Many patients who walk into my practice on a weekly basis have experienced the “artificial” effects that pharmaceutical medications can have on their body chemistry.
Engineered in a lab, these synthetically formulated chemical compounds are uniquely designed to target a particular biochemical pathway. By manipulating, antagonizing, blocking, inhibiting, or altering a chemical reaction within the body, the end result is to alleviate symptoms.
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with this approach.
You have pain.
You take a pill.
The symptoms of pain diminish.
You are able to function better while not being affected by the pain.
As a physician, I can tell you that there is definitely a role for this approach. Some patients present in such a level of acute or chronic pain impairing their life that short-term manipulation of symptoms by blocking a chemical pathway may be needed.
The finely tuned cellular communications of your body are being blocked. By disregarding the underlying system dysfunction and chemical imbalances within the body that are causing the symptoms of pain, the problem may, and often will, progress over time. This “artificial” environment may cause you to become detached from the alarm signals being communicated within your body. The signals that should prompt a specific action to address the underlying problem are now being quieted, you are reasonably comfortable, and so the stimulus for action is not as strong.
What also happens when we block, inhibit, or antagonize necessary chemical processes in the body?
You guessed it. Side effects.
This becomes the teeter-totter many patients must balance. Taking medications for the symptoms, but having to deal with the potential for many unpleasant side effects.
Let me be crystal clear on this point because this is where patients may misinterpret what I am saying. There is a role for medications to intervene in cases of substantial acute or chronic pain, life-threatening conditions, or disease that has progressed to a state that it cannot be optimally controlled by lifestyle changes alone. We have had incredible technological advances in medications that save countless lives and improve quality of life every day.
However, where the practice of medicine and our current healthcare has failed to place any measurable focus in recent years is teaching you how to take proactive, preventive, and strategically planned steps to not just address the symptoms. To address the true problem causing the symptoms, while possibly using a strategy for immediate relief of the symptoms, is a much better approach.
Your mental approach to your healthcare will have a positive influence on your DNA. Take ownership for your health
Your physical approach to your health will have an influence on your pain. Structure dictates function. Lack of exercise can contribute to “turning on” genes for diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Your chemical environment created within your body will have a positive or negative effect on inflammation and pain. Substances from pollution in air, contaminants in water, chemicals in plastics and food, can contribute to accumulation of a large array of toxins that will have a negative effect.
To get to the root of the problem I use biochemical testing including vitamin and micronutrient testing and food/environmental allergy/sensitivity testing in my patients to assess the unique individual chemistry and contributing factors to pain, inflammation, and disease.
The substances you put in and around your body will have consequences, but you can in large part control that environment. Foundational nutrition, with the appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, essential healthy fats, proteins, water, nucleic acids, vitamins, and minerals will have a positive effect on the function of your body. Guaranteed.
Many nutritional experts have been critical of what has become the standard American diet (SAD). It is believed to be the largest contributing risk factor (as well as the biggest modifiable risk factor) to the exponential growth of chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.1
[In fact, I wrote a book expanding on this topic and specifically how it relates to promotion of chronic pain and inflammation in the body. You can grab your copy of The Pain Free Diet here]
Why? The composition of what most people are consuming in this country has changed dramatically since the 1960s, and not for the better.
More processed foods (with hidden chemicals, additives and preservatives), much heavier consumption of wheat, corn, and soy products, more sugar, and more refined vegetable oils.
It is the balance and completeness of our diet, or lack thereof, that is suspected to be unraveling the health of many in this country.
If you have been eating this way, it is not entirely your fault. You have been told for years, based on the USDA food pyramid and other guidelines, how to eat. 3 I promised not to get into conspiracy theories, and I will hold that line. There are plenty of well-researched and written books (such as Whole, T. Colin Campbell, PhD) that delve into the dirty underbelly of industry-influenced guidelines. I’ll leave you to research that on your own.
What you can do is take control of the foundational nutrition that you put on the table each day for you and your family.
If you are eating the best you can, and have gone the additional step to look into nutritional deficiencies or food allergies/sensitivities, are there other possible voids in a healthy diet where you can and probably should supplement?
I commonly use supplementation as part of a comprehensive treatment strategy to address the underlying issues contributing to symptoms. With nutritional support, the goal is to enhance your unique biochemical needs to promote healing, and with consistency, to return the body to a state of wellness.
You do not want to rely longterm on a one-dimensional “artificial” approach to blocking, inhibiting, or antagonizing a chemical process in your body in order to treat symptoms.
A much better, completely complementary to “standard care”, and more natural approach is building in the right foundational nutrition, with the right supplements to strategically support, heal, and optimize the health of your joints. I firmly believe this is the best approach for you.
In time, you may be able to let go of all, or a large portion of the medications. It is possible.
Take a stand against the SAD approach to nutrition today!
P.S. In my book, The Pain Free Diet, I outline a step-by-step plan to build a nutrition plan that will decrease inflammation, pain, and support joint health. It includes three weeks of recipes to take the guesswork out of getting started.