Drug Side Effects

By Lita Lee, Ph.D.

Published Date: 4/27/2001

Drugs, whether natural or synthetic, control your body chemistry and they are unidirectional.  They have no inherent modulating characteristic. Indeed, drugs must be constantly monitored in order to modulate their unidirectional effects. For example, insulin ONLY lowers blood glucose. It cannot raise it back to normal. There are drugs, such as Mevacor, which lower your cholesterol level by inhibiting the enzyme that produces cholesterol. This strikes me as being very dangerous, since cholesterol is needed and utilized by every cell in the body and is a precursor for very important hormones, which run your body chemistry.

I am not against a natural (non-synthetic) drug if it is used appropriately. In fact, drugs have saved lives in cases where nothing else could have intervened. I am against the overuse of antibiotics and the use of synthetic drugs when other, more natural courses of action may be useful.

If you are a concerned parent and want to learn how to tell when your child is sick enough to warrant medical intervention and the use of drugs, read the late Dr. Robert Mendelssohnís book, How to Raise a Healthy Kid In Spite of Your Doctor. This book teaches parents how to recognize and distinguish serious medical conditions such as appendicitis, meningitis, and diphtheria from less serious, self-healing conditions.

Effects of the Over-use of Antibiotics in People and Animals

According to Dr. John M. Whittaker, a veterinarian, about 50% of the antibiotics manufactured in the U.S. today are fed to farm animals. They are used as feed additives not to treat disease but to ward off disease, which results from packing animals tightly together in crowded quarters. Massive overuse of antibiotics is breeding strains of organisms resistant to penicillin, tetracycline and other drugs. It is a genetic law that antibiotics kill susceptible bacteria BUT the resistant ones survive and pass on their drug-resistance to their offspring. Resistant microbes have a powerful survival advantage over weak competitors and can spread rapidly.

In an unreferenced paper, Whittaker says that antibiotic-resistant traits are carried on plasmides and can be transferred from one species of bacterium to another. A trait can hop from an animal bacterium to a human one. For example, a certain strain of salmonella, which infected a large group of people, was traced to its bovine origins by looking at the plasmide fingerprints. A study on the process of genetic transfer, commonly called "jumping genes", now known to be widespread in nature, was published in 1984 by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Here's a summary of some of the side-effects of antibiotics from Whittaker's article and from one written by Dr. Harold E. Buttram which appeared in the November 1991 Townsend Letter for Doctors: The most common side-effect of antibiotics is yeast overgrowth (Candidiasis) which results from the destruction of the protective microflora of the gastrointestinal system by the antibiotic. Like many other syndromes, candidiasis has a multitude of symptoms including digestive problems (bloating, gas, indigestion), skin manifestations including rashes, weight gain OR loss, bowel problems and many others.

Candidiasis, by as yet unidentified mechanisms, potentates the virulence of certain gram-positive infections, such as staph and strept, which often follow or join the yeast infection. Gram-negative bacteria, such as E. coli, Proteus and Pseudomonas may also proliferate as a result of antibiotic therapy. Endotoxin is a toxic substance released from dead gram-negative bacteria in the intestines. Endotoxin shock is a type of septic shock (blood poisoning), which causes serious, and often fatal, widely disseminated infection. Although other causes can initiate this condition, it can also arise when antibiotics kill gram-negative bacteria, and the endotoxin is released from the cell wall into the general system.

Other drugs including the sulfa drugs, suppress phagocytosis (the ability of certain white blood cells to engulf bacteria and yeast). This process is aggravated if other toxins such as mycotoxins (molds) are also present. Certain broad-spectrum drugs such as tetracycline tie up calcium. Decades ago, researchers showed that tetracycline combines with calcium and become part of the bone itself. Then, dentists realized that the tetracycline - calcium complex caused staining of children's teeth. The calcium - antibiotic complex was shown to exist even in the embryo.

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

I read an alarming article by Tom Philp in the Friday, October 18, 1991 San Jose Mercury News on this rare syndrome caused by a variety of antibiotics (including penicillin, erythromycin, Dilantin, Septra and anti-seizure medications). Although only 300 cases are reported annually nationwide, six cases suddenly appeared at a Bay Area hospital since 1990, of which four patients died. This syndrome causes death from infections, which overwhelm the body when the skin blisters, falls off, and raw tissue is exposed.

In the case described in the San Jose Mercury News, a 13-year-old child was given Septra, a common antibiotic, for an ear infection. Ten days later, her nightmare began, with a 104-degree fever, and full body rash, which blistered until her entire body was engulfed with blisters. The blisters filled with fluid and her skin began coming off in sheets. Fortunately, she did not die, but her recovery story is ghastly. I mention this as an extreme example of drug side effects. Why did this cluster appear? Will Stevens-Johnson syndrome be added to the above list of antibiotic side effects?

Effects of Some Common Drugs

Over-the-counter Pain Killers

Many over-the-counter painkillers have serious side effects unknown to those who use them. Among the most common ones are acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), and Ibuprofen.

Acetaminophen (sold as Tylenol, Midol and Anacin-3) has been found to cause liver damage, especially in people who are already compromised in these organs. I have witnessed this in patients who use acetaminophen for pain relief. In November 1988, the FDA published tentative new labeling rules for and acetaminophen. An internal FDA panel recommendation to add explicit warnings about severe acetaminophen-induced liver damage was rejected on the grounds that it might frighten people away from the drug. Even small doses of acetaminophen over a long enough period of time can be dangerous - not just to the liver but to the kidneys. Alcohol is known to increase the rate of this process.

Nausea and vomiting are other common symptoms of acetaminophen poisoning but by this time, the damage is drastic and sometimes fatal. This was dramatically illustrated by the death of a previously healthy man who drank alcohol and took regular-strength Tylenol for three-four days to dull the pain from dental surgery. An antidote is available for acetaminophen but only if given within 24 hours. A 1989 North Carolina study found that the risk to kidney disease increased three-fold when one, two or more acetaminophen tablets are taken daily for one or two years or more. No one knows the mechanism of damage. Liver damage is more understood than kidney damage, because when the drug breaks down in the liver, toxic by-products are released.

Many of my clients have developed kidney problems after taking over-the-counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen (marketed as Advil, Motrin, Midol-200 and other brands). These drugs (aspirin too) work by suppressing prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that promote the heat and swelling of inflammation. In addition, both aspirin and Ibuprofen act as blood thinners, making bleeding more likely and longer lasting. Medical reports on the kidney damage of Ibuprofen and related drugs have been available since the early 1980's.

Many people ask me what I give my children for headaches. They have never had any of the above listed drugs. Instead, I rely on enzymes, herbs and chiropractic care. Here are some enzyme formulas for headaches:

Upper cervical headaches (C1 or atlas, C2 and C3). Symptoms of upper cervical problems (C1 to C3) requiring Sym include: dizziness, seizures, stroke, hypertension, severe headaches, stiff/sore neck, and severe digestive problems. Dosage: 4 caps 3-5x/d to relieve pain and 2 caps 3x/d to hold adjustments.

Colon headaches - colon headaches can be caused by constipation. There are two formulas for this: LgI and SmI. I first use the LgI formula. If this isnít enough, I add the SmI formula. Symptoms of needing LgI include: infrequent bowel movements, lower abdominal pain, especially in the lower right abdominal quadrant, hard, painful stools, use of laxatives, enemas or frequent colonics. Use only as needed. Take 2 caps first day. If no results, take 2 caps 2x/d second day (with meals). If no results, take 2 caps 3x/d third day (with meals). When you are no longer constipated, reduce dosage or eliminate. Symptoms of needing SmI: toxic colon, constipation, diarrhea and diarrhea alternating with constipation, yeast overgrowth and parasites. It is good for sugar intolerant people who are prone to candidiasis. The yeast organisms secrete enzymes, which digest sucrose. SmI contains cellulase, which digests the yeast, plus probiotics to re-establish a healthy intestinal flora. Dosage: one tsp to one tbsp in water (or even juice or a smoothie) twice daily in the am and the pm.

Gallbladder headaches: These require the gallbladder formula (Bil), a multiple digestive enzyme for fat intolerant people. In addition, women have more gallbladder disease than men because of estrogen dominance, so they need to take natural progesterone as well and the Bil formula. Hypothyroidism leads to estrogen dominance.

Estrogen headaches: due to estrogen dominance from hypothyroidism. Both natural progesterone and thyroid glandular therapy are indicated.


Many people are led to believe that Nystatin, the famous anti-candidiasis drug, is perfectly safe with no side effects but I have observed liver toxicity in many Nystatin patients. These patients develop skin problems, sugar intolerance, alcohol intolerance, and other liver-toxicity problems. The most unusual case I witnessed was a young lady whose blood vessels started swelling and protruding. These symptoms subsided several days after she stopped taking Nystatin.

Is there a natural alternative to Nystatin? You bet! Most people are aware of the beneficial effect of friendly bowel bacteria called probiotics (microflora), which include L. acidophilus, bifidus, S. faecium and so on. If these bacteria could survive antibiotics, we would not have the epidemic of Candidiasis.

However, few people know that, like any other substance, Candida albicans and other yeast organisms can be digested, just like food. Dr. Howard Loomis developed a very potent formula SmI, described above, which contains L. acidophilus and Bifidus. This mixture also contains highly active, concentrated cellulase enzymes, which digest certain linkages in the yeast organism, rendering it non-toxic and ready to be eliminated, just like any other waste material. In my practice this formulation has provided relief for chronic yeast sufferers. At the same time friendly bowel flora is reestablished, lessening the likelihood of yeast overgrowth recurrence.

Sleeping Pills and Tranquilizers

The most commonly used class is the benzodiazepine family, nicknamed "benzos", which includes Halcion, Dalmane, Restoril, Valium and Xanax. All are from the same class, and have similar side effects. Currently Halcion is prescribed more often than Valium and grossed $265 million in 1988, according to Cindy Ehrlich whose article, "Halcion Nightmare" appeared in the September 1988 issue of California Magazine. She conducted intensive research on the drug after personally developing psychotic episodes involving suicidal thoughts, paranoia, anxiety, and bewildering emotions. To her surprise, she discovered that Halcion was banned in the Netherlands after a concerned physician, Dr. C. van der Kroef reported severe side effects in 25 of his patients. In a 1970 issue of the British medical journal Lancet, he listed paranoid reactions; severe anxiety; fear of going insane; depression; nightmares; inability to concentrate; severe suicidal tendencies; verbal and physical aggression; amnesia among his Halcion patients.

A 57-year-old woman killed her 83-year-old mother with eight bullets to the head while intoxicated on Halcion. This story made the cover of the August 19, 1991 Newsweek Magazine. The $21 million civil suit was dismissed when two psychiatrists declared her "involuntarily intoxicated" on Halcion when she killed her mother. The manufacturer, Upjohn, settled out of court providing that details of the case remained secret. Upjohn's 2nd largest profit comes from the sale of Halcion to over 90 countries.

There are many other cases involving violence in people taking Halcion. In fact, in 1990, the FDA ranked Halcion at the top of the list among 329 drugs associated with violent acts. Because the FDA still allows its use, it's up to the patient to be aware of the powerful side effects of such drugs and to seek other methods to solve the problems of anxiety, panic and insomnia.

Natural substances do not give the instant control of your body that drugs do. The effects are subtler, less intense and demand more responsibility of the patient, but the rewards are far greater, and there are no adverse side effects.

Anxiety: Is it possible to alleviate anxiety with enzymes? Yes, it is. To understand how, let's describe what happens during anxiety. You sigh, expelling carbon dioxide. Do it often enough and your body will not be able to compensate for the lost acidity and will develop an alkaline stress to the blood. I call this "anxiety alkalosis" but please know that the blood must maintain an alkaline range of 7.35-7.45, even with this alkaline stress condition. Anything outside this range is a medical condition, not a nutritional one. Another cause of anxiety and excess alkaline reserves is a low protein diet or poor protein digestion.

A multiple digestive enzyme high in protease (Thera-zymes Bil or HCL) will increase digestion of protein and supply acidity to the blood. This will correct the acid-alkaline balance. Thera-zyme TRMA high in protease, taken between meals, will relieve anxiety.

Insomnia: People who are anxious have difficulty sleeping. This can increase the anxiety - a vicious cycle. Thus, alleviating the anxiety will help many to fall asleep. But what if you fall asleep and then wake up after several hours? Thera-zyme Adr (4 caps) will help you return to sleep by raising blood sugar and thus its transport into the brain. Thera-zyme SvG (4 caps) will help relax the racing mind and help you fall asleep. If you canít sleep because you are nervous, take Thera-zyme CLM (4 caps). If you are too anxious to fall asleep, take Thera-zyme TRMA (4 caps). In addition to enzymes, thyroid glandular therapy has a profound effect on insomnia because low thyroid people overproduce adrenalin which rises at night, preventing sleep. By correcting thyroid function, adrenalin falls to normal, allowing you to sleep deeply and wake up refreshed.

Panic attacks, nightmares, depression: Consumption of too many refined carbohydrates (sucrose or white sugar, white flour) leads to B-vitamin deficiency and a deficiency of sucrase, the enzyme that digests sucrose into its simple sugar components, glucose and fructose. Deficiencies of the B-vitamins and glucose can lead to many nervous system problems not the least of which involve panic attacks, nightmares and even more severe psychological problems. Again, Thera-zyme Adr, which contains sucrase and B-vitamins from yeast, can help relieve these symptoms by stabilizing blood (and brain) sugar.

Panic attacks, nightmares and depression also occur in hypothyroid people. In fact, depression is a classic symptom of low thyroid function. Hypothyroid people overproduce adrenalin and excess adrenalin can lead to panic attacks, hypertension and heart disease. Pregnenolone, a major anti-aging steroid prevents panic attacks.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease. They are intended for nutritional support only. The FTC requires that we tell you that the results in case notes and testimonials published here are not typical, however, they do show what some people have been able to achieve. Individuals vary, which is why we must always consider the whole person when recommending a course of action. The third party information referred to herein is neither adopted nor endorsed by this web site but is provided for general information purposes. The listing of specific disease terms is based upon medical literature and is not a substitute for competent medical advice. If you suspect a medical condition, you should consult a physician.

Copyright 2001 - 2006. Neither this article, nor any part of it, may be reproduced without permission.

If permission to reprint is granted, the article must include author and URL information. Lita Lee, Ph.D.
Click here to email Lita

* Guyton, Arthur C., Textbook of Medical Physiology, W.B. Sounders Co., Philadelphia, PA 19106, 1986.

* Levy, S.B., New Eng. J. Med., Vol. 311, p. 663, Sept. 6, 1984.

* Ovesen, L., Drugs Vol. 18, p. 278, 1979