Holistic or Traditional Medicine?

compmedicineI find myself getting a bit frustrated lately with the extreme views that people seem to be forever pushing in support groups in regards to holistic medicine. Some seem to think that if it wasn’t produced in a lab, it couldn’t possibly have any benefit, while others are determined to reject en mass the medical industrial complex and all it has to offer. This baffles and perplexes me. Mostly it saddens me because I know a lot of the dazzle is missing out on great natural methods of healing and pain relief that could be improving their quality of life exponentially, while others are causing themselves suffering by taking stances in the other extreme. While our society downplays the usefulness of holistic medicine, the truth is that both forms of medicine compliment one another and we need both to achieve wellness.

I’m often the first to point out the modicum of complex problems in the American healthcare model that have turned many of our doctors into pill pushers, but I’m no fool. Doctors have much more knowledge than I do and the tools to get the job done. I understand that the testing and surgical advances of modern medicine are a boon in many cases and I take full advantage of them. But I’m also a wary consumer who recognizes that many drugs get approved too quickly and can turn out to have dire consequences for those who take them (floroquinolones and lyrica are great examples). You have to exercise a supreme level of caution when deciding whether or not to take a drug when it’s offered by your doctor, do extensive research and weigh the risks. Being a zebra, odds are I’m not going to react well to it, even once I’ve finally decided to take the risk.

There are also a number of procedures and tests done every year that are completely unnecessary and those things are all very problematic. You have to be a conscientious consumer when it come to healthcare, perhaps more so than when making any other purchase, whether insurance is footing the bill or not, because ultimately you’re paying the price with your health by being exposed to dangerous chemicals and alterations to your physiology.

It’s also beyond frustrating to go to doctors and realize that I know more about my conditions than they do, but if you find the right one willing to learn, then they can be excellent partners in care. That’s all they ever should be, but Americans, and perhaps all Westerners, have this uncanny knack of giving up their power to them like they’re somehow infallible and all-knowing, like they’re our gods. They aren’t. They are fallible human beings that have a medical degree. They don’t have all the answers. They can’t tell you what to do, nor should they. They can make recommendations, suggestions. But second opinions are there for a reason and often vary and there’s a reason for this; they’re human and medicine is like everything else; there’s more than one way to accomplish something.

Which brings me back around to holistic/natural medicine. Holistic medicine was pushed out of the American medical industrial complex around the turn of the century not because it didn’t have great value in healing, but because it had no monetary value to the system. Medical companies, hospitals, doctors and medical personnel couldn’t make money off of herbs and natural remedies, but they could make a ton of money off of the new German model of medicine that depended on surgical and pharmaceutical interventions and so a witch hunt was begun to discredit and put naturopaths and homeopaths out of business, going so far as to outlaw such practices. This witch hunt was begun by none other than a Rockefeller who was not even a medical professional, and in fact had no medical knowledge whatsoever. What he did have was a vested interest in the profits. This model kicked off a system that continues to quash any and all successfully created cures by doctors and scientists and the use of natural medicines in the healthcare system that we know today. If you want to know all about it, check out this video:

Nature is exactly where we got our medicine from for hundreds of years prior to this and it healed us pretty well all that time. I’m not talking about laying on hands or mystical energy manipulation, though I won’t put those down because I’ve never experienced them, but I will admit I have my doubts. What I focus on are nature supplied compounds that have proven effectiveness in healing, such as Curcumin, a primary component in turmeric, or stinging nettle, both incredibly powerful and useful medicine for a variety of ailments.

Of course these substances are medicines, even if they are at the same time, herbs, plants and foods. This is true, because when used as medicines, they are either used differently or used in much higher quantities than they would naturally be ingested. Also, we don’t take seriously how food itself can affect the body. What we fuel our bodies with greatly affects how well it “performs,” something every spoonie needs to get straight with from that start. When you venture into the world of holistic medicine it needs to be with the understanding that you have to either pick a naturopath (a doctor specifically trained in these medicines) and/or be set to do a massive amount of research on your own to ensure what you’re doing is safe, along with being prepared to discuss it with your more traditionally focused doctors so they know what you’re taking and can help you make sure you don’t cause any unintended negative interactions with any prescription medications you’re taking. It’s not a journey intended for the slap-dash flibbertigibbet.

When I offer natural medicine options on my blog, I try to take as much of the guesswork out of it as possible by offering good sources of information on the substance, but I don’t know what you’re taking, what your specific diagnoses are or anything else that might be a contraindication of use. That’s up to you to decipher. Ultimately, you have to be your own guard. You have to be in control. But don’t you owe it to yourself, to your health, to your life and longevity to explore every possible option that’s out there?

We all want to be well and we all have opinions about how to best go about it. The best way I’ve found is to keep an open mind, explore all of my options and research carefully those things that I feel have the most merit, regardless of where I first found the information. If I hear a good deal of buzz about a protocol in a support group, I’m going to explore it. If someone tells me they had a lot of success with a particular therapy for the same problem I have, I’m going to look into it. Once I’ve done my research, checking multiple sources and opinions, I then decide whether or not I feel it’s really right for me and how much time and energy I’m going to invest in it to see if I get results. If I’ve done my research carefully enough, I’m rarely disappointed.

Of course, you have to use your common sense and listen to that little voice in your head. The one that goes with the Latin phrase caveat emptor, meaning “buyer beware.” We’ve all seen them, the pills and systems that promise they’ll cure you of your EDS, ME/CFS or Lupus. Anything that promises absolutes should immediately put up warning signs in your head, especially if you have something that’s incurable. Things also shouldn’t be overly simple. You can’t wave a wand and be well. It simply doesn’t work that way.

At the same time, there are herbs and supplements that do provide a wide range of relief and they truly do everything stated, such as stinging nettle. It has an incredibly versatile range of applications, most of which I’ve personally tested and found to be true. The same is also true of coconut oil. Always keep that grain of salt in your attitude, but be prepared to be wowed by some things. Just don’t expect anything to ever be a miracle cure and always let those alarm bells fly anytime someone claims something is. A compound can have multiple uses and can be really great, but the likelihood that it will be your end-all/be-all are slim to none, no matter how many ingredients it contains.

Is it possible someone took substances A-F, did therapies 1-3 over a slow progression and put their autoimmune illness into remission? Yes, it probably is. It’s what’s I’m attempting now and I believe that others have had the successes they share freely and openly on their blogs and in books. Some of these people are where I’ve gotten some of my best information from. But often protocols are not one size fits all and you will have problems they don’t have and they will have some you don’t. This is why I borrow, rather than adopt wholesale and where all that doctor-sponsored testing comes in so handy. Also, there are things nature’s pharmacy just hasn’t been able to account for in my current physiology, at least not that I’ve found, yet. I still need POTS medications while I’m working on getting back to being fully active, for example. I’m also still not convinced that whatever is going on with my head and/or spine will not require some sort of surgical intervention no matter how much I want to avoid it.

I need both worlds to be as healthy as I can be and I’m alright with that. I count myself extremely lucky to be seeing pain-free days absent medicinal side effects. It took me a great deal of time, research and meticulous self-care to get here, but it was worth every hard won step. I may not enjoy a “normal, healthy life,” but every day that I manage to be pain-free and out of bed is a major victory for this zebra and gets me one step closer. The more I do to get better, the better I am.

Want to know how I achieved greater wellness? Read these:

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