and integrative medicine, KIRK HAMILTON maintains that if there’s one cure all for chronic disease it’s what you eat. With his emphasis on consuming more unprocessed, micronutrient dense plant-food along with simple cross-training and mind/body principles, Kirk has been instrumental in guiding his patients and clients toward the path of optimal health since 1983. He has also been a valued educator to health professionals. As the founder of Clinical Pearls Publications, Kirk provided summaries of nutritional research to practicing physicians and researchers around the globe until he sold the company to Tishcon Corp. in 2004. Since 2009 Kirk has hosted his own radio program/podcast titled Staying Healthy Today. He has interviewed hundreds of the top experts in the medical field including Joel Fuhrman, Dr. David Jenkins and Dr. Neal Barnard. Drawing on his 28 year career, in August 2011 Kirk self-published the book titled “Staying Healthy in the Fast Lane – 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health.” His book serves as a guide for individuals, professionals and policy makers on how to create a new health paradigm that is focused on staying well and prevention instead of treatment.
The greatest medicine of all is to teach people how not to need it.
Read about how to lose weight and prevent chronic diseases by purchasing Kirk’s book, “Staying Healthy in the Fast Lane – 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health.” Order your copy here. Enter code “RX40” and receive an automatic 40% off your book purchase.