“Doctor, I have this headache for the last six years and I am tired of it. What can I do to get rid of it? I do not want to constantly take these pain killers you gave me.” Marianna told her family doctor one day.
“I have headaches, too.” the doctor said. “I’ve learnt to live with it, so can you.”
A doctor must be a health model himself
If you have asked your doctor a similar question and got a similar answer, you are not alone. Many doctors admitted to patient that they have unresolved long-term health problems as well. That’s too bad. How can a sick doctor help patients if he cannot help himself?
There are multiple treatment options for virtually any health problem: from drugs, to diets, to acupuncture, to homeopathy, to detoxification, to exercise, to supplements, to lifestyle adjustments, to stress management, to manual therapy, to spiritual healing, to….
Never give up!
The list goes and is long. It would be tempting to say that the more options you try the higher the chances for the right treatment. If you do not find the right solution with one method you should not take it for granted that other methods would fail as well.
Just because your problem is not solved with drugs it does not mean it will not be solved with another therapy. Just because acupuncture done by Mr. Smith has failed, does not mean that acupuncture by Mrs. Miller should fail as well. It would be foolish to make such assumptions, yet we make them all the time.
Learn to know the difference
If you want to shop smart you need to know the difference between
- “dietitians” vs. “nutritionists”,
- “naturopathic physicians” vs. correspondence-course “naturopaths”,
- “masseuse” vs.“registered massage therapists” and
- supplements purchased on the internet, vs. supplements acquired with advice at a local health food store, vs. supplements prescribed by a chiropractor or naturopathic physician.
- different people,
- different biases,
- different expertise,
- different tools,
- different methods,
- different approaches,
and naturally they all carry very different health values, which cannot be judged by how much you pay. Your health is priceless. Your wallet should not be your health compass.
Have realistic expectations
If you have tried an “alternative” or “natural” therapy with disappointing results, you must not give up. If you want to be successful in the future, keep on trying but ensure that your expectations are realistic.
If you buy a headache remedy from the internet, all you are getting is the equivalent of a natural pain killer, not a treatment that will cure your headaches. If you want a cure, you need to know the causes of the problem. The internet cannot help you with that. The internet does not know why you have a headache, for that you need an expert assessment and not an on-line questionnaire.
Price will vary, but may not reflect results
Be clear what you want and how you are going to go about it. Do not judge the value of your treatment by the money you pay or don’t pay. You think expensive must be better? Expensive supplements are frequently not any better than the cheap variety. They are however marketed more aggressively, which makes them more costly.
You think “free” health care is a great value for you? Your “free” health care is not free to anyone. Somebody has to pay for your doctor’s visit, tests, and treatment. Just because you do not see the money leaving your pocket, it does not mean your spouse, your neighbour, or your kids are not subject to burden of paying for you.
Taxes collected from them go towards your doctor’s visit, the cost of which is hidden from your eyes. Did you know that if all of us worked on preventable diseases by eating right and having health-promoting lifestyle our tax burden would be considerably smaller? The tax burden from poor lifestyle choices is enormous.
You get drugs, because of lack of further insight
With multiple treatment options available why would everyone especially your doctor have any health problem? Shouldn’t he be first to know the right treatment? He should, but that’s seldom the case. Doctors, just like anyone of us, prefer the comfort of what’s most familiar to them, which is prescription drugs.
Medical doctors do not receive training in naturopathy, chiropractic, dietetics, nutrition, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, massage therapy and the many other health modalities. A lot of doctors do not believe anything, but drugs. Hence they have no interest in supplements, homeopathy, shiatsu, chiropractic, Traditional Chinese medicine, or detoxification.
Due to this huge bias they seldom try to venture out and tell patients that there is another, maybe even better treatment option besides drugs or surgery. Unfortunately limited options bring limited results and here is a clue: if you still pop the same pills day in day out, you are stuck and going nowhere. Your treatment may need to be upgraded.
An outstanding doctor does this:
Everyone wants to have a great doctor. Here is a four-point “test” you should subject your doctor to. Next time you visit your doctor keep those four points in mind. A progressive open-minded and patient-focused doctor:
- Listens to what the patient wants and supports patient’s rights to choose. Explains treatment options without forcing or using fear mongering about consequences of not following through with the offered option. A patient in no way should be hearing comments of a belittling nature such: “you are going to regret it”, “I am not going to see you if you are not taking these medications”, “you need to choose either me or the other treatment”
- Understands his own limitations and does not express opinion in areas that s/he is not familiar with. My patient successfully eliminated her crippling rheumatic pain with changes of her diet and cleverly asked her doctor later if he thinks diet has anything to do with rheumatism. The doctor answered: “No, not really, and if you hear otherwise it is a placebo effect”. That is simply dishonest. If he doesn’t know, just admit to it and stop misleading patients.
- Is curious about other options. How many times an excited patient tried to share their successful health story only to find out the doctor is not interested or dismissive? Somehow there is very little interest among medical practitioners to learn about options beyond prescriptions or invasive medical procedures. If you wonder why, then you should know that there are more rewards in following drug protocols, than in introducing natural solutions.
- Has exemplary health. And although you will never know if the doctor has daily migraines, constipation or erectile problems you can make some kind of judgment about his health by visual cues. Pay attention to weight, body proportion, posture, agility of movement, attention span, skin texture and color, swelling of hands, ankles, neck or face. You may not be an expert, but acne, brown liver spots, and bags under eyes are not anything you could call a sign of health. Protruding belly? Forget about dietary advice from that “expert” unless you want to grow the same.
Play doctor detective
What if your doctor is not that great? Do not lose hope. You can regain control over your health and health care team but you may need to make a few changes:
- First, do not lie. Do not tell that you are taking medication when in fact you are not taking it. Do not make up symptoms, reasons, and excuses. If you expect honesty and fairness, be so yourself.
- Second, know your doctor’s limitations and bias, but also know your rights. Ask questions such as “have you tried using vitamin C for cholesterol” or “how much training do you have in nutrition” or “are you on any drugs yourself” or “do you routinely refer to chiropractors”. The answers will guide you as to how open, cooperative, and how experienced in various areas your doctor is.
- Third, educate. Educate your doctor. Tell him who else is taking care of you, who found or not found a solution and what kind of treatment you are going through. Ask for cooperation. If your condition is getting better naturally why should you be offered or worse, forced to take drugs? Make sure your doctor knows. If your doctor does not want to know…. hmmm, the only thing you can do is change your doctor.
Doctors are people, just like any one of us. Biases and limitations can only be overcome through education. If you disagree with your doctor help him discover the other side of health care, the side you have found yourself. The more your doctor knows the better health care we all will have.
- Supplements not better than prescription drugs
- Health rewards that cost us all – how to bankrupt a nation
- Health Care or Sick Care
- Why natural medicine does not work