Tasting the Acorn

Say no to drugs

October 27, 2009

Please note that in this post I am not suggesting anyone should stop taking any drugs their doctor has prescribed, I'm just telling my story and what's worked for me. It might be dangerous for you to do the same so please consult your doctor before doing anything stupid.

When I moved house recently I got knocked completely out of routine and like a complete idiot that caused me to forget to take my prescription drugs for nearly six days.

Normally I'd be really worried about that, but the odd thing was that I felt better for those few days than I have for ages. My cough went; I don't remember getting a headache during that time; I found it easier to walk and I'm pretty sure I never felt my heart pound like I occasionally do (although that sometimes doesn't happen for several days at a time so I'm not sure about that one). The biggest change was that my blood glucose reading was normal, which it hasn't consistently been since I started testing myself. But I saw the real difference when I started taking them again.

I started getting headaches; I felt run down. My throat was dry which was making it sore and I was coughing again. My ankles started to ache when I walked again and I had difficulty concentrating for long periods. And my blood glucose was all over the map again. I was pretty sure this isn't the way prescription drugs are supposed to work!

So I made an appointment to get myself checked over. I was sure he'd weigh me, which he did. I was sure he'd check my BP, which he did. I was sure he'd be really confused about what was happening, which he was. And I was sure he wouldn't like my plan, which he didn't.

My plan was basically to stop taking the drugs for a while and see what happens so I'm not at all surprised he didn't think it was such a good idea, but I'd seen enough evidence to make the risk worth taking to find out if I could be drug free.

But here's the thing... the main thing I was worried about was whether I was strong enough to stand up to a doctor. I've been conditioned to think they know what they're doing, and I still have that faith. I was sure that I when told him what happened he'd have a go at me for even considering stopping the drugs. Iwasn't sure I'd be able to stand my ground and fight for an answer as to why I felt better without them; I was convinced I'd just roll over and do what he told me to like a good little boy. I didn't trust myself to know what's best for me over the advice of someone properly trained.

What actually happened was that he made a small effort to change my mind, but in general he was supportive of my conviction that I had to try this. He wasn't so worried about the glucose level, but the BP clearly had him concerned. I was on two types of medication for that, and I had no evidence to support stopping those, but I knew I needed to stop the lot. I had to jump into this with both feet otherwise I couldn't be sure whether the drugs I was still taking were having an effect on the symptoms for which I had stopped taking drugs, if you see what I mean.

I knew I'd need a way to monitor my BP so I got myself a home monitoring device and have started taking daily readings (see my diabetes log for my latest BP readings) and I've discovered something very interesting. Generally speaking when they measure it at the doctor's surgery it's around 170/100, which is extremely high. When I test it at home (and admittedly this is a few days after I started my new healthy attitude) it's around 140/90 which is what my doctor has always said I should be aiming for.

The only conclusion I can reach is that the surgery is a very stressful place for me. I don't know if I attach a specific trauma to the place but I clearly have a problem remaining calm when I'm there. It is the surgery my parents took me to as a kid so it may be that I generally associate it with bad things. What it does show is that while my BP is higher than ideal (it should be around 120/80) it's nowhere near as bad as they think it is, and as time moves on and I continue to lose weight it's dropping, albeit slowly.

So as I type this I've been drug free for about two weeks, and so far it's working really well. My glucose levels and BP have been far lower than when I was taking drugs, and my glucose is actually generally well within what's considered normal. I've had a cough for a while, but it's almost certainly congestion and is almost certainly caused by my body getting rid of whatever the drugs were doing to my system. The cough is starting to fade now and is nowhere near as bad as it was when I started. I'm sure that over the next few days it will go completely.

My BP is still high but I'm not too worried. I still have a fair amount of weight to shift, and as I shed the fat I fully expect my BP to drop to a more normal level.

I'm more active. I don't say no when someone suggests walking somewhere (in fact I often suggest it). I'm walking a long way without any ill effects (Frimley to Frimley Green and back on Thursday last week which is a 3 mile round trip) and I actually feel like I could go on forever once I get past the wall of pain after about fifteen/twenty minutes.

I'm eating a balanced mix of good and bad stuff, and have learnt that if I follow the bad stuff with a 30-40 minute walk my glucose level returns back to normal and my BP appears to be unaffected. Without the walk it's a different story, but at least I know what I need to do when I'm bad.

I'm fully aware that I've still got a mountain to climb, but I finally feel like I'm making progress. I'm confident that I can do what's necessary to get almost everything under control without the use of drugs. The only exception is my under-active thyroid.

This was diagnosed shortly after the diabetes. An under-active thyroid basically causes the body's metabolism to slow down which leads to weight gain and a higher chance of things like heart disease and diabetes. I'm prescribed levothyroxin which is designed to supplement the thyroxin my body naturally produces to it reaches normal levels. I've stopped taking that too because as I said above I need to see the whole picture, but I can only feel one effect of the underlying problem so I'm wondering if that's correcting itself too.

I get tired a lot quicker than I used to, but that's the only problem I have right now, and generally speaking I can deal with that. I had expected that my weight loss would have slowed but it hasn't. I had expected to get tired from physical exercise (like walking) quickly, but I don't. In fact as I said above when I get going I feel like I could keep going forever. The only problem I'm having is that I get tired around 9pm, but as time marches on I can see even this is gradually moving to later in the day.

Unfortunately there is no easy way to test my thyroxin levels without a blood test so I really don't know what's going on with that. As I understand it these hormone deficiency problems never correct themselves, but I have a sneaking suspicion that mine is purely related to my weight, and if that continues to reduce so should my need for a thyroxin replacement.

My plan is to continue this regime for the foreseeable future, and also to get the full workup done again in early to mid November. The full workup for me basically means BP, HbA1c (three-month glucose average), thyroxin, kidney and liver function tests. The kidney and liver tests are purely because the drugs I was on have nasty side-effects for those so they've been monitoring those anyway and I want to make sure they're improving too.

The HbA1c will tell me if the changes I'm making are having tangible long-term effects, and getting my BP measured there will either confirm or refute my theory about surgery anxiety. Day to day I know the changes I'm making are having an effect, I just want to know if it's the right thing to be doing or not. I'm aware that a month might not be enough for the full effects of the drugs to work off, but I need some sort of timescale and that's what I've chosen. I will be taking the results with a massive pinch of salt.

So there it is. I'm here on this journey to what I hope will be drug-free socially-responsible future with little pressure on what I eat beyond portion size and taste.

Drugs definitely have their uses, but taking something for the rest of your life just because you're too lazy or stupid to alter your lifestyle is just plain dumb so I decided to stop doing it.

Will it work long-term? I dunno.

Will it end up damaging my body in some way? Possible, but I'm now a great believer in the power of the body to recover from problems.

Will I publish this blog post and assume anyone who reads it has at least two brain cells they can put together to mull this over?

Will my HbA1c and surgery-based BP measure up to the day-to-day readings I'm seeing?

Who knows. What I do know is that I've found my motivation to change my lifestyle, and I've seen enough evidence so far to keep me on this path. I'm confident that everything is returning to "normal", but I'm going to make damn sure by using every test available to me along the way.

Again, please don't take this as advice, it's just an observation based on what's happened to me and that's not even close to enough data on which to base a medical decision. I urge you to check with your doctor before attempting anything like this, mainly so they can make you fully aware of the risks you would be taking.

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