Nutritional Alternatives to Prescription Drugs

by Dr. Howard F. Loomis, D.C.

Prescription drugs are used to treat disease. They WORK by blocking a human enzyme system or by filling specific receptor sites, thus directing the body’s biochemistry. Their specific need and even dosage can be pinpointed by the use of various laboratory testing.
However, nutritional supplements (whether protein, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, or minerals) do not, by themselves, perform WORK. They must be put to work by specific enzyme action. Nevertheless, the concept of considering nutritional alternatives to prescription drugs is well worth the effort.  I must point out (with tongue in cheek) that it is too late for rose hips when you have just fallen off the top of a ten story building. In other words, nutritional supplements find their best use for maintaining health—not treating disease.
With the above in mind, it would seem advisable to incorporate enzyme supplementation into one’s nutritional recommendations. There are many different enzymes that can be safely used for nutritional use, but similar to prescription drug use, one must be certain to use the correct enzyme or combination of enzymes for each individual patient’s needs. Shotgun approaches to nutritional supplementation, while easy and convenient, are seldom successful in the long term for restoring normal function.
I use food enzymes to improve digestion and to nourish the body when signs of inflammation appear; that is, increased heat or fever, redness, swelling, pain and muscle contraction. I generally do not use enzymes derived from beef and pork (marketed under the name of pancreatin), since they are only useful in inflammatory conditions, and not for improving digestion. In this article, I will be pointing out a very useful physical finding that chiropractors can use to determine when a patient requires food enzyme supplementation—namely, loss of normal thoracic kyphosis in cases of indigestion, metabolic syndrome, and restless legs.
An important part of every case history, and even ongoing case notes, should be knowledge of the patient’s prescription and over-the-counter drug use. This has always been important, because drugs mask symptoms and physical findings that are important in making an accurate assessment of the need for chiropractic care. In fact, it could be recommended that you set aside time to review prescription drug use with each patient at least every 3 to 6 months. Most of your patients will appreciate the effort.
It is important to remember that any visceral dysfunction produces contraction(s) in the muscles that share spinal innervation with the stressed organ(s). This occurs not only in the periphery but at the spine as well. Thus, we have the occurrence of spinal subluxation contaminant with visceral dysfunction.
When prescription drugs are used to alter visceral function, muscle contractions and subluxation patterns change. Thus, it is imperative that a patient’s use of prescription medications and any changes that are made in their medications be carefully noted by the clinician.
Your patients should be informed that prescription drugs are used for the treatment of disease and they do not restore normal function, nor can they maintain health. Since all prescribed drugs interfere with normal body functions, by either blocking receptor sites or interfering with a human enzyme system, they all cause side effects that can be recognized very early by changes in muscle contraction and subluxation patterns.
Let’s now consider some of the more common conditions you see in your practice for which the patient is using prescription medication. Recall that all symptoms are caused by the inability of an organ system to fulfill its role in maintaining homeostasis, either because it is nutrient deficient or there is excessive waste accumulation. Since we are making nutritional recommendations, we’ll begin with digestion.

Proton Pump Inhibitors for Digestive Symptoms
These drugs block the production of stomach acid to reduce symptoms of heartburn, indigestion, gas and bloating. Unfortunately these drugs are recommended solely based on symptoms, since there are no laboratory tests to specifically identify whether the problems are caused by stomach, biliary or pancreatic dysfunction.
Proton Pump inhibitors reduce symptoms but do not affect the muscle contractions, loss of range of motion, and chronic subluxation patterns associated with compromised digestion.
Invariably, since the digestive organs receive sympathetic innervation from the mid-thoracic area, these patients will exhibit a loss of the normal thoracic kyphosis. It is important to remember that this is not an osseous problem, but rather is caused by muscle contraction.
Very often this is the underlying cause of chronic headache complaints and non-traumatic shoulder complaints.

Fibrates Used with Statin Drugs
Fibrates are used in combination with statins for a range of metabolic disorders, including high cholesterol and high lipid levels in the blood. Although less effective in lowering LDL, fibrates increase HDL levels and decrease triglyceride levels. They also seem to improve insulin resistance and other features of the metabolic syndrome, in particular hypertension and diabetes mellitus type 2.
Fibrates are able to penetrate cell membranes and block fatty acid receptors within the cell. They stimulate a class of intracellular receptors that modulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Fibrates are agonists, that is they replace fatty acids as well as prostaglandins and leukotrienes at the receptor sites within the cells of muscle, liver, and other tissues. Of course, there are side effects to all this:
The most obvious is myopathy—muscle pain with CPK elevations.
T5 to T9—most fibrates can cause mild stomach upset and, since they increase the cholesterol content of bile, they increase the risk for gallstones.
T10 to T11—in combination with statin drugs, fibrates cause an increased risk of rhabdomyolysis (idiosyncratic destruction of muscle tissue) leading to renal failure.    

Dopamine Agonists for Restless Legs
There are no laboratory tests to diagnose RLS and no physical examination findings are indicated for determining the presence or cause of RLS. Recommendations for the drug are based solely on symptoms. Since movement relieves the symptoms,  it is commonly reported that the symptoms only occur or are worse at night.
Orally administered dopamine agonists are being widely advertised for symptomatic relief of RLS. In pharmacology, an agonist is a substance that binds to a specific receptor and triggers a response in the cell. It mimics the action of a neurotransmitter or hormone that normally binds at that site. Since agonists are useful in replacing the neuron-transmitter dopamine, these drugs are also used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Of course the patho-physiology of both Parkinson’s and RLS is unknown.
Studies have shown that these drugs have helped some people control or improve their symptoms. Although they may seem to help at first, later these medicines may make symptoms worse by a process called augmentation.
The most common side effects in clinical trials for RLS were nausea, headache, and tiredness. Studies indicated the drug has little or no effect on blood pressure or pulse rate when lying down. But, upon standing, they produce a drop in blood pressure, both the systolic and diastolic. These changes are accompanied by lightheadedness upon arising, general fatigue, inability to tolerate stress, and a slow, weak pulse rate. Based on the above, it is reasonable to assume you will again find loss of normal thoracic kyphosis in these patients due to muscle contraction.
Increased urinary potassium losses also become significant when dopamine agonists are used for symptoms of RLS. Symptoms of potassium deficiency include stiff, sore joints, constipation, inability to think clearly, and cardiac arrhythmias.
In my practice, I used nutrition to maintain health and give support to those patients taking medications.  Food enzymes are the key to improving digestion and nourishing the body when signs of inflammation appear.  The loss of normal thoracic kyphosis is an easily recognizable sign warning you when a patient requires food enzyme supplementation.
Again, your patients should be informed that prescription drugs are used for the treatment of disease and they do not restore normal function, nor can they maintain health.


Dr. Howard Loomis can be reached by mail at 6421 Enterprise Lane, Madison, WI 53719 or by phone at 1-800-662-2630.  
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