Are Side Effects Making People Sick?

by Sara M Allen, AP, Dipl. OM

Why is a newly-released study on side effects so important?

How many prescription drugs does the average person take? According to a 2013 study by the Mayo Clinic, 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug, 50% take at least two, and 20% take FIVE or more medications. Each of these have a list of side effects. The latest June 2018 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) studied the side effect of depression caused by taking medications.

When a new prescription medication is filled at the pharmacy, a long list of possible side effects accompanies the drug. How many people read the list? Pay attention once taking the medicine? Or have had a doctor follow up with questions about side effects? And sometimes, because the medication is “necessary,” negative side effects are countered by another medication with another list of side effects, which causes side effects that must be countered by another medication, and the wheel keeps spinning.

Every medicine has side effects, and it is unknown how taking multiple medications will potentiate or compound those side effects. In this study on the side effect of depression in JAMA, of the 6.9% of those in the study taking 3 or more medications that have a possible “depression” side effect, 15% of those actually had depression, versus 4.7% which were not on medications with the side effect of depression. This study showed that taking multiple medications with the same possible side effect increases the likelihood of that side effect. (It should be noted that this study excluded people taking anti-depressants for pre-existing depression).

What does the study mean for you and your medications?

  1. Make sure your doctor knows all of your medications and supplements. Make a list of medications before appointments along with dosages. If there are any known drug interactions, it is more likely they will be prevented if your doctor and pharmacist know what you’re taking. Ultimately, you and your doctor are a team to determine which medications you need to be on and whether any of those medications can be reduced or eliminated.
  2. Be educated about your medications. Read the packaging that comes with your prescriptions. Watch out for symptoms and side effects. Sometimes these effects are cumulative and may take a while for your body to express. And sometimes, as this study shows, less-likely side effects may be more likely when combined with other medications.
  3. More is not better. Not only are prescription medications expensive and drive up health insurance costs for everyone, but they have powerful, unknown effects on the body. Modern medicine is a very young medicine, less than 200 years old, and the long-term and drug-interaction effects of pharmaceuticals are too new to fully know. There are few studies like the one in this month’s JAMA which show how drugs may interact with each other. The FDA doesn’t require it, and it would be impossible to study how thousands and thousands of drugs interact when taking 3, 4… or even 9 different combinations of them. Therefore, limit your exposure to these interactions and side effects by limiting your medications whenever possible, and discuss your options with your doctor.
  4. Check out alternative medical solutions. The U.S. Pharmaceutical Industry makes over 440 billion dollars a year. Drug companies and pharmacies make money on prescriptions. Many of these medications just alleviate symptoms of a disease but do not help the body heal. Be willing to check out other options for wellness, which can lessen one’s dependence on drugs. These might include:
  • Diet and lifestyle changes. Let’s be honest. Change is difficult and sometimes inconvenient, but changes can bring health from the inside out. These choices are long-term, life-giving options that do not come with negative or dangerous side effects. For example, diabetic or blood-pressure medications may be reduced by losing weight and exercising.
  • Alternative therapies. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, chiropractic care, and physical therapy are a few alternative therapies that may help with whatever condition you are treating with pharmaceuticals. The goal of these alternative or integrative medical therapies is to help the body heal or treat the underlying cause of the disease or problem. Because these therapies are a process of healing in the body, symptom relief may not be as immediate as popping a pill, but with a little patience and determination the body can heal itself.
  • Herbal formulas, natural supplements, and essential oils. Many modern pharmaceuticals began as plant-based remedies. Almost every civilization on earth has had its special plants for certain diseases. The chemical properties of these remedies have been isolated and improved upon to target a disease or symptom. But what if the lesser-concentrated, holistic plant-package is actually less harmful to the body than its lab-concocted cousin?
    • Chinese herbal formulas have been safely used for thousands of years, and the herbs in these formulas are balanced with each other to minimize the side effects. Only an Oriental Medicine or Chinese herbal practitioner can safely prescribe herbs perfectly tailored to your body and symptoms.
    • Also, supplements can be taken to help the body function properly. Many supplements can take the place of over-the-counter or prescribed medications. Check with your healthcare practitioner to find out which ones might be right for you (and remember, as with prescription drugs, more is not necessarily better!).
    • One of my new favorites, which is actually very ancient, is the use of essential oils to treat certain conditions. When used as directed, essential oils are an excellent alternative to certain prescription or over-the-counter drugs (more to come on essential oils–stay tuned).

Many other side effects can be treated effectively with acupuncture. There are points on the body that help certain problems and symptoms and treat the body’s underlying condition. Whether a medication is causing depression, dizziness or diarrhea, acupuncture can help lessen the side effects of medications. No one should be stuck on the hamster wheel of taking more and more medications to combat the side effects of medications. 

(If you are feeling depressed, please speak to a healthcare practitioner, counselor or mental health provider. And if you are considering suicide or hurting yourself or others—please reach out to someone and get some help, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)

Hope that’s some helpful information to help you have Better Health for a Better You!

Please feel free to call for your free consultation: 561-922-7535 or fill out this contact form: 

Key Element to Better Sleep and Less Pain

by Sara Allen, AP, Dipl. OM

Want a better night’s sleep? Less pain? The end to muscle cramps?

For at least 50% of my patients, a good night’s sleep is a problem. For another 50%, pain is a main issue. Another 10% have neuropathy or leg cramps. They all have one thing in common: Magnesium.

Magnesium has 12 protons, and its 2 outer electrons means that it ionically bonds easily with other atoms. These combinations with other elements makes it a diverse and wonderful element. It is the center element in chlorophyl for photosynthesis. It is a major component of our bones and multiple enzymes in the human body. It helps balance calcium in the body, aids potassium absorption, and helps regulate neurotransmitters.

Many people have a Magnesium deficiency; some estimates say that 50-75% of adults do not have enough Magnesium in their bodies. Magnesium is found in foods like dark, leafy greens, legumes and other vegetables, unprocessed grains, meats, seeds and nuts, and chocolate. Consuming the following items actually interferes with Magnesium balance in the body: carbonated beverages, refined sugars, diuretic medications or excess tea and coffee, and imbalanced supplements of calcium and zinc; in addition, stress is a major factor prohibiting the proper absorption and use of magnesium, along with improper gut flora from the overuse of antibiotics.

What benefits does Magnesium provide?

A good night’s sleep may begin with Magnesium. It aids in the production of GABA, the calming, go-to-sleep neurotransmitter. Magnesium can help a person reach the deep, restorative sleep necessary to feel well-rested in the morning. It can also help with the “restless” feeling in the body when it’s time to sleep. It can even help with restless leg syndrome.

Recent studies have shown that Magnesium is a great analgesic, meaning that it can take away pain by blocking pain receptors in the nervous system. An analgesic most people are familiar with is Tylenol. Magnesium is also anti-inflammatory. The most common over-the-counter anti-inflammatories are NSAIDs like ibuprofen. But magnesium is a natural, non-pharmaceutical supplement which can do some of the job that more powerful drugs do.

Magnesium relieves muscle spasms by opposing the contraction-action of calcium on the muscles. Too much calcium causes the muscles to spasm tight, while magnesium causes the muscles to relax. Magnesium also dilates the blood vessels, which can increase circulation, especially to hands and feet.  

The same action on bigger muscles to prevent spasms also works on a micro-level in the blood vessels. This dilation of blood vessels can help decrease neuropathy by allowing proper nourishment of nerves and tissues. Also, the anti-inflammatory effect works well on muscles and nerves as well.

In addition to better sleep, and less pain and muscle spasms, Magnesium can also:

  • Stabilize moods and reduce anxiety; it may also help with ADHD
  • Reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Improve bone mass and prevent osteoporosis
  • Regulate metabolism, especially of glucose and insulin-sensitivity, which can reduce metabolic syndrome or diabetes

If all this sounds amazing, you may be asking HOW much and WHAT supplement to take?

My favorite way of “consuming” magnesium is through EPSOM SALT foot baths. Epsom salt is made of Magnesium Sulfate, which breaks apart into readily absorbable Magnesium ions in water. The skin is not just a protective layer of the body. It is the largest organ in the body! This organ easily absorbs minerals which then get distributed throughout the body. In this way, the digestive system is bypassed for very efficient intake and distribution, especially to the legs and lower body! This is a great way to reduce leg cramps, neuropathy of the feet, and pain in the legs or low back. In addition, the WARM WATER of the foot bath dilates the blood vessels in the feet, increasing the circulation of the feet and legs, which, in turn, decreases the excess blood flow to the head. This small shift of circulation helps quiet the mind to reduce worry and anxiety before bed. Adding dried lavender or 3 or 4 drops of lavender essential oil to the foot bath and letting the feet soak for 15 to 30 minutes increases the sleep-promoting properties of the Epsom salts.

Magnesium dietary supplements are another wonderful way to get more magnesium in the body, especially when paired with Vitamin D3. Because good gut flora is important for proper magnesium absorption through digestion, taking a probiotic and reducing dietary refined sugars and carbohydrates will also help. One caution: in some people, large amounts of magnesium can have a laxative effect.

Lastly, your body may not be processing magnesium properly. Getting an NAET or allergy elimination acupressure treatment for minerals will help your body absorb and utilize this essential element to the fullest.

Here’s to Better Health for a Better You!

 

AA&W now with 2 great locations!

Spring is here, a season of changes… Allen Acupuncture & Wellness has undergone a change of its own, now with 2 great locations in Boca Raton and Greenacres, FL. Please take a peek at the update below:

And please feel free to leave a review of Allen Acupuncture & Wellness on one of the following links:

Google: (google “Allen Acupuncture and Wellness” and click “write a review”)

Healthgrades: https://www.healthgrades.com/providers/sara-allen-xynhhfx

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/writeareview/biz/WHd0RdD1IZciIAim_BnIEw?return_url=%2Fbiz%2FWHd0RdD1IZciIAim_BnIEw&source=biz_details_war_button

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allenacupuncture/ (click Reviews)

Thank you for being a part of the practice! May you have Better Health for a Better You!

S.O.S. for Cold and Flu

Does cold and flu season have you down? Terrified of getting sick? I’ve got you covered! Here’s my inside scoop for avoiding colds and flus, plus a recipe to soothe your cough.

When you’re starting to feel sick with the FLU… head it off fast! If you have a bad sore throat and you feel achy with a fever, you can take the homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum by Boiron. It’s now carried by CVS, Walgreens, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, just to name a few, but it’s difficult to come by this time of year, so you might want to plan ahead and order it from amazon or another online distributor. This remedy is for the FLU that is going around this time of year, and should be taken as directed on the box especially during the first 24-48 hours.

If it’s a COLD, not the flu, you might have a headache, more chills than fever, and the throat can slightly hurt or feel phlemy (yes, I just made up that word). The best homeopathic remedy for a cold is “Cold Calm” by Boiron. Taken as directed, it can really head off a cold before it gets bad.

Supplements I use to boost the immune system:

Zinc

Echinacea

Vitamin D

These supplements help boost the immune system, which is what you want when trying to fight either a cold or flu. Use them as directed. Just FYI, Echinacea cannot be taken long-term.

Essential Oils can help boost your immune system. There is one from a company called Young Living that is excellent at helping the body fight illnesses called “Thieves”. Whole Foods carries a knock-off brand called “Medieval Mix”. Be aware that all essential oils are not created equal. Some are not meant to be put on the body, and some come with diluting directions. Once diluted properly, Thieves can be rubbed on the bottom of the feet, at the hairline on the neck or even the skin of the front of neck to help reduce sore throat symptoms (not ingested). It can also be used in a diffuser to help kill viruses in the air of your home or office.

Acupuncture is great for fighting a cold or flu. It can help boost the immune system, regulate body temperature, and help organ systems function better (like the respiratory system). If you’re still needle-squeemish, there are therapies available that are needle-less like cupping, acupressure, and lasers. There are also specific formulas of Chinese herbs that are very helpful for colds and flus and can be tailored to your exact body and symptoms. These formulas don’t interfere with most medications or even the flu shot.

If you are already sick and need some relief, try making this tea:

“Stop the Cough Tea”

In 1-2 cups of hot water, combine the following:

Juice squeezed from 1/2 a lemon

1 – 3 tsp. honey

2-3 small pieces of ginger

This tea can be sipped throughout the day to help calm the cough. And it tastes pretty great, too!

Hopefully, you can find some information in this post to help you in your fight against the cold or flu this season. Here’s to Better Health for a Better You!