In a previous post I introduced you to Mind Over Meds by Dr. Andrew Weil . I reviewed 7 classes of medications he teaches we should use less often.
In another previous post I shared 7 drug classes I consider overused, 4 of which he discusses in his book.
In this follow up post I list alternatives to drug therapy. These are also adjuncts to medication- meaning we recommend using them even if you do need medication.
Dr. Weil mentions these in his book, and I’ve pulled from other sources too.
This is a brief overview of several approaches, not a complete list. If you are interested in knowing more, I suggest exploring the reference links. I invite you to send me a message about a topic you would like me to explore in more depth here.
This post uses affiliate links that support this blog and non-affiliate links that don’t.
EAT TO TREAT
I, Dr. Weil and most physicians recommend diet changes to treat and prevent many common medical conditions. Almost any health issue can be improved with better food choices.
The Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil, seems to protect against heart disease and increase longevity.
The DASH diet is the first choice to lower blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and also emphasizes fresh foods and healthy choices.
The American Diabetes Association offers extensive information on eating to control diabetes.
Food choices are also important in treating high cholesterol, GERD, allergy, heart disease, overweight, gout, kidney stones and other kidney disease, and possibly other conditions.
PLANTS THAT TREAT
Herbal medicines are endorsed by Dr. Weil; he points out that early synthetic drugs were derived from plants. Unfortunately most physicians have not had extensive training in their use. They are also not regulated as stringently as prescription drugs so quality may not be uniform.
Herbal medicines are used to treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms including headaches, gastric distress, hot flushes, depression, insomnia, pain, allergy among others. Scientific confirmation of their effectiveness is lacking for most, but some patients find them helpful and some physicians endorse, or at best tolerate their use.
The unsupervised use of herbs and other dietary supplements can be dangerous, especially if combined with other drugs.
USING OUR MINDS
Mind-body therapies can be helpful in managing painful conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), migraine, joint pain, and anxiety/depressive disorders. These include
- Relaxation techniques
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Breath work- changing habits of breathing and specific breathing techniques can relieve anxiety, and manage stress. Dr. Weil calls
Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing and teaches how to do it in this recording.
Exercise and other forms of physical activity help manage all kinds of musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia, lowers blood pressure, aids weight loss,relieves anxiety and depression. They may even have a role in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. This includes
- Tai chai
- Strength training
Manual medicine is used to manage back, neck, and other musculoskeletal pain and headaches.
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Osteopathic manipulation
- TNS-transcutaneous nerve stimulation
- Support with splints, wraps, slings, braces
TRAINING THE MIND
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other forms of psychotherapy should be a part of the treatment of most mental disorders and may be the only treatment needed for mild conditions. The use of therapy animals also fits here.
CHANGING OUR LIVES
Lifestyle evaluation and adjustments can improve any medical condition and is also one of the most important factors in prevention of disease.
Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent many infections, especially those that can be transmitted by food and water. Proper food preparation and storage and kitchen clean up also contribute to safety.
Habits that create sleep deprivation or poor sleep contribute to depression,musculoskeletal pain, headaches, fatigue, and even make us more prone to infection. Check out this previous post on how to get a good night’s sleep
Chemicals and pollutants
Avoidance of allergens and toxins should be automatic. For allergy, any known allergens -substances that cause allergy symptoms-can often be eliminated from one’s immediate environment, although I have had patients who insisted on keeping pets that they were allergic to. If the allergens cannot be completely eliminated, you can at least minimize exposure.
It seems we call everything a “toxin” these days, and detox regimens are popular. (although our bodies naturally detox us every day).
Anything in excess can be harmful. But our overall health as a society would improve immensely if more people would avoid the obvious toxins of tobacco, excess alcohol, and illicit drugs.
Review 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free
Many of the techniques I’ve mentioned help with stress management. In turn, managing the stressful events and situations in our lives can help us feel more rested, less tense, more relaxed, calmer, and able to manage our other medical problems better.
FamilyDoctor.org offers these steps to
Managing Daily Stress
Resources about integrative and complementary medical treatments
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
The Office of Dietary Supplements
exploring the HEART of a healthy lifestyle
If you found this post helpful, please share with friends and colleagues. And let me know too. I welcome feedback and use it to plan future posts.
2 thoughts on “non-drug ways to get well and stay well”
Thank you for this great post. I have been told that I have fibromyalgia and I have made it a goal to keep moving. It seems that I feel better that way. I also try to take as few drugs as possible and work very hard to use natural remedies. There is some great information in this post.
I’m glad you found it helpful, thanks for taking the time to comment. Physical activity is so important in managing fibromyalgia but hard to do when you don’t feel like it. I commend your determination. While meds can be useful for fibromyalgia, it’s wonderful that you are able to manage with few. I hope continue to do well and visit my blog often.