Written by: Dr. Ben Lynch
Welcome to this week’s Dirty Genes Podcast. Today I’m interviewing integrative pharmacist Meg Kilcup about the problem with medications and healthier, more sustainable solutions.
I'm Dr. Ben Lynch — welcome to the Dirty Genes Podcast. I hope you enjoy the episode! If you do, be sure to give a thumbs-up, rate it, leave a comment, and subscribe here.
Click the video below to watch the Dirty Genes Podcast or keep scrolling to read the transcript of Episode 10: Healthcare vs. Sick Care with Meg Kilcup, PharmD, IHP.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Welcome to this week's interview with Meg Kilcup, a conventional pharmacist turned integrative, a mother of three, and a seeker of root cause. I'm Dr. Ben Lynch, and this is the Dirty Genes Podcast.
You may have inherited some dirty genes. You may have inherited genes that predispose you to low mood. You may have inherited genes that predispose you to poor circulation and cardiovascular problems. You may have inherited genes that make you superwoman or superman. Still, regardless of what genes you've inherited, your choices, actions, and everyday decisions determine how clean or dirty your genes are.
In this interview with Meg Kilcup, you're going to learn that genetics is definitely something that you should know about. They are not the thing that determines your outcome.
Now, Meg is by training a pharmacist. She worked in the pharmaceutical field for 10 years until she left after seeing the corruption, lack of safety, and the complete disregard for actually caring why a patient is truly sick. She witnessed medications that lead to another medication because of its side effects, which lead to yet another medication because of that medication's side effect, and so on. Which then leads to being stuck in the system for years, all based upon, well, the system instead of the individual. So, I'm excited to share with you this interview because, as a pharmacist, she lays out some scary facts that I had no idea about.
Meg was fortunate enough to have three amazing pregnancies with three beautiful boys at home, all under age 10. So, she's a busy lady. I thank her for being available for this interview to share her insights as a doctorate in pharmacy and her expertise in the safety and the dangers of prescription medications and non-prescription medications.
Trying to make a dent in an otherwise messed up field of sick care versus healthcare. I hope you enjoy this episode!
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, Meg, of all the things in the healthcare industry to choose from, you’ve got nutrition, you have counseling, you have surgeons, and doctors, and RNs, and RAs...so, why did you choose to become a pharmacist?
Meg Kilcup: Looking back to my likely immature 18-year old self, really, for me, I knew at that age, I was like, "Oh, I want to be in healthcare. I want to help people." But I was really squeamish with blood and guts. As much as I wanted to be a doctor, I didn't want to be a doctor. I think honestly, through a pretty immature process of elimination, I landed on pharmacy. I'm sure my counselor was like, "Hey, you're really good at chemistry. This is a great job. Job security, etc, etc." One thing led to another, and then I got into a really great pharmacy school at the University of Washington. That became my destiny. Looking back, if I really knew myself, I knew my interests; I don't think I would've signed up for that.
Dr. Ben Lynch: It's awesome that you chose a field based upon your skill sets, and you pursued it, and you went after it, you did it. Then, at the same time, you listened to your gut and said, "You know what? I need to get out and do something different."
Meg Kilcup: Yeah.
Dr. Ben Lynch: You did that. You listened to your heart because it's tough to shift.
Meg Kilcup: Absolutely. Yeah, and it's tough, especially when you really want to make a difference in it. I'm like, "I'm in the perfect place. I'm in the system. What can I do? How can I help this?" But then, at a certain point, you realize you're operating in a box.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, if you were to boil it down to all the working pieces, what is a healthcare system, which isn't a healthcare system, it's a sick care system.
What is a sick care system catering to?
Meg Kilcup: I remember sitting in a room with a bunch of emergency room physicians, and they were just like, "Look, we got to turn over the beds. We got to keep the patients happy. The way we do that is by giving them what they want." So, I just remember sitting there, and they knew that wasn't the right thing for the patient. After hearing these conversations time and time again, I'm just thinking we have not set this up correctly. It's exactly like you're saying, the incentive isn't necessarily to heal a patient. It's to do what they need to do for the business model. I'm not saying that the providers in and of themselves are bad people. They're just operating in this very broken system.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Yeah, and I've had patients in the past where they wanted a medication, say a steroid to suppress their immune system. So they could eat the allergens, which were causing significant pain in their joints. But we identified it as egg whites that were causing pain in their joints. So, we removed the egg whites from their life, and all the pain in the joints went away. Their life returned to "normal" or even better than normal. She came back a year or two later, and I was excited to see her." She goes, "Hey, I actually want to be put on the steroid because it's too hard to eliminate egg whites from my life." I said, "Do you realize the significant side effects of steroids?" She said, "Yes." I said, "No. Let me sit down and go over it."
Meg Kilcup: Yeah. It's really too bad. I think that was the other piece, is that there's not any focus on root cause assessment, or healing, or labs to identify that, nor is there the time to even dig into it. It's like 15 minutes. It's just like, "Hey, how are you doing? What's your symptom?" All right. Write it down, diagnosis.
Meg Kilcup: I was just talking to a friend a week ago, we were out hiking, and she's struggling with something. The doctor prescribed her steroids, and she's like, "I'm not taking steroids. I'm going to figure this out. I'm going to change my diet." I think that's the way it should be.
You shouldn't have to persuade your doctor out of a prescription because you want to actually heal.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Yeah. I will do the opposite because patients don't know. You watch the TV, and you see the floating butterflies on drug commercials, happy-go-lucky people, and you know you want that. It's like, "Oh, I just have to swallow that particular pill and go for it." I had a patient who came into the clinic. She was a school teacher, and she had just horrible sinus congestion. It was just terrible. She didn't want Sudafed or any of those types of things. She wanted something natural. So, we did the neti pot. We did some herbs and all that. She came back two weeks later and reports, "Still the same." So, we dove in a little bit deeper. She was doing some remodeling on her home. All right, "So, are you done?" "Yeah, remodeling is done." "Well, keep doing the neti pot, keep doing the herbs and maybe avoid gluten and dairy for two weeks." She came back a few weeks later, avoiding gluten and dairy, still doing bad. “I'm thinking about resorting to drugs because this isn't working.” I was like, "Well, we evaluated your home, but we haven't evaluated your workplace yet." She goes, "Well, I work at a public school." "Well, I think you need to call an environmental inspector into the school and check it out." She was like, "Oh, that sounds kind of tough." I said, "No, you just call an inspector." I was surprised she came back, I think a month or so later, and she told me, "Well, I have good news and bad news." I said, "Well, give me the good news first." "My sinuses are clear." I said, "Cool. What did you take? What are you doing?" She goes, "I'm not taking anything. An inspector came over to the school, and they investigated it. They found mold in all the heating and cooling duct systems, and they evacuated the school, and they destroyed it."
Meg Kilcup: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, that is a true story.
Meg Kilcup: That's amazing, though. Wow, you impacted not just her health but hundreds of people who were living in a toxic environment.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, when you talk about the root cause that took multiple visits and that took some sleuthing and it took some dedication from the person who was struggling. She could have taken Sudafed. She could have taken something over the counter to turn the mucus into concrete in her nose, but she chose not to. So, I give her a lot of kudos for that.
Meg Kilcup: Man, how can we keep patients from not needing all these evidence-based recommendations on these one, two, three, fourth, fifth line treatments? How can we just actually get them well with lifestyle? Because we know once they get on these drugs, there will be side effects, and there will be ramifications down the road.
Dr. Ben Lynch: If prescription A causes headaches, then prescription B can relieve headaches. If prescription B part of the headache cure causes constipation, well then give something else.
Meg Kilcup: Oh, absolutely. I think that then you have this patient that's constantly needing you or more drugs and not actually feeling any better. You look at patients once they're 50, 60, 70, I was reconciling medication lists at the beginning of my career. These patients end up on like 20 medications. Can you imagine the impact on our body, much less, three to five, 20? That was the norm.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, the norm was around 20?
Meg Kilcup: Oh, gosh. We actually published an article or study in JAPhA, and I want to say it was like 13 up to 20, and more, it's so common.
Dr. Ben Lynch: What age groups?
Meg Kilcup: Gosh, the ones that we were reconciling meds on were probably the older generations. I couldn't say it exactly, but even for the younger generations, this is happening, too. So many people with autoimmune diseases, allergies, so many things. Then, they get put on layers of drugs that are then impacting the systems of their body, their mental health, their gut. Drugs can impact our gut. So many drugs that are used all the time. Then, our gut impacts our whole health in a giant way, which I know you know. But I never learned about that in pharmacy school. We never talked about that in the hospitals and clinics with the doctors, with patients.
So many different drugs can impact our gut. Then, our gut impacts our whole health in a giant way.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Doctors don't know it either.
Meg Kilcup: The word microbiome, that wasn't part of my language until I started researching on my own.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, what do you tell people who are really involved inside the system with their own health? They've been brought up that way with their parents, that if something was wrong with them they go to the doctor, they take a pill, now they feel better. Whether it was acne, whether it was headaches, whether it was migraines, lack of focus in school, everything was a medication. That's what they're used to. Got an earache, medication. It didn't always work, but that's what they got. So, now it's pattern, right? It's habit. So, what do you tell someone who is stuck in that habit?
Meg Kilcup: Well, I think it has to be a factor within their own self to decide, I'm either in this for my health, or I'm not right. So, you can take all the pills, but how do you feel? You can still be very sick and be taking the 13 pills for your health. What's your energy? How's your mental health? How do you engage in your relationships? All these things, what's your longevity look like?
Dr. Ben Lynch: They're so stuck in it that they don't actually realize that there's something better out there.
Meg Kilcup: The thing with medications is, you might quiet that symptom and it's great. You can even do that with ibuprofen, with pain. So, you can quiet a symptom, whatever it is, whether it's mood, pain, blood pressure, whatever you're treating, but the problem is still there. So, as you're doing that with that drug, that drug is having likely an impact in so many other areas of the body and that can be so damaging. It can be so harmful and it can literally take the life of some people.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Were there any life experiences when you took a medication and it transformed your life?
Meg Kilcup: Yeah. So, in my mid twenties is when I was in pharmacy school. So, getting a bunch of vaccinations for just to even be in pharmacy school and enter these hospitals and provide care. Then, on top of that, I traveled to Africa, Nicaragua, Costa Rica to do some medical sustainable missions work, I guess you could say. So, anyways, I had to get an onslaught of vaccinations and that was right around the same time in my life that I developed an autoimmune disease called Raynaud's. At that point I was in that mindset of like, "Well, if they recommended it, it must be what I need." That was my training. This is what the CDC says, this is what you do. So, I got it and right around that time when I got all those is when I developed the condition where my hands, my fingers, I would even be in the grocery store, in the frozen section, and my fingers would turn yellow and numb. When I would be outside in the cold, my fingers and toes would just change colors, my fingernails it'd just be super tingly, and honestly painful. It did impact my life, especially in the winter, in a big way.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, you've improved your health immensely. How significant is Raynaud's a problem in your life currently?
Meg Kilcup: Yeah, that experience for me was pretty eye-opening to be honest, because of what it coincided with as well as I went to the doctor and I'm like, "Hey, this is going on." They were like, "Yeah, this just happens." I was like, "But why? I've never experienced this." They were like, "Well, you can take some drugs." She recommended actually Viagra. So, I was like, I understood the mechanism why that would help but I was just like, "No, thanks." As well as beta blockers, which I already have incredibly low blood pressure. So, I was like, "I'm probably going to pass out if you put me on a beta blocker." So, I just gave them all the reasons why I was adamantly against their recommendations for me. But in those doctor's visits we never talked about why or how I can maybe heal. It was all just like, "Well, you can take these drugs, Viagra." All of this was starting to make sense in my head. It was just what my whole career had shown me. I decided over time, "I'm going to take this into my own hands and just try to heal and make lifestyle changes." I focused on gut health. I eliminated, for a large chunk of time, gluten, and dairy. Lowered my caffeine intake, even lowered my chocolate intake. All the things. I'm like, anything that I can do to see if my symptoms can improve. Even now I can go snow skiing all day and barely have any symptoms. So, I wouldn't say I'm fully healed, but all the steps I have taken to minimize toxins, maximize nourishment, and do all these incremental sustainable changes, I actually am just better.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, then you are more likely to make lifestyle decisions which are supportive of you rather than hindering of you?
Meg Kilcup: Sure. Well, it's interesting because I think when I look back on my life, like I do have this Raynaud's, but it did hit me at a key point in my life. But I definitely can say that how I feel today is different than how I felt five years ago and how I felt 10 years ago when I really wasn't taking care of myself in the same way I am today. So, I can tell if I'm eating well, exercising, taking care of my mental health, taking time to be in relationship with my community, all of those things, I feel great. But if I'm in a season where some of those are going underwater, I just don't feel great. If you're not eating well, if you don't align with your job and that adds stress, I had that in my life. I didn't align with my job at a certain point and that added stress, and you just don't feel like yourself. I think that's something that I'm always trying to tell people, is like, the way we treat our bodies will literally impact. If you're thriving or if you're just living in a way where you're just like getting through the day. People like you, I love it, like you say, genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Yeah. So, kudos to you for making that shift. You, listening, if you have dirty genes and you're struggling...if you are in a job or in a position somewhere, or you're in a relationship that is just not suitable to you, really sit down and evaluate and talk it through with someone because it might be time for you to make a significant change. If you're living in an area, maybe you're living in a country and you want to go back to the city because you love the city, or maybe you're in the city and you want to get the hell out of there and you want to go to the country.
You gotta do what's right for you, because as far as I know, we live once.
Meg Kilcup: That's great advice. I second that.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, anything else you want to wrap up with, Meg, and share with the listeners that we haven't touched on that you believe is very, very significant for you?
Meg Kilcup: Well, you just touched on one thing. For me, I think that really is just to follow your gut. It got to the point, whether it's your health that's telling you something or your job, like you're saying, relationship. But I got to the point where I was like, I either choose to live in this, and it essentially became toxic to my health because I couldn't stop thinking about it. So, whether it's your lifestyle or your job or whatever it is, we all have the power in ourselves to decide how we want to spend our days, and how we want to feel, and who we want to serve and the impact we can make on this world. So, I think for me it was about, with how I'm serving others, it's huge. Making that switch and stepping into empowering others to create their health has been huge. But also, for our listeners, for them personally, we all get to decide how we want to own our health. No doctor, no health system, no insurance company, no reimbursement model is probably going to change you. I mean, maybe, but it's going to come down to you and how you want to create your health, how you want to clean your genes. I would just say to anyone who feels discouraged, is that it doesn't happen overnight. For me, all these changes over the years, yes, I've been "healthy" and all that, but to feeling how I feel today, it didn't happen overnight. Living the life I live today didn't happen overnight.
It's just those small, sustainable steps, those intentional choices that you make every day that create that wholly healthy life, mentally, physically, emotionally.
It's not like one day you just wake up and you feel awesome. So, just follow your gut and follow that intuition in whatever it's telling you. Whether it's about life or your health, take those sustainable steps. Baby steps can make a big difference. I always like to encourage people like that, because these changes don't happen overnight usually.
Dr. Ben Lynch: No, they don't act in a straight line either.
Meg Kilcup: No.
Dr. Ben Lynch: You're going to have moments where you're dragging yourself through the mud, and you realize, "Okay, I'm tired of doing that." You make an effort to not do that, and you're on your way to improving. Then, somebody else pushes you back down to the mud, and you get all pissed off. You pick yourself back up, and it happens again.
Meg Kilcup: Yes.
Dr. Ben Lynch: So, it's just being resilient. I remember reading a quote about an entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur is someone who falls down seven times and gets up eight.
Meg Kilcup: Oh, that's so good.
Dr. Ben Lynch: We're going to fall down way more than seven as humans.
Meg Kilcup: If you're never falling down, then that could be a problem, too. You gotta take these risks. I had to take lots of risks to get where I am today. I woke up today, I was like, I'm talking to Dr. Lynch. A year ago I was still in my job as a director of safety and quality, trying to figure out what the heck to do. So, you never know where that risk is going to take you in your life, whether it's your health or what.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Well said. Yeah. Sometimes pains are our biggest teachers and failures are our biggest successes. So, yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. Well, awesome having you here, Meg, and sharing with us the ins of the industry and the tough part of it, and the good part of it, and then how you're able to shift out of it and support your own health. Not only that, but support the health of others. So, I thank you for doing that and people can find you on Instagram and your website at?
Meg Kilcup: Yes! My website is awholehealthlife.com or find me at @awholehealthlife on Instagram.
Dr. Ben Lynch: Awesome. Thanks Meg!
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