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Prescription Drugs

Some drugs have done amazing things for our society - to deny that would be silly.  However,  Americans spend more money on prescription drugs than most other countries combined, and yet our health is among the worst. The United States and New Zealand are the only civilized countries that even allow direct marketing to consumers by pharmaceutical companies.   This should tell you something is wrong with our current healthcare model.  With so much marketing targeted to sell you prescription drugs by the pharmaceutical industry, it is more imporant than ever that you stay informed.  From time to time I will post some information about this industry and what you can do to help protect yourself.

Risks and Rewards of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

I get quite a few calls from patients asking if I offer Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy or any kind of hormone supplementation - including Testosterone, Estrogen, Progesterone, Pregnenolone, DHEA, Cortisol, Thyroid, HCG, etc...   We proceed to talk about the intricacies of hormone replacement.  This topic should not be taken lightly, nor should you be ordering this stuff off the internet.  You get enough hormones in your food and your cosmetics for crying out loud.  There are only a few instances where I feel hormone replacement is a good alternative. Let me first give you some background on the physiology of our amazing bodies.

We are programmed to constantly strive for a level of homeostasis in our bodies.  That means that we keep all hormones, minerals, nutrients, oxygen levels, etc... at a normal and healthy level.  This is why the blood work ordered by your health care provider is so important - it looks for an IMBALANCE in these levels.  So, whenever your body is low in something, the brain recognizes this and responds by stimulating the corresponding gland or organ to make more of that thing, or to tell your body to keep more of it in the system, rather than excrete it out in the urine or feces. What happens when you suddenly introduce an exogenous (meaning not from your own body) hormone?  The message to your brain is perceived as a normal level, so the message to the end organ or gland is turned off.  

Let's stop there.  Do you see the problem already?  If your brain (usually your pituitary gland) is now telling your body that it has enough, then that gland/organ will decrease its efforts, which will lead to an even lower production of the hormone.  Wasn't that the problem in the first place?  Why do you think so many people are on these things for the rest of their lives and often have to increase the dosage?!? Let me give you an example:  You are fatigued (which could be from a gazillion causes), so your physician orders TSH to check your thyroid.  First of all, this is NOT even a thyroid hormone!  It is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone which comes from the pituitary to tell the thyroid to make more thyroid hormones (T3 and T4).  If your TSH is high, then they just assume that you are low on thyroid hormones, so they give you Armour Thyroid, Synthroid, etc...  Since these are forms of T3 and T4, your brain now thinks you have enough of these hormones, you feel better too, so now your TSH comes back down and tells your thyroid to make LESS T3/T4 (making the original problem worse).  Congrats, you will probably now be on thyroid meds for the rest of your life (unless you break the cycle soon).  Instead, doesn't it make sense to run a complete thyroid profile that measures every step of the feedback loop, so that you can find the functional cause of the problem and then support it?

Now, I know there are several arguments in favor of hormone replacement therapy, so let me address those: 1) Why do I feel so good when I take my hormone replacement therapy?   Answer - this is pretty obvious, but your body now has enough of the hormone it was craving, so you will feel good TEMPORARILY.  Once your body adjusts, you will likely have to increase your dosage, because your body is slowly shutting down that gland. 2) If the gland isn't producing correct levels of a hormone, then isn't giving it some extra help the only way to increase its production?  Answer - absolutely not.  There are loads of herbs and nutrients that help support the FUNCTION of a gland.  They do this by speeding up the chemical reactions and providing the building blocks for these hormones. The problem is that most people don't ask, "why is my level of this hormone low?" Instead they just assume it is the gland itself.  Guess what?  It could be a problem with the pituitary gland, with the precursors to the hormone, with the target cells where the hormone travels to, or in the feedback loop to the brain. Here is the take home message - if you don't have a health care provider that is willing to find the CAUSE of your abnormal levels of a hormone, then you could be masking the problem or making it worse!  If the health care provider thinks there is no other way to fix it, then they obviously don't think your body has the ability to restore homeostasis given the needed support.  Read my other blog posts to learn about what kinds of things lead to hormone imbalances, or give me a call at my Boise clinic.

Huffington Post Poll for Worst Drug Company Offense

The Huffington Post rounded up all the major recent cases against Big Pharma companies and is inviting you to vote for the worst offender.  Even if you don't vote, it is worth your time to go read the article and scroll through the images with their corresponding captions to understand some of the tactics used by the pharmaceutical industry.  You can also get involved by writing to your senate/congress to limit the marketing freedom of these companies.

Vote for the Worst Big Pharma Offender

PBS discusses the marketing efforts of pharmaceutical companies

This video is about 20 minutes long, but it is a great introduction into the kinds of marketing tactics the pharmaceutical industry utilizes to make sure we keep taking their product.  Some prescription medications are helpful, and even life-saving, but how do we know when we have gone too far?  What kinds of gatekeepers do we need in place?  How is our current model working?  Please take the time to watch this PBS video and ask yourself these questions.

 

Bill Moyers of PBS discusses marketing tactics of Pharmaceutical Industry with Melody Petersen.

PBS discusses the marketing efforts of pharmaceutical companies

This video is about 20 minutes long, but it is a great introduction into the kinds of marketing tactics the pharmaceutical industry utilizes to make sure we keep taking their product.  Some prescription medications are helpful, and even life-saving, but how do we know when we have gone too far?  What kinds of gatekeepers do we need in place?  How is our current model working?  Please take the time to watch this PBS video and ask yourself these questions.   Bill Moyers of PBS discusses marketing tactics of Pharmaceutical Industry with Melody Petersen.