Harvard Health Letter

Alternatives to taking pills

Medications have their dark side. Exercise, diet, and other changes can be alternatives, but could feel like a whole lot of hard work. We've gotten used to taking pills for much that ails us, but these days, the medicine cabinet is looking like a rogues' gallery. There's been bad news about the painkiller rofecoxib (Vioxx), the diabetes drug rosiglitazone (Avandia), and, most recently, the cholesterol-lowering combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin (Vytorin). Problems with hormone therapy and antidepressants have also been bannered in headlines. We don't lack for alternatives. Plenty of research shows that exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes are effective weapons against many chronic diseases. But there are more findings about preventing diseases with so-called lifestyle changes than there are about treating them. And you won't find many head-to-head comparisons between the conventional drug treatments and the nondrug ones. Often it seems like the nonpharmacological approach doesn't quite get its due. The long review papers on treatment choices typically squirrel it away in a small section, almost as an afterthought.
To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »