In North America, we are used to the idea of taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs to treat common ailments, especially pain. The focus of naturopathic medicine is prevention, and so in my practice, I teach patients to lead a healthier lifestyle such that prescription drugs are not required or their doses can be reduced. Below are the three most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs in North America, their common side effects, and their natural alternatives.
- Hydrocodone (Acetaminophen/Oxycontin/Vicodin) is the most commonly prescribed drug in the world, with 136 million prescriptions per year in the U.S. alone. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is also one of the leading causes of accidental death due to overdose, which is why Health Canada recently changed the amount of prescription acetaminophen per tablet from 500 to 325 mg. Other side effects include low heart and breathing rate, seizures, coma, liver damage, and heart attack.Natural alternatives: Dark leafy green vegetables, cherries, turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, celery, walnuts, and berries. Eat more of these foods, which are natural anti-inflammatories, and you may not need painkillers!Other natural alternatives to painkillers are exercise and acupuncture.
- Statins (Lipitor/Zocor/Crestor), the second most prescribed drugs, are prescribed in order to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. According to a Harvard Medical School report, 25% of Americans age 45 and over are taking a statin. Side effects of statins include heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, and muscle inflammation and breakdown.Natural alternatives: Beans, garlic, nuts, green tea, turmeric, oats, fatty fish, apples, spinach, tomatoes, and cranberries. These foods are high in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients that help to lower LDL and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Amlodipine (Norvasc) and Prinivil/Zestril (Lisinopril) are prescribed to lower high blood pressure. There are 45 million prescriptions per year of this drug in the U.S. Some of its side effects are depression, liver inflammation, liver disease, cancer, impotence, and increased heart rate. Natural alternatives: Parsley, bananas, mushrooms, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, dates, sweet potatoes, oranges, bell peppers, and coconut oil. These foods are high in minerals, especially potassium and magnesium as well as Vitamin C. These nutrients normalize blood pressure and maintain blood vessel integrity. Eat more of these foods and you may eliminate or reduce your need for prescription antihypertensive medication.
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Yours in health,
Lina Mockus, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine