Getting the Most Out of Your Meds
Pharmaceutical therapy is an important aspect of medical treatment. A great way to think about the role medication plays is thinking of it as only one of the multiple tires on a car; you need to properly inflate all tires if you want to go anywhere! If you want to stretch your “pharmaceutical dollar” a bit further, make sure you focus equally on maintaining the other tires in your proverbial therapy car. Well what exactly are these other tires I’m speaking about? The answer to that question is likely different for each patient. If I haven’t lost your attention by now, I’d like to thank you for playing along with my silly analogy. While it may be a little overly simplistic, I’ve found that it really tends to drive the point home regardless of the medical condition(s) being dealt with. Allow me to explain…
Your body is your business.
That expression usually applies to professional athletes taking care of themselves physically in order to get paid for playing a game or competing in some capacity. That’s one of the main reasons why they exercise endlessly, strictly monitor the foods they eat, and maintain a healthy sleep schedule among countless other daily routines. But why should they be the only ones treating their flesh and bones in that manner? And if someone is taking medication, have they not already accepted the fact that their health could be in better shape? To that point, if one wishes to improve their health they should make it a priority to keep all the tires on their therapy car as appropriately inflated as possible. While you may not be getting paid for how healthy you are, that is not to say that others in your life don’t find value in your continued presence and healthiness; your loved ones want you both in their lives and in good health. No one can force you to take charge of your body quite like you can, so make it your business to do so. Your body is your business.
Often times patients lose sight of why they take their medication. Perhaps you never truly understood why you were taking them in the first place. Or if you did, maybe you forgot what exactly was being treated and how it was being done. There are several reasons why this might be the case, but the point is that it can be easy to resort to a “just take my pills as written by the doctor” attitude. It is therefore very important to brush up on the conditions you are being treated for and to be aware of what’s going on with your body. This may mean requesting informational handouts from your doctor/pharmacist, or even doing a quick Google search for a refresher on your particular condition–there are many options for learning. Once you have a better/renewed idea of what the medication is intended to do, then you can start to figure out (with the help of your doctor/pharmacist) what exactly the other tires on your therapy car should be! And once you’ve identified the rest of your tires, you can give them all the proper attention they deserve.
Here’s an example to help illustrate this idea:
- My doctor prescribed me a daily medication for my acid reflux problems (gastroesophageal reflux disease; GERD). This represents one tire on my therapy car.
- I researched GERD and found resources with information in layman’s terms to better my understanding.
- I then looked up other things I can do to give my medications a better chance of working. Here are some other tires that can fit on my therapy car (FYI your car may end up with more than 4 tires):
- Nighttime symptoms: Elevate the head of the bed by using 6-inch blocks or a foam wedge. Avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime.
- After-meal symptoms: Avoid exercise, bending over, or lying down after meals. Eat smaller and more frequent meals.
- Diet change: Avoid citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, high-fat and fried foods, chocolate, mint, and beverages with caffeine.
- Lifestyle modifications: Weight reduction if I’m overweight, avoid wearing tight clothes around the abdomen, and reduce or discontinue smoking and/or alcohol.
The idea of synergy in medical treatment loosely translates to: 1+1=3. If you do a lot of the little things right, it will add up quickly and result in a benefit larger than just the sum of its parts. While pharmacists are medication experts, they are also trained to provide non-pharmacological treatments to go along with your medication. In fact most of them would be happy to recommend other remedies so that you are less dependent on medication! The most important part is having the discipline at the patient level to implement these recommendations into your life. If you can follow that advice, and all your tires are inflated appropriately and evenly, then your therapy car will have a smoother ride until the end of your treatment. I encourage you to do what you can in order to better yourself on a daily basis, and never forget there are always resources available to assist you in these processes. I wish you many years of health and success!
PharmD Candidate 2018