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Drugs: Our First Line of Defense?

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I’m so glad to have such a timely post to share with all of my readers. It seems like more and more I have conversations with people about using natural means versus drugs and over-the-counter medication for health problems.

It is my most sincere hope to inspire some interest in using natural remedies instead of automatically going to pharmaceutical intervention. Of course, drugs have their place in the world. But in modern society, we’ve come to rely far too much on taking a drug for every little issue that ails us, instead of looking at the root cause of the problem and finding out if we can solve it by re-hydrating, reducing stress, or repleting our diets with nutrients we may be lacking.

I’d like to thank Kate at Modern Alternative Mama for volunteering to write a post for me in the middle of my chaos – lately I’ve been having my own health issues which I am attempting to address naturally – low thyroid and a magnesium deficiency – which has caused many nights of insomnia and panic attacks. Needless to say, my life has been turned upside down and things haven’t been getting done!  Fortunately, things are SLOWLY starting to get better, and I’ll be writing a post or two about my experience when I get caught back up from being behind for the last four weeks.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this well-written and thoughtful piece about approaching health in the most natural way possible, first…before turning to drugs. Great food for thought.   :)

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I see far too many people popping pills all the time. Have a headache? Grab some Tylenol! Cramps? Midol! A fever? Ibuprofen! And so it goes. There’s a pill for everything. Even new parents are sucked in – “You’d better have some Tylenol in the house, just in case.” But is this really the best first defense against illness or unpleasant symptoms?

Unfortunately, no. The way we treat pills these days is as if there were no side effects, or very minimal side effects. The mainstream perception is that even when pills do cause side effects, it is normal and ‘worth it’ to combat whatever ails you. We have pills for allergies (Benadryl), pills for colds and coughs, pills for the flu, pills for cholesterol, pills for birth control, pills for erectile dysfunction, pills for migraines, and on it goes. The solution clearly is – “If something ails you, there’s a drug to fix that.”

These drugs are not without side effects, and these side effects need to be considered very carefully. We need to look at the short- and long-term side effects of any drug before agreeing to take it. There’s a time and place for drugs, typically (in my opinion) in life-or-death situations. But they’re simply not the harmless little pick-me-ups we’ve come to view them as. Tylenol, for example, seen as one of the most “basic” drugs out there, is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. That’s far from harmless!

Even more importantly, instead of focusing so heavily on our individual symptoms (and what drug might fix that!), we need to look for underlying causes of illness. Why do you have a headache? Is it from tension? Dehydration? A food sensitivity? By knowing the cause, you may be able to find the cure. Tension requires relaxation, perhaps a massage (from a willing husband or wife!), maybe a bit of lavender oil and a warm bath. Dehydration requires a drink of water! Food sensitivity probably can’t be “cured” immediately, but at least you’d know what not to do in the future.

When we turn to drugs, we forget to look for the underlying causes. Migraines are often triggered by food sensitivities, like MSG, theobromine (found most often in cocoa), or caffeine. High cholesterol may be caused by a diet high in refined carbohydrates (not saturated fat!). Coughs and colds are an unfortunate fact of life for many, but if we boost the immune system with nourishing foods and fermented cod liver oil, we may see fewer of them, lower severity, and less duration!

When something ails us, we need to look at our bodies and our lifestyles as a whole. What could we be doing that is causing the problem? Are we not getting enough rest? Are we deficient in some key nutrient? Is our thyroid malfunctioning or our adrenals taxed? There is some reason for the symptoms, and the underlying cause will tell you what to do about it!

We miss the underlying cause when we focus on the symptoms. When we throw drugs at the symptoms, we may feel better (at least temporarily), but we don’t solve the problem. The problem is still there, and is probably getting worse. If you’re having restless legs but choose to take the new “RLS” drug, you’re very likely missing an underlying magnesium deficiency! Your symptoms will
only get worse, both because you’ve missed the deficiency, and because you’ve added any side effects that the RLS drug causes. This is how it goes with many situations, when drugs become the first answer.

When it comes down to it, would you rather suffer a bit more temporarily, while you actually solve the problem, or would you rather have immediate relief of your symptoms while your health crumbles around you? I can assure you that putting your health back together after 20 years or so of doing it wrong is no easy task. We’re in the middle of the GAPS diet for my husband right now because
his health has been so destroyed by years of poor diet, undiagnosed food sensitivities, candida, and more. It’s a very long, slow, painful road. Could he just continue to take some drugs and hide the problems? Maybe. I’m honestly not sure at this point. (We did try that route a few years back, before we knew what we were doing. It didn’t help at all, and very likely made it worse.)

Finally, I’m not saying that when you feel poorly, especially with what you know is just a temporary illness (like a cold) that you should do nothing to feel better. There are many natural remedies that you can try. Ginger tea with lemon and honey is wonderful for a cold, helping to warm the body, clear  he sinuses, and soothe a sore throat. Rice-filled heating pads soothe sore spots. Arnica helps with body aches. These are all natural remedies that can help to soothe your acute aches and pains without dangerous side effects, nor masking underlying problems.

In a perfect world, we’d all be healthy all the time. We wouldn’t get sick or be in pain. But we don’t live in a perfect world and we’re bound to have bad days! Rather than multiplying the bad days by masking and ignoring our symptoms, we can work without bodies to discover the true causes and resolve them. By (almost!) always consuming an excellent, nutrient-dense diet, we can be healthier and feel well without drugs!

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Kate blogs at Modern Alternative Mama and discusses nutrition, food, recipes, natural remedies and more. She is a wife and mother of two. Kate currently home is just beginning to home school her oldest child, is active in her church, and enjoys sewing, crafts, and cooking.

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