Doctors are handing out more pharmaceutical drug prescriptions than ever, a practice that has prompted new drug-issuing guidelines and a call for more conservative prescribing. The new guidelines, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, call for physicians to think beyond drugs, treat underlying causes, and focus on prevention instead of reaching for the prescription pad right away. In addition, the recommendations ask doctors to only prescribe one new drug at a time, to monitor the patient closely for harmful side effects, and to be generally skeptical of new drugs. "Avoid seduction by elegant molecular pharmacology; beware of selective drug trial reporting," the guidelines warn. In other words, be an old-school doc.
We're not saying all pharmaceutical drugs are bad. In fact, many are lifesavers. But doctors could also ease many patient ailments by suggesting natural remedies that have been used for centuries with fewer side effects.
If you have one of the following conditions and your doc's trying to push a prescription your way, you could benefit from talking natural remedies with an integrative health care specialist:
• Depression and ADHD. A recent study found a connection between women who took certain antidepressants and an increased risk of having a child with autism, underscoring that some prescription drugs cause unanticipated problems. "Even though the FDA has placed antidepressants in a category C for pregnant women, meaning they are neither proven safe nor unsafe during pregnancy, many doctors are still freely prescribing these and other drugs without looking closely at other safer, more natural alternatives," says Isaac Eliaz, MD, founder of The Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Sebastopol, CA, noting that natural antidepressants could also be effective.
Some doctors are also worried about giving an unprecedented level of young children pharmaceutical drugs for mental health problems. "The number one issue here is the overprescription of psychiatric drugs, particularly among children and teens," says Dr. Eliaz. "Children as young as 2 and 3 years old are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, and depression, and medicated accordingly. Giving children powerful pharmaceutical drugs with a long list of harmful–and often unknown–side effects is something that needs to be examined very carefully."
There are many alternatives to psychiatric drugs that can be far safer than prescription meds. Dr. Eliaz says the best way to heal mental and emotional imbalances is to improve nutrition and make lifestyle changes.
Here's what he recommends:
Eat a whole, unprocessed foods diet
Eliminate refined sugar
Take supplements, including a multivitamin and the minerals magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc—these are essential for restoring mental, emotional, and physical health.
Supplement with omega fats, such as high-quality fish oil; these can help address learning disabilities, depression, ADHD, and more.
Remove heavy metals and environmental toxins using modified citrus pectin, which comes from the peel of citrus fruits. This can help address serious imbalances and neurological problems. (It's usually taken in capsule form.)
Practice simple meditation techniques, even for just 10 minutes a day. Meditation has been shown to help greatly with mental health imbalances.
Get proper exercise, improve sleep habits, and limit computer and TV time for better health.
"Incorporating these habits will not only help with immediate concerns, but they will also set the foundation for lifelong wellness and vitality," explains Dr. Eliaz. "If you are an adult struggling with these issues, the same recommendations can make a dramatic difference."