The other day a friend was complaining of being sick for several days, mostly bed ridden with flu-like symptoms as well as a variety of gastrointestinal issues. She complained that when she did try to eat, she suffered from severe heartburn and nausea, so much so that she had hardly eaten for three days. I suggested she take an antacid, but she felt strongly that she didn't want to put any medications in her body.
I didn't disagree, but I did feel the need to do some teaching.
This is the deal. I agree with the notion of not introducing medications to the body. In a more perfect world, where people get adequate sleep, eat only organically grown foods, are not exposed to toxins, exercise daily, meditate, have loving thoughts, spend regular time in nature and have a supportive social support system, the immune system is usually strong enough to handle most viruses that are passing through. But the truth is, more often than not, people are overwhelmed with stress and have few of the above, resulting in an immune system that is under a lot of stress.
When a virus does come through, the resources needed to fight it are lacking.
Ideally, it's preferable that people develop better lifestyle habits and make better choices in their lives so that their immune system stays strong and viable. Indeed, I have treated thousands of patients who have had a myriad problems--from heart disease to cancer, depression to anxiety-- and teaching them how to make better choices that will support and provoke their body's natural and tremendous healing power. Generally, their bodies do heal.
Having said that, once the body has succumbed to some sort of illness, though it's important to continue or change to positive health habits, it's also important to remember that the body is functioning at a deficit that and is spending a lot of energy trying to repair. This is where, in my belief, Western Medicine has some value. For example, high blood pressure causes a lot of stress on the body, especially the heart and the brain. Left untreated, more severe disease could follow.
We do know that a regular meditation practice, exercise, healthy nutrition and positive psychology can help reduce blood pressure so that patients no longer require medication. However, until the system rights itself so that the blood pressure is consistently low, you need to keep the blood pressure down to reduce the overall stress on the body.
Same goes with a stomach virus. If your symptoms are preventing you from eating, which means your body is not getting adequate energy and support to heal itself, it may behoove you to take something -a medication or a natural remedy--to alleviate the symptoms so that you can eat, so that the body can regain the power it needs to heal.
My take on medications is this: When taken for a short burst of time and in small amounts, the body can normally handle most foreign substances, as long as their toxic profile is not high (chemotherapy versus Tylenol, for example). The longer your body is exposed to a foreign substance that has some toxic properties, the more stress it puts on your body, so it's ideal to use medications for short periods and in low doses. When weighing whether or not to take a medication, you want to think about the risk/benefit ratio. For instance, the risk of taking a blood pressure medication is usually lower than the risk of what might happen to you if you don't take it, especially versus its benefit.
You want to remember that modern medicine focuses on getting rid of symptoms and managing body parts so that you can continue on with your life. It doesn't address any real core issues of why you are in the state you are in to begin with or the reason the body is reacting the way it is in the first place. Medications are prescribed to put fires out, like pain or heartburn, so that you can continue doing whatever you normally do. The problem isn't so much the treating of the symptoms, in my view, but the intention behind it. I'm okay with treating symptoms so that the body can catch a break, not be in pain momentarily and so that it can regroup and access its healing power. Getting sick or having symptoms is often the body's way of warning you to make changes, take better care of yourself, do something different, not to keep doing the same thing. I am not okay with treating symptoms so that you can just keep on with your life without making any changes and getting the body and mind fit so they can handle anything.
As many people who know me know, I am an advocate for both Western and Eastern/natural medicine or healing applications. I will not tell you to stop taking your medication. I will tell you that there are tools and prescriptions available to you that have no side effects that allow you to get you off your medications or at the very least, lower the dosages. There is a way to get your body so fit, you have few symptoms at all. But if you are suffering, and especially not able to eat or give your body the rest, food or nourishment it needs, then you may want to consider taking something to help you along. As with anything pertaining to your health, please check with your doctor first.