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Could a Change of Habit Free You of The Need to Take Medication?

cork board with the word health“Millions of Canadians using acid-reflux drugs for too long, risking health side-effects.”
This headline ran a couple weeks back on CTV News. The story explores how “doctors are warning that millions of Canadians are taking a commonly prescribed class of drugs used to treat acid reflux much longer than the recommended two-month period, upping the risk of a number of health-related side-effects.”

In this case, they are referring to a common class of acid-reflux drugs known as proton pump inhibitors. Harmful side effects from long-term use include increased risk of bone fractures, an inability to absorb nutrients, kidney damage, stomach infections, and even a higher risk of dementia.

Common proton pump inhibitors available in Canada and the U.S. include:

  • omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC)
  • aspirin and omeprazole (Yosprala)
  • lansoprazole (Prevacid, Prevacid IV, Prevacid 24-Hour)
  • dexlansoprazole (Dexilent, Dexilent Solutab)
  • rabeprazole (Aciphex, Aciphex Sprinkle)
  • pantoprazole (Protonix)

There is almost always a risk of side effects

This post isn’t about acid reflux and the drugs used to treat it. Instead, we want to remind you that practically every drug carries a risk of negative side effects if used more often, or for longer, than recommended.

There are of course situations where medication use is warranted, whether it is a medication which you opt to use for a specific need, or one that is prescribed by a medical doctor. Even if used properly, most medications carry at least some risk of harmful side effects. It’s up to us as responsible consumers to understand the risks and weigh those against the reward, with the sound advice of a doctor or pharmacist.

But it can become all too easy to misuse and abuse medication, especially those we can purchase off the shelf without a prescription.

A couple of years back, news headlines focused on this issue in the context of pain killers (read our That common painkiller is a dangerous drug blog post). Whether it’s the common types available without a prescription, or the more powerful options that require a doctor’s note, we too often see our patients dependent on a steady diet of these medications, which are, for the most part, only intended for only occasional and short-term use.

Treat the cause, not the symptom

As we often say, pain is usually only a symptom of a deeper root cause. Pain medications may grant temporary relief, but if that pain is occurring frequently enough and for long enough to be considered chronic, that pill is not addressing the cause of your pain. Focusing on the symptom may in fact be allowing that cause to worsen and become irreparable.

It’s always important to do a little self-assessment to see if there is anything you can do, a habit you can change, that will address the source of your pain (or other negative symptom) and avoid the need for regular or long-term medication use.

With persistent or chronic pain, get to that root cause. Talk to your medical doctor, or, if that pain is located anywhere in your spine, from your pelvis to your skull (including any persistent headaches), come see us here at our Kanata Chiropractic clinic. Don’t consider pain medications a long-term solution until you fully understand the root cause of your pain and what changes in your lifestyle may provide relief.

Little things can make a big difference

Depending on your situation, those changes may involve changes to your diet, getting active and exercising, losing weight, or taking a yoga class to regain lost mobility and flexibility.

Take the subject with which we began this post, acid reflux. This condition often arises from lifestyle habits that can easily be changed if you can find the motivation to do so.

For example, specific foods can contribute to acid reflux, such as alcohol, spicy or fried foods, garlic and onions, citrus fruits, coffee and other caffeinated drinks, tomatoes (in any form) and chocolate. Other contributors include eating before bedtime, smoking, being overweight, and tight-fitting clothes.

For reference, here is a great article on the risks of acid reflux medications and how to avoid relying on them.

Always consider whether a change in habit can prevent you from becoming reliant on any medication and at risk of its side effects. More diligent and proper “self-care” will often prevent or correct the issue.

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