Modern medicine is sometimes just shy of miraculous. We can save lives and do things that were unthinkable even just 20 years ago. And medicine is constantly evolving and improving, sometimes on a daily basis. But one thing never changes. Life is a complex system of biological processes, and they can go haywire in the blink of an eye. Medications are complicated products of chemistry that can, and often do, unexpected things when they mix. And it is frequently unavoidable.
About 2/3rds of the time, when a person is presented with a set of symptoms, it usually is from several chronic conditions that exist simultaneously. If you think about it, the reason you went to the doctor is because you felt bad. The human body is tough, and sometimes diseases have to gang up on you to gain any advantage. There is no single ‘cure-all’ medication that works on everything, so you will need to take several medications to address each malady. A little more than half the time, the medications will not play well together. One medication may make the other condition worse, and vice-versa. Also, they may combine and cause a completely new problem. And, almost all medications have some possible side-effects. So, even more medications have to be prescribed to address problems created by the others. This is called Therapeutic Competition, and is unavoidable. A good example is someone with non-insulin Type II diabetes. One of the most common medications to regulate blood sugar levels is Metformin. It does a good job of keeping blood sugar at acceptable levels, but it can be hard on your liver. So it is common for your physician to also prescribe something like Lisinopril, which is usually used to control high blood-pressure, but it also can protect your liver from the Metformin. Metformin can also cause a condition known as Lactose Acidosis, which is serious condition requiring immediate medical care. Another example would be someone with a heart condition, and a kidney issue. The heart medicine could make the kidney condition worse, and the kidney medication could make the heart condition worse.
So, you may ask, “Then why would you prescribe these medications, knowing that they could cause other problems?” The simple answer is that not prescribing them would be infinitely worse. It would be tragic to die from a heart attack because we were afraid of giving you an upset stomach. We deal with the devil when we have to. Side-effects and drug interactions can be managed. Death can’t. If you die from a serious condition like heart disease, the game is over, so your doctor isn’t going to worry if the medication makes you a little nauseous or sleepless. You’ll get over it, if the heart condition doesn’t kill you. Therapeutic Competition is just one of the many reason why doctors have to go through 8 or more years of what I can only describe as pure hell, in order to learn how to be a physician. It’s also why pharmacists go to school for so long. They can often spot potential problems when filling prescriptions, and will call your doctor to verify the orders.
There are things you can do to lessen the chances of any serious problems with your medications. Many physicians, like myself, are also naturopaths. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if there are alternate non-drug therapies you could try. This will lessen the odds of Therapeutic Competition considerably. Make sure you inform your doctor of any adverse reactions to your medications, but never, never, never discontinue taking your meds on your own. Keep taking your meds until your doctor tells you to stop. I can’t stress this enough. Abrupt cessation of some medications can have side-effects of their own. You have to trust your physician. They know what they are doing.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and family is be sure to have a Family Physician, who is an MD. Many times you will have to be seen by specialists, therapists and others, but your Family Doctor is you health manager, and coordinates the activities of all the others. And, you need to always have your prescriptions filled at one place, preferably a local pharmacist, so that they get to know you, and can spot anything weird in your meds before they cause a problem.
The best option though is to take care of your body, support it with the right nutrients, regular exercise, adequate amount of sleep and as much laughter as possible 🙂