Recently, I attended the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians) Convention, which was here in Phoenix at the Biltmore Resort.

Four days of sessions from some of the most respected voices speaking on the theme of "Composing Effective Patient Care."

An enlightening lecture I attended was titled, "How Do I Get Off These Drugs, Doc," presented by Dr. Letitia Dick, BS, ND, and Dr. Christie Fleetwood, ND, RPh.

They covered nutrient depletions caused by pharmaceutical drugs and how to support them; detoxifying the suppressed patient; replacing prescription drugs with nutraceuticals, homeopathics, botanicals and glandulars; bringing the patient to their highest level of health; and addressing therapeutic order.

According to Dick and Fleetwood, therapeutic order consists of:

• Identifying and removing the cause of disease (detriments of health: diet, digestion, stress and spirit)

• Healthy regimen: diet, nutrition, exercise, spirit

• Stimulating self-healing

• Supporting damaged systems

• Correcting structural integrity

• Addressing pathology

• Suppressing pathology

Consider this: Approximately 15,000 people die each year from illegal street drugs; more than 100,000 are killed each year from properly prescribed medications.

Did you know that 75 percent of all visits to a medical doctor end with a prescription? Did you know that pharmaceutical companies spend $10 billion a year to market their drugs?

Although there are thousands of pharmaceutical drugs, the focus for this lecture was the top diseased states and the drugs prescribed for these conditions.

The top disease conditions and reasons people see a doctor are: Digestive complaints, pain and infection, sleep issues and anxiety, hypothyroidism, Type 2 diabetes, clotting issues, hypercholesterolemia, osteoporosis, hypertension, benign prostatic hypertrophy, asthma, and depression.

An estimated 116 million U.S. adults suffer with chronic pain - that's twice as many people that have strokes, cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined.

Pain is the most common reason people seek medical advice. What causes someone to experience pain? When we get hurt or suffer an injury, this is defined as acute pain; whereas, an ongoing degenerative condition that continues to cause discomfort is described as chronic pain.

Pain meds are one of the most overprescribed drugs in the U.S. Misuse of prescription pain medication can lead to abuse, addiction, and they come with a laundry list of serious side effects.

As the nutritionist for The River Source, a holistic drug and alcohol treatment center located in Mesa, they confirm that detoxing an addict off of oxydocone is the most challenging of all drugs, including heroin or alcohol.

A new commentary published online in The FASEB Journal argues that "patients should be diligent and demand proof of safety and benefit before beginning any treatment regimen for chronic pain, as some treatments have very little scientific evidence that they actually alleviate the conditions for which they are prescribed.

Patients should ask their physician to provide results from published, placebo-controlled studies proving that the proposed remedy is both beneficial and safe."

"When doctors don't know what's causing a patient to experience chronic pain, desperation can set in," said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal. "That desperation, however, is no excuse for pushing the boundaries of the Hippocratic Oath by diagnosing a patient with a poorly defined health condition, like chronic Lyme disease, for which the only remedies are unproven and may only cause more harm."

Aside from prescription drugs for pain, there are hundreds of OTC pain relievers such as Ibuprofen, including Motrin and Advil and NSAIDS. Americans consume 15 tons of aspirin a day, 19 billion tablets per year.

Although thought to be harmless, a single aspirin will be responsible for 1,500 to 2,000 deaths, be a leading cause of kidney disease, and cause ulcers, toxic headaches and children's Reye's Syndrome. Taking aspirin regularly increases one's risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and micro-bleeding in the brain by 70 percent.

According to the American Journal of Medicine, approximately 107,000 individuals are hospitalized every year for NSAID related GI complications, and at least 16,500 deaths occur.

NSAIDs and Ibuprofen side effects include: Blurred vision, confusion, constipation, heartburn, dizziness, nervousness, edema, pale skin, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhea, fever, GI bleeding and leaky gut syndrome, rashes, hives, blisters, itching, kidney and back pain, tinnitus and weight gain.

Ibuprofen depletes your body of folic acid, melatonin, zinc and iron. Tylenol is the No. 1 cause of acute liver failure. Long-term use has been linked to high blood pressure and brain damage.

If you take just one non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory (Motrin, Datril, Anacin, Ibuprofen, etc.) drug every four days, over your lifetime, you will have nine times the normal risk for vital organ damage (kidney failure, liver failure, etc.)

Healthy strategies to reduce pain and decrease inflammation naturally are:

• Address mitochondrial dysfunction.

• An anti-inflammatory diet.

• Appropriate exercise and movement; too much exercise increases inflammation.

• Aromatherapy and Epsom salt baths.

• Assess your individual vitamin and mineral needs and deficiencies.

• Vitamin D - Mayo Clinic study - several years ago an inner city clinic discovered 93 percent of the 150 people with complaints of chronic, non-specific low back pain had vitamin D deficiency. And these weren't just older folks, they ranged in age from 10 to 65 years old.

• Balanced insulin levels.

• Blood chemistry analysis - Test C-reactive protein (CRP) and fasting insulin. CRP level is used as a marker of inflammation in the arteries; fasting insulin is a test that screens for diabetes and heart disease, but it's also a marker for inflammation.

• Correct gut and digestive dysfunction.

• Determine any food intolerances (which increase inflammation).

• According to Dr. Mark Hyman "the two most common sources of inflammation in the 21st century are sugar (and refined carbohydrates) and hidden food allergens (perhaps most important, gluten)."

• Hydration.

• Manage stressors, including oxidative stress.

• Nutritional supplementation personalized for the individual.

• Practice yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, acupuncture, hot and cold packs, even holding hands, which can result in amazing pain relief without any drugs.

• Resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions.

• Support and restore function to the autonomic nervous system.

• Visit a NeuroMuscular therapist, craniosacral therapist or Myofascial Release practitioner to work on the tension in your fascia and muscles.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at

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