Tapping Into Our Pharmacy Within

Blog # 69    Andrew Siegel, M.D.

We all have the capacity to tap into a powerful pharmacy housed within our physical beings.  Our bodies are incredibly engineered “machines” with an array of organs, tissues and cells that produce a cocktail of powerful natural chemicals and hormones that can dramatically influence and affect our mood, energy, focus, drive, etc.

I am capable of tapping my pharmacy within through vigorous exercise. It probably accounts for my “addiction” to exercise and my suffering from withdrawal symptoms if I miss a day or two.  Exercise is certainly not the means for everyone—we all need to try to discover own method for exploiting this robust pharmacy that does not demand a prescription, expense or medicine cabinet. Walking doesn’t cut it for me—I need to sweat, huff and puff and feel my heart pounding.

Most days, I do not get the opportunity to exercise until after work, at 5PM or so.  On rare occasions, I will have a gap between early morning procedures and afternoon office hours, an interlude that affords me the opportunity to actually go home, exercise, shower and have lunch before returning to the office.  Recently, I had one such lovely day.   I started the day with a 6:30AM procedure at the surgery center and because of the sheer efficiency of the facility, I was finished by 9AM, not having to return to the office until noon.  I went home, changed, headed to the basement and pulled out one of my P90x DVDs, specifically the back and biceps workout.  I exercised for an hour or so, and even though this particular workout was primarily resistance, I still worked up a good sweat and got my heart pumping and lungs heaving.  After a hot shower and a healthy lunch, I headed to the office, refreshed, renewed, restored and invigorated.

My office is hectic and office hours are often stressful.  However, on days in which I get to exercise midday, no one and nothing can “hurt” me.  I find myself super-alert, focused, energetic and immune from the many frustrations and irritations that typically chip away at my good spirits.  I am unequivocally convinced that vigorous exercise releases dopamine, endogenous opiates and a cocktail of internal chemicals that are responsible for my heightened state of mind, vigor, stamina, equanimity under pressure and resistance to the usual stressors that typically leave me fatigued, depleted and emotionally and physically spent.

I vow that I must schedule exercise into my midday routine—for the benefit of myself as well as my patients— but I never do, the rare occasion it occurs is due to happenstance.

“Exercise is medicine, and every man needs a daily dose.”

Jordan Metzl, M.D.

Andrew L. Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food


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