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August 23, 2016

Food As Medicine
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Drugs, Supplements, or Both?

Physicians regularly combine drug therapies to reach a certain therapeutic target. Likewise, integrative practitioners combine various supplements to achieve a synergistic benefit. But rarely do we see a combining of drug and supplement for an optimal therapeutic outcome. Mostly, because it is rare to find a practitioner that understands how to do this.

There are 3 benefits that one can appreciate when using natural therapies along side drug treatments:

  • Improve the efficacy of the drug
  • Mitigate some of the negative side-effects of the drug
  • Promote recovery from the use of the drug and the illness being treated

I’ve outlined a few examples of how combining drugs and supplements improve the therapeutic effect and thus the outcome.

Cayenne and Aspirin

Most people have taken aspirin at least once in their life. It is one of the most common over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatories on the market.

It is a well-known fact, that regular use of aspirin can cause ulcers. In its plot to block the COX-2 enzyme (responsible for the pain response), it also blocks the COX-1 enzyme, which is responsible for protection of the stomach lining. This results in the stomach lining getting damaged and leading to the development of ulceration.

We often associate cayenne with a burning feeling, and therefore find it hard to believe that it can actually protect tissue from damage. There is a body of research that shows it can protect the stomach from the damaging effects of aspirin. 1 2 3

In one study, they looked at 18 subjects who were given either water, aspirin and cayenne, or just water and aspirin. The group who were given the cayenne had significantly increased protection against stomach damage. 4

Melatonin and Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen is a popular treatment for estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. It works by blocking the estrogen receptor, in hopes of decreasing the promotion of cell growth.

Cancer drugs are usually extremely toxic to the body. They essentially work by trying to kill cancer cells without killing the patient. Natural therapies that potentiate drug therapies can therefore be an valuable adjunct.

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland. It helps with our sleep and wake cycle and has powerful antioxidant capacity. Low levels have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. 5

Melatonin is a valuable addition to tamoxifen therapy because it increases the effectiveness of tamoxifen without causing any added side-effects. 6 7 In other worlds, melatonin helps tamoxifen do its job better.

Sweet Wormwood and Mefloquine

Parasites are resilient creatures and often require strong drugs to eradicate them from the body. One such drug is mefloquine which is used to treat malaria.

When mefloquine is combined with artemisinin (an extract from the herb Sweet Wormword, Artemisia annua) studies showed more rapid parasite clearance and fever reduction. 8 Sometimes it takes multiple tries before eradicating a parasite, so anything to improve the efficacy of treatment, could benefit many.

Probiotics and Antibiotics

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives ever since they were first used in the 1930s. They are potent agents that can kill pathogenic bacteria.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not smart enough to only kill the bad bacteria, they also kill our good bacteria. As a result, unwanted side-effects, usually digestive-related, are experienced by many people. These include; yeast infections, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, thrush, and leaky gut syndrome, to name only a few.

What many prescribing practitioners don’t realize is that adding probiotics both during and after antibiotic therapy greatly enhances the antibiotic therapy itself, and prevents side-effects. 9 10 11 12 13 This should be standard practice whenever an antibiotic is prescribed.

Final Thoughts

In a recent article I discussed the power of combining the best of medical therapies with the best of natural therapies. It is truly a combination that could result in the best patient outcome.

If you are taking a pharmaceutical to manage a condition, I encourage you to explore natural therapies to support and possibly improve your outcome. There are usually a plethora of therapies that can be added to your regimen that reduce side effects, prevent future illness, and improve the effectiveness of the drug.

– Josh

References:

  1. Abdel Salam OM, Moszik G, Szolcsanyi J. Studies on the effect of intragastric capsaicin on gastric ulcer and on the prostacyclin-induced cytoprotection in rats. Pharmacol Res. 1995;32:209-215.
  2. Holzer P, Pabst MA, Lippe IT. Intragastric capsaicin protects against aspirin-induced lesion formation and bleeding in the rat gastric mucosa. Gastroenterology. 1989;96:1425-1433.
  3. Yeoh KG, Kang JY, Yap I, et al. Chili protects against aspirin-induced gastroduodenal mucosal injury in humans. Dig Dis Sci.1995;40:580-583.
  4. Yeoh KG, Kang JY, Yap I, et al. Chili protects against aspirin-induced gastroduodenal mucosal injury in humans. Dig Dis Sci.1995;40:580-583.
  5. Schernhammer ES, Laden F, Speizer FE, et al. Night-shift work and risk of colorectal cancer in the nurses’ health study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Jun 4;95(11):825-8.
  6. Lissoni P, Brivio F, Brivio O, et al. Immune effects of preoperative immunotherapy with high-dose subcutaneous interleukin-2 versus neuroimmunotherapy with low-dose interleukin-2 plus the neurohormone melatonin in gastrointestinal tract tumor patients. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 1995 Jan;9(1):31-3.
  7. Lissoni P, Paolorossi F, Tancini G, et al. A phase II study of tamoxifen plus melatonin in metastatic solid tumour patients. British Journal of Cancer. 1996;74(9):1466-1468.
  8. Singh NP, Lai H. Selective toxicity of dihydroartemisinin and holotransferrin toward human breast cancer cells. Life Sci 2001; 70:49-56.
  9. Cremonini F, Canducci F, et al. Helicobacter pylori treatment: a role for probiotics? Dig Dis . 2001;19(2):144-7.
  10. Drouin E. Helicobacter pylori: novel therapies. Can J Gastroenterol . 1999;13(7):581-3.
  11. Marignani M, Angeletti S, et al. Acute infectious diarrhea. N Engl J Med . 2004;350(15):1576-7.
  12. Kontiokari T, Laitinen J, et al. Dietary factors protecting women from urinary tract infection. Am J Clin Nutr . 2003;77(3):600-4.
  13. Andreeva P, Dimitrov A. The probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus: an alternative treatment of bacterial vaginosis. Akush Ginekol (Sofiia) . 2002;41(6):29-31.