Damien Hirst, ‘Lullaby, the Seasons Spring’ (detail), 2002
I love this Damien Hirst print. I could easily create my own with the amount of medication some of my patients are taking when they first come to see me. A large number of them are experiencing symptoms caused by these drugs. This is mainly medication prescribed by doctors, but also includes drugs bought over the counter, such as painkillers and antacids.
Read the label
Sometimes the patient is aware that their symptoms are, or may be, caused by the side effects of medication, but often they are not. And I’d just like to say here that it’s important to read the list of potential side effects, and contraindications with other medication and health complaints, that accompanies any medication you are prescribed. Doctors don’t always give you all, or even some, of this information.
Just to complicate matters, some of the patients’ symptoms may stem from medication prescribed to help counter the side effects of the first lot of medication prescribed. It’s part of a syndrome known as ‘polypharmacy’, aka, ‘over-prescribing’ (my definition).
Recent research has revealed that approximately two-thirds of the drugs given to polypharmacy patients can safely be stopped, with no ill effects. In fact, often with very positive effects. There was a great article in the New Statesman in October last year, called ‘The old lady was taking lots of pills – and then she got confused’… Kind of sums it all up.
Statins, painkillers, anti-inflammatories….
Some of the commonly prescribed drugs that my patients have problems with include a whole range of antidepressants, statins, blood pressure and heart medication, thyroid meds, asthma medication, HRT and the contraceptive pill, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and steroids. Specifically, a few names that spring to mind because I hear them so often, are Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, Levothyroxine, Carbimazole, Propranolol, Tamsulosin, Finasteride, Tranexamic acid, Alendronic acid, Clopidogrel, Atenolol…. to name but a very few.
A natural approach to side effects
What I help people to do, is work out which meds may be causing problems for them, and look at ways to help them either stop, or reduce, that medication, using herbal medicine – medicinal plants – as an alternative and/or support while withdrawing from medication. At the same time, I will be trying to find the underlying cause of their health problem, and using herbal medicine, dietary and lifestyle advice to help them resolve it naturally, without any further damage to their health. At the very least, I aim to reduce the amount of medication they are taking, improve symptoms and quality of life, by supporting the body’s innate ability to heal itself.