Go to the archives

Mind Over Meds: Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better – and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own

Andrew Weil, MD

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: May 01, 2017
Category: Health and Fitness

I’ve been thinking that some of my physical complaints might be side effects of the meds I take. Like Lipitor, which was, for many years, the most frequently prescribed drug on the planet. Yes, it reduces cholesterol — but does it also cause muscle pain and weakness in my ankles? Maybe there’s something else I can take.

And then, right on cure, Andrew Weil publishes “Mind Over Meds: Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better – and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own.” Statins — that’s Lipitor —are chapter 2. For good reason. Doctors often say, “We should put statins in the water supply.” As a result, Weil writes, “26 percent of adults in the United States are now taking a statin.”

In a dozen brisk pages, Weil considers the benefits of statins, the problems (muscle pain, cognitive impairment, increased risk of diabetes, liver irritation) and “tips to help deal with statin side effects” — take milk thistle or CoQ10. [To buy milk thistle from Amazon, click here. To buy CoQ10, click here.] And then he gets to his strongest suggestion: Integrative Medicine.

Simply, Integrative Medicine is “a wide-range view of prevention. It takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship [between patient and physician] and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.” From the introduction:

When I write a treatment plan for a patient, my first recommendations always concern diet: what not to eat, what to eat more of, how to change eating habits to improve health. As a primary treatment strategy, dietary change can be remarkably effective. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can so improve arthritis, allergies, and other conditions that medication can be reduced and in some cases eliminated. Much evidence links the Mediterranean diet with good health, longevity, and low risk of disease. The DASH diet is an effective intervention for lowering high blood pressure (DASH is an acronym for dietary approaches to stop hypertension). Eliminating cow’s milk products from the diet often leads to marked improvement of recurrent ear infections in children and chronic sinusitis in adults. Eating whole soy foods regularly, beginning early in life, offers significant protection against hormonally driven cancers — breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. But because doctors are not trained in nutritional medicine, most of them are unable to give this sort of advice. Instead they rely on drugs.

Many of you are familiar with Dr. Weil’s books. I’ve commended Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being.Others are well worth your attention. [To buy the book of “Minds Over Meds” from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

How would Dr. Weil advise you to battle cholesterol? One way is a 4-7-8 breathing exercise.

And red yeast rice. [To buy it from Amazon, click here.] But why might you look beyond meds? “Statins are no panacea, and they do not belong in our drinking water.”

Dr. Weil goes on to consider antihistamines, sleep aids, steroids (he tells a riveting story of cortisone first helping the artist Raoul Dufy to regain mobility, then masking symptoms that killed him; he suggests substituting turmeric and ginger), psychiatric medications for adults and children, ADHD (you’ll learn why children born in August are more likely to be diagnosed — and treated with stimulants), opioids (among better treatments: medical marijuana), diabetes (if you take metformin, you might have a deficiency of vitamin B1), overmedication of children and the elderly.

“A pill for every ill.” It’s how doctors are trained. It’s how Big Pharma reinforces that message. (Did you know that Obamacare mandates public disclosure of payments from drug companies to doctors? To see if your doctor is taking drug money, click here.

The conclusion of the book: “I believe that Integrative Medicine is the medicine of the future…One day, I am sure, we will be able to drop the word ‘integrative.’ This will simply be good medicine.” His book makes a convincing case for that proposition.