There’s no denying that the world is a safer place thanks to the advent of pharmaceuticals. Single-handedly, drugs and vaccines have helped eradicate diseases like small pox and polio. They’ve also made sure that illnesses like influenza or infection don’t turn deadly. So indeed, pharmaceuticals are useful in modern society. But do we really need to medicate each and every ailment? Some experts think pharmaceuticals may be doing us more harm than good. Their reasoning is that there is no real way to tell exactly how a person will react to a given medication, hence the long list of possible side effects on the side of any prescription or over-the-counter medication. Additionally, like anything else we put into our bodies, medications eventually have to be processed by the liver… and when the liver is overworked, we feel tired, sluggish and old.
The current push in the industry is for custom-made formulations, tailored to the unique genetics of the user. It’s called pharmocogenics and it recognizes that variations in our DNA aren’t just responsible for our hair and eye color; they can also play an instrumental role in how our bodies process foods, liquids and chemicals. A recent Johns-Hopkins report states that some genetic markers tied to drug responses have already been identified and scientists are busy at work tracking down others. Once they’ve made some headway in this research, tests will be available to predict the body’s reaction to a drug or family of drugs. “Eventually, everyone will have his or her own drug profile,” says Frank Giardiello, M.D., Professor and Chief of Gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins. “We’ll know which medication to prescribe, and whether we should give you more or less of the medication based on your unique genetic makeup.”
Does that mean we’re supposed to just rub some dirt on it every time we get sick or come down with a legitimate illness while we wait for our custom medications? Of course not. It just means we need to be selective about medicating ourselves and be proactive about asking our health care professionals for alternatives to prescription or non-prescription medication. It also means treating ourselves properly with adequate sleep and a healthy diet that supports our immune system and body functions, keeping us healthy in the short term and feeling young long term.