Tag Archives: integrative medicine

sketch of a stack of books with an apple on top

non-drug ways to get well and stay well

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. MIND OVER MEDS- book cover

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.


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.

bottle of olive oil

Olive oil is an important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet .

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.


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.


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

  • Hyposis
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation techniques



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

woman standing on a rock in a forest

Walking, especially outdoors, can relieve feelings of stress and tension as well as improve physical fitness.  Photo from Lightstock.com



Tai chai


Strength training







Manual medicine is used to manage back, neck, and other musculoskeletal pain and headaches.

  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • TNS-transcutaneous nerve stimulation
  • Massage
  • Support with splints, wraps, slings, braces


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.


Lifestyle evaluation and adjustments can improve any medical condition and is also one of the most important factors in prevention of disease.



a sink with colorful wall decorations

Who knew handwashing could be entertaining?

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

a bed in a room

One’s sleep environment affects quality of 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.

At this affiliate link you can find products to help eliminate allergens in your home


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.

sign says NO smoking, wilderness area

When walking, wear proper shoes; and don’t smoke.

Review 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free







Stress management 

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 



Dr. Weil recommends these resources about  integrative and complementary medical treatments

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

The Office of Dietary Supplements 


Dr. Weil’s books are also available at

Barnes & Noble – Free Shipping of $25+


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.

drawing of a man reading a book which hides his face

7 more overused drugs – a book review

When I wrote the post 7 overused drugs, I knew other doctors would agree with me, but I didn’t know that a well known doctor was publishing a book that agrees with it.

MIND OVER MEDS- book cover

Published this year by Little, Brown and Company, MIND OVER MEDS teaches you to know

“When Drugs Are Necessary,

When Alternatives Are Better-and When to

Let Your Body Heal on Its Own.”

Andrew Weil, M.D. wote MIND OVER MEDS as well as  Spontaneous Happiness, Spontaneous Healing and other books on physical and emotional health and healing, nutrition, and integrative healthcare. He is the director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

After the introduction, each chapter stands alone if you want to explore a particular class of medication. The book can also be useful as a reference manual. For each chapter Dr. Weil also collaborated with colleagues with expertise in those areas.

Besides 4 of the 7 drugs that I discussed in my post, Dr. Weil discusses 7 other broad categories that I will briefly review.

 general principles about drug use

  • Don’t stop taking a prescription medication suddenly, unless instructed to by a physician.
  • Wean off medications gradually, supervised by a physician.
  • Don’t attempt to stop medication without first initiating other measures to manage the condition the medication was prescribed for. (paraphrased from the introduction)

Dr. Weil reviewed four medication groups that I discussed in this post- 7 overused drugs

  • Antibiotics
  • Sleep aids
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Opioids and the Treatment of Chronic Pain


Neither of us reject these drugs completely; rather we urge caution,

  • don’t rush to use them without trying non-drug treatments first or concurrently,
  • use only when absolutely necessary, and
  • be aware of potential side effects and harms.

 7 other classes of overused medication

1.Statins- medication used to lower blood cholesterol and prevent heart disease

“Current emphasis on statin therapy should be

balanced by equal emphasis on lifestyle changes.”

diagram of the human heart

Heart diseases affect any and sometimes multiple parts of the heart- the atria, ventricles, the valves, the aorta, the pulmonary artery and veins, the walls and the coronary arteries (not shown in this diagram. )

2. Medication for GERD- gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as reflux or heartburn

“Heartburn is a warning sign of disturbed GI function that should prompt us to identify and change the habits responsible for it.”

3. Antihistamines (allergy meds) and Medications for the Common Cold and Flu

These are in two separate chapters but I group them together since the same meds can be used to treat all three conditions.

“People with allergic rhinitis and others…would be wise not to rely on antihistamines, but to try natural remedies and lifestyle change …to control symptoms.”

“Most healthy people recover from both colds and flu on their own with no need for drugs, prescription or OTC (over the counter). “

I included antihistamines on my list of drugs that are underused. I was referring to people with severe uncontrolled allergy. Dr. Weil seems to concur with their use in this case.

4. Steroids- the steroids in the cortisone family, not the anabolic steroids

“Save these powerful drugs for serious conditions and try to slowly wean off them once improvement occurs.”

5. Psychiatric Medications for Adults, Children and Adolescents and for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Dr. Weil’s discussion of these medications takes up three chapters but I’m grouping them together.

These drugs are on my list of underused drugs. I said that because severe mental illness symptoms usually needs  medication for adequate control and those people should stay on medication indefinitely, until a physician recommends stopping. Otherwise, I agree with Dr. Weil that milder illness may not need medication.

“Antidepressant drugs are indicated for major depression, not for routine management of mild to moderate depression, for which more effective and safer treatment options exist.”

“Medication treatment should always be integrated with psychotherapy and other non-pharmacological approaches and should be discontinued as soon as possible” (the chapter on children)

“ADHD is highly overdiagnosed. Children with learning or behavioral difficulties should be carefully evaluated before being labeled with the disorder.”

6. Antihypertensive (hypertension or high blood pressure) Drugs and Medications for Diabetes

I’m grouping these together because these

two conditions frequently occur together, what we in medicine call comorbidity.        complications of high blood pressure

“In treating high blood pressure, it is extremely important to take individual uniqueness into account.”

“Our health care system and our society should encourage better lifestyle choices by making these…more accessible and more affordable…by changing diet, increasing physical activity ..many will be able to keep their use of medications to a minimum..”

7. Medications for Osteopenia (thin bones) and Other Preconditions

“Most people with osteopenia have …low fracture risk. They do not need drug therapy, since the risk outweighs the benefit.”

If you need to check if any of your medications fall into any of these categories, you can check at this link, or ask a question in the comments or here.

MedLine Plus- Drugs, Herbs, and Supplements 

Last words about medication overuse

Dr. Weil offers these last words(among several others) about using meds wisely.

To consumers-

Be informed. Do not take medications (of any kind) unless you know the reason, how they work, and the potential benefits versus the potential risks.

To pharmacists-

Be knowledgeable about the dietary supplements, herbal remedies, and other natural products that consumers are taking.

To physicians, nurses, and allied health care providers-

Be informed about alternatives to medications therapy for the health conditions you see.

To all readers of his book

Contact your elected representatives to end direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medications.


So what are the alternatives to using drugs for these and other conditions? I’ll tell you what Dr. Weil says, as well as other experts, in my next post. Or, you can get Dr. Weil’s book and find out now.

For your review:

7 overused medications

7 underused medications