The Medicine Trap: Who Can We Trust With Our Health?

by September 15, 2015
filed under Activism


I live in a city where Chinook winds are a part of every season, and where it’s so dry that lotion is available at every conceivable location, from the drugstore to the doctor’s office. So, migraine-prone gurls like myself must learn how to manage our health in this weather. The correlation between drastic atmospheric pressure changes and migraines has triggered a discussion about how best to manage migraine pain.

Ruby Cole, an architect and entrepreneur, has developed a system for combating migraines using a two-tiered system – one for pain management and one for migraine prevention. At the time I was using a combination of ibuprofen and prescription migraine therapy medications, so I was instantly interested in her daily routine.

“[Migraines] are horrible, but popping Tylenol, Aspirin, Migradorixine or other really strong medications like it’s candy isn’t the answer. In the long run, you’ll just swap one problem for another,” Ruby says. “Taking a bunch of supplements each day does take commitment in addition to being really expensive. Natural medicines also take longer to [deal with] the pain. That said, hard work in your health, as with everything in life, does pay off.”

As a society, we seem to be moving away from blindly taking prescription medications, and instead, forming our own options of what we want in terms of pain management and dealing with chronic conditions. With the health industry currently growing at an exponential rate, there’s a push for transparency in all aspects. We’re more concerned about what goes into our bodies, into growing our food, in our air and our overall quality of life. Another factor in our desire to pick and choose the remedies we take is the fact that we are, as a whole, becoming more scientifically literate, and able to foresee long-term consequences for short-term benefits.

However, alternative medicine extremists have been criticized for basing their arguments on Google searches, visits to semi-legitimate naturopaths and for endangering societal health for individual benefit. For example, non-vaxxers, or people who choose not to vaccinate either themselves or their children, are seen as taking advantage of ‘herd immunity,’ since they’re less likely to get sick from vaccinated diseases due to the large proportion of the population that is vaccinated already. However, if they do carry the disease without outward signs of sickness, they could pass it onto somebody with a compromised immune system, who is unable to get vaccinated.

Recently, a mother of seven children in Ottawa, Tara Hills, wrote about her harrowing experience as all of her children got the whooping cough. In a blog post at, she wrote about how she had previously been an anti-vaxxer after losing faith in the Canadian healthcare system.

“We stopped because we were scared and didn’t know who to trust. Was the medical community just paid-off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire so we defaulted to the ‘do nothing and hope nothing bad happens’ position,” Tara wrote, in the post entitled, Learning the Hard Way: My Journey from #AntiVaxx to Science.

When all of Tara’s children got a historical disease that seemed to be “from the past” and not relevant, she didn’t affect just her own family, but prevented a neighbour from being able to go to work since her neighbour was under quarantine because of her proximity to the Hills. Thankfully, her children are recovering, and she’s speaking out to spread awareness about the importance of vaccinations.

The comments on her story suggest that others are less forgiving. Some say that those who refuse to vaccinate their children should be exempt from social services, or be held accountable for negligence. Others say that the neighbour should sue the family in a small claims court for the wages she lost. Surprisingly, anti-vaxxer proponents also commented, defending their choice, and trying to reassure Tara Hills that this was all just a ‘normal childhood illness.’

When watching the news, it often seems that the media is questioning the validity of alternative medicines when they are taken to an extreme level. There are stories dealing with patients who refuse chemotherapy for curable cancers, and while testing out their ‘natural’ treatments, succumb to their disease. Alternatively, there are stories of major pharmaceutical companies with tampered products, and recalled prescription medicines that have grisly side effects. It’s easy to see why people are swayed to one side or the other.

Ruby, however, chooses to remain in the neutral in the debate. While she has her own medications for migraines, prescribed by her family doctor, she also has her two-tiered natural migraine solution that also works for her. Both work just fine for her, although she has her preferences for the natural solutions that are healthier in the long-term. As with all chronic conditions, migraines are no different in that there are different treatments for different people.

What does Ruby do to prevent her migraines? First, she takes preventative supplements daily, including ginko biloba extract, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C (1000mg), B vitamin complex, acai extract, green matcha tea and inulin fiber. Second, when Ruby is in pain from a migraine, she uses willow bark extract, espresso coffee and drinks four glasses of water. In addition, during times of migraine pain, she elevates her feet, puts warm presses on feet and cool presses on her forehead, along with a little bit of eucalyptus oil.

Ruby cautions against having gluten, tobacco, alcohol, soda pop or any kind of processed sugars while suffering through a migraine. “I really hope I can give people an alternative way to cope with migraine pain,” she says. “Obviously, not everyone can go back to bed when they get a migraine, but there are other ways to treat migraines, that aren’t as obvious as popping painkillers.”

Originally published in the FLURT Summer 2015 issue.

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