Understanding the biochemical pathways involved in nutrient and drug actions is of prime importance when working with patients. Using this information can help the practitioner choose the best treatment while also helping to inform a patient about the processes that occur in their body.
In studying these these interactions over the years, I’ve long-noticed a primary distinction between the way drugs affect the body and the way natural therapies affect the body. From what I can see, many drugs work “against” the body, while natural therapies work “with” the body. I’ll detail a few examples to show you my point.
1) statin cholesterol-lowering medications These drugs interfere with (or block) the body’s natural production of cholesterol. This is turn lowers the cholesterol level in the blood.
A natural approach would be to increase the body’s natural ability to break down cholesterol, and hopefully look in to addressing the reason why the body is making more than is considered healthy.
2) aromatase inhibitors Aromatase is an enzyme involved in the production of estrogen. Excess levels of estrogen have been implicated in breast and ovarian cancer. So these drugs are mainly used in those with breast and/or ovarian cancer, in order to block the production of estrogen.
A natural approach might be to help the body (specifically the liver) break down, detoxify, or “clear” these estrogens from the system more efficiently; rather than to outright block the natural production of estrogen.
3) “osteoporosis” medications Bone is constantly remodeling. That is, new bone is continuously being formed, while old bone is continuously being broken down. Certain medications used to treat osteoporosis (known as bisphosphonates) are designed to inhibit the body’s natural breakdown of (old) bone; in an attempt to maintain the bone density that already exists.
A more natural approach would be to facilitate the growth of new bone cells through supplying the body with the raw materials necessary to build bone; amongst other methods.
4) antidepressant medication or SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) A lack of the neurotransmitter serotonin is commonly considered one of the hallmarks of depression. Let me first say that serotonin and other neurotransmitters are constantly “floating” in the area between nerve cells called the synaptic cleft. Generally, one nerve cell (the pre-synaptic) will release serotonin into the cleft in order for an adjacent nerve cell (the post-synaptic) to take-up the serotonin and allow it’s effects to take place in the body. Normal metabolism dictates that the first nerve cell (pre-synaptic) will also naturally “reuptake” (i.e.: take back if you will) much of the serotonin it released into the cleft or space. These SSRI drugs are designed to prevent serotonin from naturally being removed (or re- taken up) from the area between nerve cells. Again, it blocks the normal action of the body, in turn leaving more serotonin “around” in hopes that the second nerve will use it and allow its action(s) to take effect.
A more natural approach would be to see if perhaps the body’s production of serotonin is low is the first place. If so, a natural approach would work with the body in order to produce more serotonin, as opposed to blocking the natural self-regulating mechanism of reuptaking it.
There are many other examples of how the action of drugs work to block or impede the body’s natural functions; while the aim of natural therapies is to help facilitate or enhance the body’s natural functions in order to accomplish a desired result. Perhaps the reason that natural therapies have few known side-effects is because they work “with” the body’s natural processes as opposed to working “against” them. When looking to achieve a desired result, wouldn’t you rather work “with” your body than “against” it?
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology