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Life Extension Magazine

<< Back to December 2000

An Interview With Ross Pelton

Integrative Medicine for Better Health

December 2000

By Patricia Frank

Image with Caption
Dr. Pelton co-authored The Nutritional
Cost of Prescription Drugs
, which is a
consumer guide book of common
drugs and their nutrition depletion
effect and symptoms.

LE: That’s fascinating. So if I wanted to do that, where would I go to have that done? Who would I contact?

RP: Look for a nutritionist or a health-oriented physician, or you could call a lab and ask if they or anyone in your area are doing these types of tests.

And actually you don’t have to have anyone locally. I’m in San Diego, and I can order the tests for people that live in different parts of the country. The lab sends the tests to those people and then those people find a physician in their area who will order the blood test for them.

LE: Great. That’s helpful. I was just reading about the high incidence of depression. One out of three or one out of four Americans are depressed. Some go untreated, some get treated, some go on a drug like Prozac and then get imbalances, as we’re talking about.

RP: Well, what’s really troublesome about all of these drugs like Prozac and Zoloft is that it’s really a shame that the major side effects of those medications go under-reported. Number one, a loss of libido—and not only sex drive. So people who are depressed go get anti-depressants expecting that they’ll help their life and then it totally messes up their sex life and their relationship. That’s not working in the right direction.

And also with these drugs, many people find it very difficult to get off them once they’ve gotten on them, and that’s kind of scary for a lot of people.

LE: Do you see a time coming, you touched on this briefly, when pharmacists and physicians and indeed consumers/patients would work hand-in-hand? Do you see any in-roads being made where pharmacists would hand out nutritional supplement advice along with the literature that currently accompanies prescription drugs?

RP: Well, we’re certainly working for that and advocating that drug companies or pharmacy chains and drugstores try to integrate this information into their computer systems. Then when a prescription is filled, the patient gets information that alerts them to these drug-induced nutrient depletions. As yet this is something we’re talking about, but we haven’t been able to get it implemented. It takes a lot of time to get computer programs all readjusted, and so it’s still in the talking stage.

LE: But it looks as though we’re making progress?

RP: Whenever we get the ear of one of the drug store chains, we suggest that this is an important topic that they should consider. We also suggest that they have their pharmacist take our seminars so that they can get exposed and educated about drug-induced nutrient depletions and make available the books in their drug stores so that their customers have access to that information.

LE: That makes sense. When a physician prescribes a drug he or she wants to see the patient improve, and if they see the patient coming back time and time again with other complaints, that doesn’t serve either doctor or patient.

RP: That’s right.

LE: We’ve talked a bit about antibiotics and their use. If you get an infection or have a complaint or whatever, it’s fairly common to get a prescription for an antibiotic. You addressed this, I thought, very well in your book, The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs, but for the sake of this interview, what are the important things that a person should do after completing a course of antibiotics?

RP: It is very important to understand that the population of “friendly” bacteria in a healthy gastrointestinal tract are of critical importance to not only digestion and absorption of nutrients, but also to your entire immune system. And so when people take antibiotics, and the antibiotic kills off the majority of the population of friendly bacteria, along with the pathological bacteria we’re trying to kill off, that really upsets the normal balance of friendly bacteria. The antidote is that after finishing a round of antibiotics, people should take what we call probiotics, which contain the friendly bacteria—usually some form of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidus (or bifidus). Many products will contain combinations of both of these and we recommend that people take high potency probiotics of 10-15 billion cfu (colony forming units) twice daily for two weeks following their last dose of an antibiotic. This will repopulate the GI tract. In a healthy colon or gastrointestinal environment, individuals should have about 85% to 90% friendly bacteria and only about 5%, 10% or 15 % of the “bad” ones, which are normally there but not in great enough quantities to cause any problems.

pill bottles  

Numerous studies and clinical observations demonstrate that many people develop significant health problems from an imbalance of the bacterial flora in the GI tract following the use of antibiotics. You can have diarrhea or constipation. Gas and bloating. More seriously, the toxins from those organisms can get absorbed into your system and you can end up with arthritis, or depression or migraine headaches—problems that seem distant from the GI tract. Many times people don’t realize that these problems are related to what we call “dysbiosis,” which is an imbalance of the bacterial population in the intestines.

LE: You’re right. I bet most folks aren’t aware of that. It sounds as though an antibiotic prescription should be packaged with a probiotic.

RP: You know, that’s absolutely right. It’s really a shame that nobody really does that. I think that would be a huge break-through if we could get people taking probiotics after they’ve finished antibiotics—it would make a big difference.

Many people are very susceptible to side effects from antibiotics. For example, some women get vaginal yeast infections right away when they start taking antibiotics. Women like this will benefit from taking probiotics along with the antibiotics, although the probiotics should be taken as far away from the dose of the antibiotics as possible so that they’re not in the stomach at the same time. There are some good studies that show that taking probiotics while taking antibiotics significantly reduces diarrhea, which frequently occurs when infants are on antibiotics.

LE: Where does one find probiotics? At health food store?

RP: Generally they’ve been in health food stores, but we’re trying to get more and more pharmacies to carry them also because they’re a perfect companion product for pharmacies to be offering to patients when they’re taking their antibiotics.

LE: Yes. It seems so, and if you could buy them at the same time it would make life a lot easier.

RP: We try to educate pharmacists to make that recommendation to people when they’re picking up their antibiotics.

LE: You touched on stress as one of the factors that we’re subject to along with depletion of the nutrients in the soil. How can we live with our stress and what might we do to supplement the nutrient depletion that’s caused by this?

RP: Stress does deplete nutrients in the system. For example, vitamin C can be depleted very quickly when people are under higher levels of stress, so they should consider taking increased levels of the antioxidant nutrients. [They may also consider taking] some of the B vitamins to counteract the effects of stress and to boost their immune system and adrenal functions so that they can better cope with the stress.

LE: Okay. So B and C are the two to take.

RP: All the B vitamins, vitamin C and the antioxidant nutrients, which would be vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, CoQ10 and things like that.

LE: We’re often eating on the run. What are some of things we could grab and consume quickly that aren’t as harmful as a fast food burger?

RP: Health food stores have some snack foods that are health-oriented, so you can buy things like bean burritos and things like these made with organic beans and whole wheat wraps, rather than white flour processed products. You have to get into buying whole grain bread and get away from the harmful fats. One of biggest things is “partially hydrogenated fats and oils”—just a killer substance, so people need to read labels and stay away from those types of things.

LE: My brother calls those fats “blood sludge.”

RP: That is an apt description.

LE: This seems to be a marketing opportunity—fast food health restaurants with healthy foods.

RP: You know, I’ve often thought that healthy fast food outlets would be a wonderful thing to get started, but it’s not my job in life to devote my time to do that, but I think if someone came up with healthy fast foods to go that they would be well-received.

LE: Yes. Because sometimes you just grab something and you feel guilty about it, but you look around and there’s nothing convenient you can see that’s good.

RP: That’s right. Airports have so many little fast food places, I would think that a health-oriented spot in some of the bigger airports would be very successful also.

LE: Good idea. They don’t have to be large, do they? Little cubby-holes dispensing bean burritos, whole foods, vegetarian dishes and such . Anyone listening? Well let’s move away from designing healthy fast food outlets and back to your newest health education venture. I understand you are moving away from private practice, and into the arena of cyber space. Is this correct?

Ross Pelton  

RP: Yes, that’s right. I’m now Director of Nutrition and Anti-aging Research for We’re all pretty excited about this. This site will be a global resource for integrative medicine, delivering research, health education and information to universities, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and HMOs—and the general public. A site for everyone who is interested in the latest findings on how to optimize, protect and improve health.

Users can expect a very inter-active database. Our research will drive the data, and the data will be updated in real time. You’ll find the latest research findings, break-through testing and technologies, continuing education and professional and consumer information.

LE: You’ll be partnering again with your long-time colleague, Jim Lavalle, R. Ph. C.C.N. because Jim is the Chief Clinical Officer for

RP: That’s right, Jim is on board. We’ve been working together on integrative medicine for quite some time now through our workshops, lectures, seminars and books. This emerging field of medicine melds the best of conventional medicine and natural medicine. We know that this evolutionary step in the field of medical care is a win-win for the consumer because the integration will deliver improved outcomes.

LE: So Intramedicine combines the knowledge and practices from traditional, holistic, Eastern and other alternative medicines for an improved treatment plan for diseases and medical conditions?

RP: Correct! Envision a new treatment that is the least invasive, least expensive, least damaging and most likely to activate an internal healing response.

LE: It seems to me that this is a tremendous undertaking, with a huge volume of information to gather and disseminate. How will you meet this rather daunting challenge?

RP: Our info will come from many sources. Fortunately, we have a tremendous advisory board, very solid, which will help us filter and interpret a huge amount of information and deliver good information to the end user. Also, our technology is very advanced, which means we’ll provide a unique, high intensity type of information very quickly.

LE: One of your Intramedicine alliances is with CVS, which has 4400 drugstore outlets?

RP: Yes. We’ll be working with CVS to help them better serve their customers. We’ll be providing, building and delivering natural medicine information.

Integrative medicine is a medical development whose time has come. Many of us already use a combination of traditional and holistic health care for ourselves. Now traditional drug manufacturers, drugstores and pharmacies will be moving in this direction, too. That’s a promising development. I’m encouraged.

LE: And so are we all. Thank you.

Ross Pelton, R.Ph., C.C.N. is a leading educator in the field of health and nutrition. Prior to joining Intramedicine, Mr. Pelton served as Director of Education for Natural Health Resources, Inc. Mr. Pelton has authored several books and writes a monthly column on clinical nutrition for American Druggist magazine. American Druggist recently named Mr. Pelton as one of the "50 Most Influential Druggists."