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How many drugs work

Now that you have a basic understanding of how the receptor and ligand system works, (to review, click here) it is easy to understand how drugs work.  Basically, many drugs are made to either plug the receptor so it blocks the other ligands that are meant to bind with it, or the drugs mimic the natural ligand, bind to the receptor and get the cell to do what the natural ligand would have it do.  In Type 1 diabetics, whose bodies cannot manufacture insulin, synthetic or animal insulin is injected, binds to the insulin receptors and does the job of the natural stuff, which keeps diabetics alive, because the cells get the sugar fuel that they need to function.  When you have been badly hurt, or you are very sick and in a lot of pain, morphine is often given, which binds to the opiate receptors and reduces your pain.  Your body's natural "morphine" is the hormone epinephrine, and when your body is secreting epinephrine, you are feeling good.

Drugs can definitely be lifesaving, as in the case of Type 1 diabetes.  And they can really make a big difference if we are in acute pain or have a bad infection.  However they can be a double-edged sword if used inappropriately or for a prolonged period of time.  Our bodies work in feedback loops, and the dipstick is always checking to make sure that everything is within a narrow set of parameters.  If the pH goes up or down, corrective action is taken.  If there is too much or too little of this or that, corrective action is taken to bring the body back into homeostasis.   Say you take melatonin nightly to get to sleep.  Your dipstick notices plenty of melatonin circulating through your system, and therefore tells your pineal gland not to produce any.  Over time you can no longer produce melatonin at all, and your pineal gland will actually shrink.  This can be counterproductive in the long run.  Perhaps it would be better to stimulate your own melatonin production by getting more dark time, rather than reaching for a pill.

Another problem is that often we want to treat an issue only in a particular part of the body, but the drug has a negative effect on another part of the body.  For example, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors are used to treat depression, and they work by plugging the serotonin receptors in the brain so that there is more serotonin floating around so mood is improved.  However, as with all neurotransmitters found in the brain, their receptors are also found elsewhere in the body, so even though we want to treat the brain only, we wind up also treating the body.  So serotonin is not taken up in the intestines when it should be, and many people on serotonin re-uptake inhibitors have gastro-intestinal problems as a result.  Often more drugs are then given to treat the gut, which leads to further problems, and so the cycle goes.

Drugs are very toxic to our system.  Our liver becomes burdened trying to eliminate the chemicals in the drugs, which can be a significant additional stress that our body is forced to cope with, when it is already trying to do all that it can to make us well.

Our bodies are so extremely complex, with gazillions of feedback loops that interconnect, and if we mess with one by taking a drug, we are bound to also mess with many other feedback loops that may result in other side effects or more serious problems.  Yet we are designed to function very well, and if we can bring our bodies back into balance by eating whole, organic, non-processed foods, drinking enough pure water, sleeping in the dark, exercising enough but not too much, thinking happy thoughts, and keeping our bodies as free from toxins as possible, except for the odd circumstance, drugs will be less necessary.  For most people, the lifestyle changes that will have the biggest initial impact would be to eliminate sugar, flour and processed food from the diet, to take quality fish-oils to improve the omega 3 / omega 6 ratio, and to get enough sleep in the dark.  These changes will reduce the need for drugs for heart disease and mild depression, amongst others.  If this idea makes sense to you, PLEASE discuss this with your doctor and come off your drugs only under his/her supervision, as you make the lifestyle changes that will make it possible.  To come off drugs without medical supervision is a very bad idea.

Related Tips:
Essential Fats: Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio
Sugar: the disease generator
Blood-sugar regulation
Light Pollution messes with our hormones

Pert, Candace PhD, Molecules of Emotion Scribner, New York, NY, 1997.
Connor, Sonja et al. Are fish oils beneficial in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease Am. J. of Clinical Nutrition 66(1997): 1020S-1031S.
Crawford, Michael et al. Are fish oils beneficial in disease prevention and treatment? Am. J. of Clinical Nutrition 66(1997)1042S-1043S.
Sheline, Yvette I et al., How safe are serotonin reuptake inhibitors for depression in patients with coronary heart disease? Am. J. of Medicine 102, no. 1, Jan. 1997: 54-59.