Talk to most doctors and they will insist that you must take statin cholesterol drugs, drugs for high blood pressure, drugs for acid reflux, and a host of others to maintain health. In other words, in their conception of health, pharmaceuticals are necessary since, in their world, nutrition doesn’t do much, nutrition supplements only make “expensive urine,” and of course few practicing physicians have any concept of a microbiome. Sure, there are times and situations in which drugs are indeed necessary: anesthetics during surgery to repair an injury, antibiotics for overwhelming bacterial infections, anti-seizure drugs for grand mal seizures, etc. But for the majority of common, chronic, modern diseases, prescription drugs are largely unnecessary.
The notion that prescription drugs are necessary for health is a patent absurdity. This sort of thinking is a reflection of the marketing power of the pharmaceutical industry who heavily market to physicians, as well as the biased reporting on clinical trial results paid for by the industry. It doesn’t help that the pharmaceutical industry also spends around $6 billion per year on TV and print ads that persuade consumers that they should be taking costly, toxic drugs to be happy like the people shown in such ads. Not only does this brainwash the public, but it has caused Big Media to abdicate any idea of open reporting, instead choosing to remain silent on any issue in healthcare.
Let’s take drugs for high blood pressure. Among the most popular: thiazide diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) and atenolol. Both modestly reduce blood pressure but are accompanied by side-effects/unintended consequences including:
- Lower HDL, higher triglycerides, increased small LDL particles that all contribute to long-term increased risk for heart disease
- Urinary loss of potassium and magnesium–that impairs numerous body processes such as maintaining bone density, stable heart rhythm, and actually can lead to long-term higher blood pressure, not to mention sudden cardiac death. (I have personally resuscitated many people who experienced cardiac arrest from diuretics.)
- Increased insulin resistance—i.e., the process that leads to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, and some cancers
- Decreased energy, decreased feelings of wellness—HCTZ causes dehydration, since that is how it works: reduces blood volume to reduce blood pressure. Beta blockers like atenolol block adrenaline, making you tired throughout the day.
There’s also a phenomenon called “residual risk”: Even if normal blood pressure is achieved with such drugs, the excess risk of hypertension is not erased. As you can appreciate, the pharmaceutical approach to managing hypertension is deeply flawed and filled with hazards.
Likewise, “reducing cholesterol” is another area in which doctors insist that the majority of people take statin drugs to reduce total and LDL cholesterol. This area alone is so jam-packed with misinformation and misinterpretation that I’ve discussed previously. Among the highlights:
- Cholesterol does not cause coronary heart disease; it is a crude and unreliable marker for the lipoproteins (fat-carrying proteins) in the blood that cause heart disease. You can obtain a far clearer gauge of cardiovascular risk by examining the lipoproteins directly and ignoring cholesterol. By tracking, for instance, NMR lipoproteins, it becomes immediately clear that the factors that cause heart disease are nutritional and have nothing to do with fat intake, saturated fat, or cholesterol.
- Statin drugs have minimal effect on reducing cardiovascular risk. You can see this while tracking coronary calcium scores (CCS), for instance, generated by CT heart scans: statins have zero impact on the rate of increase. Do nothing, for example, and a CCS of 500 will be 625 one year later, 781 another year later, taking you closer and closer to heart attack, symptoms of heart disease, or sudden cardiac death. Take a high-dose statin drug (along with low-fat diet, baby aspirin, beta blocker, and exercise program, what my colleagues continue to call “optimal medical therapy”) and the rate of increase in CCS? 25% per year—zero impact. The only benefit to taking a statin drug while consuming a diet that causes heart disease (i.e., a low-fat diet that includes wheat, grains, and sugars) is a modest reduction in the “soft” components of plaque that accounts for the minimal reduction in cardiovascular events experienced by some people. The reduction in risk is not the 36-55% quoted by doctors, but more like 1% over several years—hardly any effect at all.
What if you instead addressed the common factors in life that allow conditions like hypertension, coronary heart disease, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, obesity, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases to emerge in the first place? In other words, don’t “treat” some of the outward phenomena in these conditions, but address and correct the factors that allow, for instance, higher blood pressure and higher blood sugar. You can do so by:
- Avoiding foods that raise blood sugar and insulin—wheat, grains, and sugars
- Avoiding foods that trigger liver de novo lipogenesis—the liver process that converts carbohydrates (the amylopectin A of grains, sucrose, fructose, etc.) to triglycerides. Triglycerides are released into the bloodstream as VLDL particles that cause formation of small LDL lipoprotein particles that are potent contributors to coronary disease. We therefore avoid wheat, grains, and sugars.
- Address nutrients that are lacking due to modern lifestyles—We drink filtered water by necessity but water filtration removes virtually all magnesium. We are unable to consume seaweed and seafood ad lib due to mercury and other contaminants, and we refuse to eat the thyroid glands of animals; we therefore have to supplement omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. We live largely indoors, wear clothes that covers most skin surface area, and we lose the ability to activate vitamin D in the skin with sun exposure as we age; we therefore supplement vitamin D. Engaging in all these strategies reverses insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, and normalizes inflammatory responses, the primary drivers of high blood pressure, coronary disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.
- Address the disrupted intestinal microbiome—This is a work in progress, but you can at least tip the scales towards healthier bowel flora composition with practices such as inclusion of plentiful prebiotic fibers that nourish bacteria, adding fermented foods to your diet, and look for evidence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) that are ubiquitous and then take steps to correct. I estimate, for instance, that 1 in 3 Americans have SIBO. Don’t take my word for it—check your breath hydrogen gas with the AIRE device. (Anyone wishing to dive into discussions about these issues is invited to join our detailed discussions in the Undoctored Inner Circle.)
It is worth taking some lessons from the indigenous people of the world who do not consume grains, hunt and gather their food, have never taken antibiotics or other prescription medications. They have virtually zero high blood pressure, no coronary disease, no acne, no constipation, no ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, no colon cancer, no type 2 diabetes, and are free of numerous other modern conditions that are responsible for the bulk of activity and prescription drugs popular in modern healthcare. They instead have infections like Dengue fever and malaria, injuries from accidents and battle, as well as the occasional genetic condition. I believe that there are important lessons to take from all this.