Friends are precious. In today’s world, true friendships outside the realm of technology and social media is something to really celebrate. I know that my friends are very precious to me. If I see my friends struggling physically or emotionally, I just want to reach out and hold their hand and help them in every way. I’ve been medication free for the last two years. This means that I have not taken a single anti inflammatory drug, antibiotics, antacids or even a paracetamol. I am thrilled about this and it has reassured my faith in what I practice, which is functional medicine nutrition. I did have one episode where I picked up an infection after a week of stress and poor sleep, but I gave myself a few days of immune boosting practices and made an affirmation that my body was capable of healing itself, and I did get past it. There may be a time when I might need some medication. I am not stubbornly closing the door to it. Yet, I truly believe in my heart that I have all the resources I need to heal myself.
Recently a friend of mine was concerned when I mentioned this to him. His concern was that many people rely on natural remedies and delay treatment, further aggravating serious conditions. This is true. The difference is that you can only heal yourself if your body is being supported at all times by a healthy diet, one that has been created for you with therapeutic benefits. It cannot work if you have been overmedicating yourself. Another dear friend of mine told me that she had a very thoughtful husband, one that packed more medication for her than even their clothing! This was not amusing to me, and I was left positively alarmed. Overmedication and subsequent breakdown of the body’s healing capability is very real, alarmingly frightening and quite rampant. Overmedication is a phenomenon when someone overutilizes medication of every kind. People who overmedicate tend to ignore their physician’s instructions for taking their medication, and feel that they know what to take for various situations and reasons.
What does overmedication actually do to your body? What happens if you take antibiotics for a simple cold and cough? What happens if you rely on antacids for long term management of symptoms of GERD, when it is usually meant as a short term course with antibiotics? What happens when you take an anti-inflammatory drug everytime you pull a muscle in the gym? I’ve written a detailed article on this as well. Antibiotics are being taken way too frequently and antibiotic resistance is very real, and spoken about even in the medical community. I’m going to take you through what happens within your body with overmedication.
Impact of Overmedication:
- Damage to the gut: When a body receives frequent antibiotics, antacids or any OTC medication for that matter, there is consistent damage to the intestinal skin and the mucosal membranes. It destroys many species of good bacteria and allow for proliferation of bad bacteria. The resulting dysbiosis or imbalance of bacteria can cause you to develop candida overgrowth, what is commonly called thrush. When candida overgrows you can have bloating in the stomach after eating starchy food or worse, women can have the most frustrating itching in the vagina, leaving them crazed. One course of antibiotics can impact your microbial terrain for more than a year.
- Deficiencies of key vitamins and minerals: Absorption of many critical vitamins and minerals rely on a healthy gastrointestinal system. Antacids in particular can lead to deficiencies in Iron and B12. Constant antibiotics and the resulting dysbiosis can cause many key minerals to become deficient as well.
Immune Collapse: When overmedication upsets the balance of your good bacteria, they can cause increase in pathogenic bacteria, leading to collapse of your immune system as it tries to battle with the foreigners in a desperate attempt to bring back balance. Further, if overmedication breaksdown the integrity of your intestinal walls, then food that is not broken down enough can enter your bloodstream, forcing your immune system to attack as it looks at food which is not microscopic as a pathogen. Also, 70% of your immune system sits in your gut, and breakdown of your gut means breakdown of your immune system as well.
- Recurrent infections: When the balance of your microbiome is upset, there is insufficient good bacteria to protect you. This makes you easily susceptible to further and recurrent infections, usually striking you where you are usually vulnerable. What’s ironic is that if you are someone who takes medication frequently, then you are also possibly someone who will keep picking up infections frequently. I know, I’ve been there. As you move away from overmedication, you start to shift your terrain, where you are less prone to infections and better able to heal yourself from one without medication.
- Autommine conditions like Crohn’s and Colitis: When your gut is damaged and your immune system is constantly being put to a test of fire, your immune system is always on a state of high alert, trying to protect you. Eventually, it may become hypervigilant and start to attack a part of your own body’s tissue, which is what is autoimmunity.
- Mental issues: When the gut is damaged, then it impacts your brain. Your gut and your brain are intimately connected as I explored in a previous article. Hormone and neurotransmitters are intimately connected. Your gut is responsible for the healthy secretion of many neurotransmitters inclusing Serotonin. You can find yourself impacted by having mood fluctuations, anxiety or more serious mental symptoms.
- Liver overload: When you pump your body with medication, your liver is left overworked as it is your liver’s job to detoxify all these medications after it’s gone through your body. If your liver gets congested, then you can have trouble breaking down the fat you eat. Hormones can start to back up, especially Estrogen. Your skin can break out as it tries to throw out the toxins.
I did not write this article to cause you any fear. Far from it. Just as my concern is high for my friend who overmedicates, my concern for you is high as well. Understanding what happens in your body with overmedication is critical to moving beyond it. Education matters and I am so passionate about it. I also dont’ want you to feel that there is no way out, if you are someone caught in this vicious cycle of overmedication. I was there. I felt dejection each time I picked up another infection. I felt there was no way out. Yet, I found a way out. I am neither saying that antibiotics do not have a place as some time. They are extremely helpful at critical times and have saved many human lives. The problem is when medication becomes too easy and too frequent. You have the power to get over a severe cold by yourself. You have the power to get past a gastrointestinal viral when you have one. And make note that I say get past. Mot of these simple day to day conditions are time bound and you can move past them. You do not have to give up on the second day and take antibiotics yourself. Recently I was alarmed when another friend told me that she travels everywhere with anitbiotics and starts taking them the first day she shows signs of a cold or a cough. This trend is frightening. You can slowly start to rebuild your system to support recovery. Here is some of what you can do.
Rebuilding your system from overmedication:
- Prebiotics: Have plenty of plant based foods and multiple portions of fruits and vegetables to feed the good bacteria in your microbiome. Also avoid sugar and starchy food as much as you can to cut of food supply for pathogenic bacteria.
- Probiotics: Have fermented foods. Find creative ways to incorporate fermented vegetables into your diet. Look towards komucha, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi.
- Immune Boosters: Have plenty of foods with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a superfood for your immune system.
- Prevent Deficiencies: Deficiency of nutrients like Vitamin A, D and Zinc can cause your immune system to collapse. Seeing that you avoid these deficiencies can protect you and allow you to recover.
- Get enough rest: Having enough rest and sleep is crucial to healing a broken immune system. I know that until I made this a priority, I was unable to get over the overmedication cycle.
I want to reassure you once again that it is possible to get beyond the overmedication loop. It can seem daunting and overwhelming, but it truly is possible. I am here to hold your hand through the process if you require a skilled practitioner to work with. It takes delicate work but it is possible to move beyond pills.