Dietary Products for Pain: Truth & Consequences 

“Of great concern is the potential for dietary supplements to interfere with effective pain management or, worse, to cause drug-drug interactions — ie, various prescribed and nonprescribed agents fighting against each other — leading to serious adverse events [discussed in UPDATE here]. For example, earlier this month [here] we reported on warnings from the FDA regarding the Mexican supplement Reumofan-Plus, sold for pain relief and as a treatment for arthritis as well as other conditions.Among other ingredients not even listed on the label, Reumofan was found to contain diclofenac — an NSAID that may cause gastrointestinal problems — and methocarbamol — a muscle relaxant that can cause dizziness, low blood pressure, or enough sedation to produce mental or physical impairment. One can imagine how such a product might confuse and confound the status of a patient being treated for pain, when unexpected clinical responses or adverse effects are due to the supplement rather than prescribed medications. Worse yet, past surveys have found that patients often do not inform their healthcare providers of all nonprescribed products they are using for pain.
Even when practitioners know of supplements being taken by patients it poses a dilemma. Marcus and Grollman recommend that healthcare providers should provide guidance to patients about the use of dietary supplements; yet, they also concede that practitioners’ knowledge of this subject often is limited. This is due, in part, to the fact that “education about dietary supplements in many academic institutions is provided by advocates of complementary and alternative medicine in integrative medicine programs” — and such curricula are of poor quality, they believe.”

This is why I try to stick to vitamins and minerals I know are beneficial and that I need. I know of plenty of things I could take that I think would be beneficial. But the question is would they conflict with what I am taking now for medications?

Because I take a few preventatives of different sorts that do different things. And would my doctor know the answer to that? Not likely. If he doesn’t know what the supplement does chemically then there is no way he is going to know if it conflicts, let alone its potential side effects. Which is unfortunate because some things sound intriguing to me. But I am keenly aware of the risks. Back in the day, there were things recommended for fibro fatigue I wanted to try only to find out that was definitely not a good idea for migraines. But unless I had researched that I wouldn’t have known. We have to accept unless we are talking to a qualified doctor who knows about these things then we cannot know this ourselves and we are exposing ourselves to risks. And there are homeopathic doctors who do know both and they would be the only ones I would trust to go to about this sort of thing… if I could afford all the stuff they would then put me on. But it is still an option to consider.

Another example is Butterbur for migraine. There is positive research for it. But you have to be exceptionally careful on the brand you buy due to supplement production risks. And, it turns out, I am allergic to it. The sort of allergy that made my heart do disturbing things indeed.

It irritates me when people tell me I should be my own advocate and part of my own healing process and therefore take an active role in my health by taking as many of these things as possible. But I know that side effects are dangerous, even in supplements and it is too much of a risk given my doctor and pharmacist simply do not have the knowledge to help me combine the two. And they are not covered by my insurance either. So all the cost of it is on me.

Because that is the second thing people always want you to do. Why don’t you try this that and the other thing? Because I can only try one thing on my coverage and only for so long… because all those things are expensive. I certainly can’t try more than one at once and I certainly can’t do too much either.

If I was rich trust me I would have it handled and I would likely feel way better than I do now. A total multidisciplinary approach. But I’m not. I have to pick the things that I think are most important and natural to the body like vitamins, minerals and other things that are from proteins and so forth that won’t conflict with my medication in any way. Then I choose an alternative therapy and go with it until my insurance runs out… this time its therapy and that’s damned expensive.

It is one thing for my mom or a family member or someone who loves me to help me out with advice or strategies to try (such as going to a homeopathic doctor). It is quite another for some random person to assume I’m not doing enough for my own treatment as if not doing enough somehow means I want to be ill or as if doing all those things will suddenly cure me.

We have to weigh cost factors, side effects, and the fact that supplement production isn’t exactly monitored well so what you are getting isn’t necessarily what you wanted. Generally, that means buying from a company you trust, which comes with more cost typically.

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