alternative medicine •••
It’s Unnatural to Kick Your Meds Cold Turkey
by Rosa Kincaid, M.D.
I was in a deep sleep at my St. Louis home when I was suddenly awakened by a 1 a.m. call from the on-duty emergency room physician at a local hospital. I was informed that one of my patients apparently suffered a stroke.
Even more surprising than the early morning call, the attending physician told me the stroke was most likely linked to my patient’s decision to replace her prescription high blood pressure medicines with herbal remedies. Of course, I was never consulted.
This was not a bad dream; it was a bad decision, a choice that could have cost my patient’s life.
I agreed that the standard protocol for treatment of stroke should start before my arrival at the hospital. After returning home, I tried to go back to sleep, but I kept wondering if other patients were dangerously self-treating themselves. Later that morning, I saw my hospitalized patient just clinging to life. She was barely recognizable and unable to speak.
To my dismay, I learned that my patient had quit taking her prescribed blood pressure medicine four months earlier. She said that decision was made after she shifted to a holistic treatment. But what she created was holy hell.
Although it may feel counter-intuitive, no patient should quit her meds cold turkey. Like it or not, there are certain circumstances in which traditional medicine is indispensable. An insulin drip, for example, can control blood sugar in a matter of minutes, while alpha lipoic acid and bitter melon can take weeks, if not months. The insulin drip will work no matter what you have eaten that day or that week. Herbal supplements are not as effective because in order for them to work, you need to have abstained from eating greasy or fried foods—and you also should have exercised more body parts than just your fingers on the television remote.
Warning: You shouldn’t make a major health move without consulting your doctor. How many times have you heard that? More importantly, how many times has it sunk in?
When I first got that dreaded telephone call, I immediately thought about something many people in the alternative medicine field do not like to admit: Some alternative health options can make things worse.
When thinking about my patient, I worried she might have been taking garlic tablets, hawthorn, or ginseng. If that were the case, one of those herbals could have interacted with blood thinners or blood pressure medicine, which could make the stroke worse by causing excess bleeding.
Or perhaps the patient was doing an internal detox and taking dandelion or blessed thistle. These herbs can inactivate many pharmaceuticals and render them ineffective by causing the liver to cleanse them out of the body.
Make no mistake about it: Herbs and supplements can be very effective in healing and preventing disease, but only if properly supervised. If you take a prescription medicine, confer with a health professional before ditching your pill bottles. Healing yourself naturally doesn’t mean just throwing away your prescription pills and substituting vitamins.