When rock star Glenn Frey, the multiple Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, producer and actor, who was best known as a founding member of the Eagles, died on January 18, 2016 at the ago of 67, there were not that many people who knew how seriously ill he was.
The cause of death was listed as complications from rheumatoid arthritis – something he had been dealing with for 15 years – ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. In November 2015, Frey had undergone major surgery for his colitis, and following the surgery he was placed in a medically induced coma. About a month before Frey passed away, his treating doctors had exhausted all possible treatments, and were aware that it was just a matter of time before Frey passed away.
The same day that he died, his good friend and manager Irving Azoff said it was the drugs Frey was taking for his rheumatoid arthritis that were partly or fully to blame for his death. Furthermore, Azoff said the drugs also caused Frey’s ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by itself is not a fatal disease; treatments for RA are used to attempt to slow the debilitating effects of the disease. Unfortunately, side effects of the treatments often contribute to the severity of the disease.
The effects of ulcerative colitis are also rarely fatal in and of themselves, but there are complications from it that can be fatal.
Many of the medications that treat RA, which is an autoimmune disease, come with a host of possible side effects, from heart failure to tuberculosis. That’s because the drugs used, known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), work to suppress patients’ overactive immune systems, which can make them vulnerable to infection.
Those who suffer from RA and other chronic inflammatory disorders have to weigh the many life-changing benefits of strong drugs that treat the disease against their nasty side effects.
The leading anti-inflammatory drug, Humira, for example, can lead to an increased risk of certain types of cancers, serious infections and nervous system problems, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Similar drugs, all of which are in a newer class called biologic agents, such as Remicade and Enbrel, come with the same possible side effects.
In other words, if a person has RA or other autoimmune issues, in making the choice to go the modern medical treatment route of using these strong drugs, it can leave them, as the Eagles sang in “Hotel California,” on a path that “could be heaven or it could be hell.”
And for Glenn Frey, it surely led him towards the path to hell.
What could Frey have done differently? First off, during his heyday with the Eagles, he lived life in the fast lane, succumbing to the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Surely, that lifestyle played a prime role in the deterioration of his health in his later years, and only in hindsight can it be said that if he had tempered his lifestyle way back when, perhaps he wouldn’t have suffered the way he did in his later years.
That being said, there’s still a lot Frey could have done over the last 15 years of his life, when he was suffering from the RA. If he had chosen to follow a more healthy and wellness oriented lifestyle approach, it’s possible that he could have then relied less on the drugs, or not taken them at all.
The thing about modern medicine, while it is good at offering band-aids and giving symptomatic treatments – such as strong drugs for the debilitating effects of RA – it has no treating approach or philosophy that can help a person move towards healing and wellness.
Most probably, Frey wasn’t getting advice from his doctors suggesting that he make big changes in his diet, or develop better tools to manage his stress – such as meditation, yoga, being in nature, and other ways that can help a person find their inner stillness.
To make these changes, Frey would have had to empower himself to move in that direction. Now granted, I don’t know what Frey’s lifestyle was like, nor am I blaming Frey for his health issues, but I do believe he could have done better for his health and not have had to die an untimely, and lonely, death, nor been forced to choose between heaven and hell, in regards to taking the medications.
And with the large number of people suffering from autoimmune disease and chronic and degenerative health problems, the same scenario is in effect for everyone in this boat – drugs at best can arrest symptoms, but they are not curative. Lifestyle changes – diet, tending after your emotional well-being, having healthy stress management approaches – are the key.
And the best kind of diet: as all research now tells us, it’s a plant-based, whole foods diet. Which means cutting out the processed foods, the sugars, and less or no animal foods and animal protein (animal protein includes dairy foods).
This is the approach that could have kept Glenn Frey singing for many years to come, and one that would have allowed him to maintain a peaceful, easy feeling and to take it to the limit.