Can I use natural medicine while I’m taking prescription medication? An Integrated Approach to Wellness by Brita Mutti, ND, FABNO

Yes! Being on prescription medications does not mean you cannot also use natural medicine. In fact, your naturopathic doctor can help guide you in ways that can increase the effectiveness of prescription therapies as well as reduce the risks of side effects related to those medications. Often by using an integrative approach to health and wellness, you get the best of both conventional and natural medicines. The potential for wellness is optimized by the judicious use of carefully selected prescription drugs combined with the use of evidence-based natural therapies.

Naturopathic medicine can also reduce withdrawal side effects associated with coming off certain medications, including those used to treat anxiety, depression, heartburn, and insomnia. It is important to discuss options for weaning off medication with your prescribing doctor first as there are certain medications that are particularly important to wean off slowly to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Let your prescribing doctor know that you have stopped or are interested in stopping medications.

Depression is one condition in which an integrative approach is appropriate. Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions and conventional medicine has very little to offer aside from the use of prescription medications. These are often not very effective and can be very difficult to come off of.  Depression is a complex, multifaceted condition that is conventionally treated with an expensive, one-dimensional approach. Normal changes in mood, or sadness due to life events are often labeled as depression, leading to an over-diagnosis of the condition.

While prescription medication can be beneficial and sometimes lifesaving, it is important to address illness, especially mental illness, on all levels, treating the whole person, addressing the mind, body and spirit.  Unfortunately, the use of conventional treatment alone is the most common approach due to lack of knowledge, a profit-driven medical system, and the lack of time that is required to specialize treatment plans. Your naturopath treats each person as an individual, and specializing your treatment plan maximizes the potential for benefit and reducing risk and side effects.

An integrative approach to wellness can include the use of certain nutrients, amino acids, enzymes, and changes in lifestyle choices that are tailored to support the individual needs of the patient. These choices can then be based on their personal symptoms and the specific medications they are using. Conventional labs including thyroid panels, test for anemia, and nutrient status are important tools in guiding the treatment plan.

Testing for neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, histamine, GABA, glutamine, and epinephrine can be an important tool for determining each person’s individual needs. Not uncommonly, similar sets of symptoms can have significantly different underlying causes. Neurotransmitters are an important part of immune and adrenal function and if out of balance can have widespread impact on health and wellness. Symptoms of neurotransmitter imbalance include: fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, inattention, lack of focus, and weight changes.

Testing the adrenal gland for cortisol levels is another good way to tailor a treatment plan to meet individual needs and optimize outcomes. The adrenal gland secretes stress hormones that can become unbalanced as a result of stress, poor diet, and other environmental factors. By using adrenal testing your naturopathic doctor will know what is specifically needed to lower or increase cortisol levels and at what time of day that treatment is advisable.  Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, and fatigue.

Discuss your prescription medications with your naturopathic doctor. Don’t be afraid to consider ways to reduce your use of prescription drugs, and to optimize your health and wellness by creating an integrated treatment plan.