Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Go forth -- and help yourself! (The Naturopathic Medicine blog entry.)

For years, I listened to doctors, nurse practitioners, and other health professionals, who told me with no uncertainty in their words, "Learn to live with the pain. There is nothing we can do to help you." Unfortunately for them, they were right. Fortunately for me, there were other ways to the same result that "conventional", or as I call it, "chemical", medicine offers.

I have acute arthritis in both feet. My neck and back were injured in an automobile accident years ago, and those body parts also have developed arthritis. My left knee has a cyst in it that has been there for more than 20 years, and since I don't have health insurance, the cyst will probably remain there for the rest of my life. These things are painful.

There are chemical medications to allegedly help alleviate similar conditions, such as NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, Voltaren, and many others) and COX-2 Inhibitors (Celebrex, the outlawed Vioxx, and more). People are often also offered opioid/opiate (items derived from the opium poppy or synthesized to emulate the derivatives) medications (morphine or the endless parade of lesser pills, including OxyContin -- among the strongest of these, Percocet, Percodan, Tylenol 3, and so on). These things help pain for many people.

However, the conventional chemicals make me sicker than ever. The results of taking them approach the classic symptoms of a massive, horrible hangover. Within 15 scant minutes, I am dizzy, everything is too raw and bright and loud, and I am unable to prevent the worst: projectile vomiting. I'm better off simply hurting, not adding to the suffering with chemical misery.

My body, now on a downhill pitch from the mid-40s, had become my enemy. The chronic pain made me sleepless, made my mind a furry mess of fungoid-like fogginess, and sent me into a spin of anger and helpless rage that made me poor company indeed. The isolation of illness is horrible, worse than a dark pit filled with mysterious nasty things -- in the pits of pain, the horror is that you know what's in store for you, and yet cannot do anything about it.

When it hurts to sit, hurts to lie down, hurts worse to walk (and running has become impossible, even a fast amble becoming torturous), and it hurts to think about hurting, it's time to do something about the condition.

The only question is... what? When health professionals all around you are saying that there is nothing to do but bear the misery, for many people suicide becomes a happy alternative. This is not my case, thankfully, since my heritage is that of stubborn, durable people, and I was able to turn the anger rooted in pain and illness to my advantage: I went hunting for alternatives, and I found them.

In the search for alternatives, I also discovered a series of facts hidden to the general public by media (or possibly unknown to them?), by health-care professionals, and by the government(s) who keep a close eye on the first two: "Alternative health care methods do exist. They are generally more effective, less well known, and far older in usage than the chemical magic offered by the kings of Big Business, the drug companies." It was at this point in time that the newly-elected President Obama began to pursue his dream of universal health care for Americans -- which I, for one, believe will be an impossibility as long as the suffering of people is considered a business.

What are the alternatives?

For one thing, natural medicines. They exist. Some of them grow along the roadsides, unknown and unseen by people who need them. They can be bought via catalogs, internet, or in pharmacies ... even off the shelf in stores like WalMart. Readily available, these items are regulated and marketed under (this is ridiculous) the eye of the Food and Drug Administration, and each item is labeled with a careful "legalese lingo" notice. "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Other alternatives include acupressure (I use that too), acupuncture (not available in my area), chiropractics, homeopathic remedies, and an endless parade of others recognized and used on a regular basis throughout the world (Germany in particular recognizes the power of natural healing methods). Each of them has a certain level of scientific proof in its efficiency, each has a following of believers, many of whom had no relief for one medical condition or another using the "conventional" version of medicine. These things have fallen out of favor in part because they're generally less expensive.

Big Business doesn't want inexpensive alternatives laid out before the needy public, whose ills and suffering cause them to pay huge amounts of money for anything that will offer relief. You're unlikely to find any alternative medicine advertised on a roadside billboard or on your television or in the newspapers or magazines. Only Big Business advertises and essentially force-feeds the public what it wants to hear: HEAL ME. GIVE ME A MAGIC PILL THAT MAKES IT ALL GO AWAY. STOP MY PAIN. MAKE LIFE EASY FOR ME. These are the messages spoon-fed to Americans daily. "WE WILL STOP YOUR PAIN. WE WILL MAKE YOU SLEEP. WE WILL ..." ... mostly not talk about the vicious side effects of the products Big Business is ready to pour into the suffering of the average, ordinary person. Some of it does help, yes, but not all of it is worth the damage of that use.

I don't believe everything I read. I also don't spend hours and hours before a television or radio, waiting for Big Business's alliances with the media to turn my brain to mush.

This is learned behavior. A person can think for themselves, or not. It's as simple as that. And, if you hurt bad enough, you'll find a way to do something about it. The basics of your own health care lie in your own two hands, and nowhere else. Your health-care provider is there to assist you and advise you, yet you must take part in the process if it is to succeed.

My own alternatives come from the natural medicines. The arthritis is less, the pain almost gone unless I over-do. I can walk again, for which I am endlessly grateful; it's wonderful to be able to step outside and romp for a few minutes with the dog, take a walk in the woods of home with my husband, or simply stand up long enough to wash the dishes. The inflammation and pain is far more under control with herbs and other natural remedies than with all the other conventional medicines I've tried over the years. A conventional medicine test showed I had some elevated triglycerides, and that too is now under control. Better and better news is that there are almost no nasty side effects (though there are interactions to be avoided as with any other medication) to any of it.

My husband, too, has found some relief from this kind of healing method. The ringing in his ears, arthritis pain, pain from carpal and cubital tunnel in both hands and arms, high cholesterol, his high blood pressure remaining under control with minimal assists from conventional medicine ... all eased considerably. His blood pressure medicine (Hyzaar) and a couple of other over-the-counter remedies of conventional type are all he takes now.

As for myself, among conventional medicines, I still take Singulair for asthma and rarely ever need the inhalers I used to use, an OTC allergy pill, a fluid-reducing medication.

I'm looking into some herbal replacements for the allergy pills. Other than the things mentioned, my husband and I only take some vitamin and mineral supplements. The herbs and natural remedies take care of the rest of it.

Both of us take an enteric-coated FISH OIL (Omega 3 fatty acids, 1,000 mg, 3 times a day) to help balance good and bad cholesterol, supplemented by FLAXSEED OIL (Omega 3s, 1,000 mg, 3 times a day). For both stomach and inflammation, we use GINGER ROOT (550 mg, 4 times a day). Our main arthritis remedy is a combination of TURMERIC (500 MG, 2 times a day) with GLUCOSAMINE SULFATE (2,000 mg, 2 times a day). (A friend has Rheumatoid Arthritis that hasn't responded to any conventional treatments yet, and she finally decided to try some of the stuff we're using... lo and behold, it's working miracles for her. She's delighted!)

As an aspirin-strength blood thinner (blood pressure and fluid retention are helped by this), we use ODORLESS GARLIC (1,000 mg, 4 times a day).  Don't forget that part of inflammation is often poor circulation; the joints need flushing out, a job that requires blood flow.

In addition to these, I take CINNAMON (+ CHROMIUM) to help regulate elevated triglycerides, a sign of pre-diabetes (a low dose of 500 mg, 2 times a day... I could double that). After having several urinary tract infections and testing positive and being treated for H. Pylori (a bacterial infection which can cause ulcers and eventually stomach cancer!), I began using CRANBERRY (Super Strength 500 mg, 1 time per day)... and all of that stopped.

For chronic muscle spasms and because of low lactose tolerance (I can't drink milk, and some cheeses are even a problem), I take CALCIUM with VITAMIN D in it, POTASSIUM GLUCONATE, MAGNESIUM with Chelated ZINC in it, and a MULTIVITAMIN designed for women only (OneSource). (I added a fragment of ZINC to my husband's repertoire, which stopped his ringing of the ears.) NOTE: Be very careful in adding minerals if you're taking a multivitamin -- some things are not to be taken in high amounts, and some flush away with the daily fluids -- and check to see what amounts are safe before you take anything extra.

For symptoms of approaching menopause (hot flashes, and night sweats that left me waking up in a puddle, I found BLACK COHOSH (175 to 200 mg per dose on average, since it varies from brand to brand... this plant grows wild near my home... 3 times a day... NOTE: do NOT use it longer than 6 months at a time). The black cohosh alone didn't seem to do it, so some research into the subject suggested that perhaps EVENING PRIMROSE OIL would help, so I tried it, and it did the trick.

I occasionally use BORAGE OIL (500 mg, 2 to 3 times a day), a women's health herb, for short sessions (it takes a long time for it to clear your system, and overuse is not a good idea), and if I have a stomach bug or cold, I'll add CAYENNE  FRUIT (measured by its heat, it's about 40,000 STU on average, 1 capsule taken 3 times a day) to the other items.

My husband has come to depend on something called MSM ((Methylsulfonylmethane) to ease pain he used to take Tramadol (a mild opiate compound) several times a day for. He takes the MSM (1,000 mg) 3 times a day. For some people, according to a pharmacist we spoke to, the MSM can help within hours, days, a month, or not at all, depending on the kind of pain and the severity...and she wondered aloud why doctors don't offer it up as an alternative to other pain medications (such as Tylenol/acetaminophen, which can cause liver failure, and others like Tramadol or similar drugs). For my husband, it allowed him to pick up a cup in one hand for the first time time in months. It has also helped other chronic pain problems he's accumulated over the years. NOTE: IF you cannot use sulfur-bearing antibiotics or similar drugs, do NOT use this medication (MSM)!

He also depends on a low dose of a compound marketed as CALMS FORTE' to help him sleep -- it's recommended for simple nervous tension and occasional sleeplessness. The recommended dosage is "1 - 3 tablet(s) taken half an hour to an hour before going to bed" for sleeplessness, but he only uses one. (A local friend now takes a half of one with her other "conventional" medication, which was approved by her doctor, and it works to let her sleep in peace, she said.) The problem which kept him from sleep was similar to restless legs syndrome (for which the same company that makes CALMS FORTE' makes an herbal compound called "RESTFUL LEGS" as well). When he lies down at night, he starts getting itchy-twitchy, and only getting up to walk around stops it. Not even the CPAP machine prescribed for apnea by a sleep clinic program would let him rest, though they swore it would (the CPAP won't help you fall asleep, but they said it would help him stay asleep -- it doesn't).

With all of these things, it's generally best if you consume them with food -- and plenty of water. Some may have side effects for the individual, a fact stated in all of the books and web pages I could find. Research into the effects, interactions, and any possible side effects is also there if you look for it. Most side effects are straightforward, like any other: rash, difficulty breathing, swelling/edema. Some, like the one I encountered, are a little more scary: racing heartbeat. Don't hesitate to call the doctor, talk to a pharmacist or other professional, or go to the emergency room -- and take ALL of your medications with you. ALWAYS discuss ANY over-the-counter medication you take or are considering taking with your doctor(s). Herbs and natural medicine ARE medicines, and some chemical/conventional drugs do not mix well with them. Take all of it very seriously, please, as I do.

An excellent ARNP we regularly see recommended that I find a book if I could, a German pharmacopeia of herbs, the accepted "bible" of herbalists worldwide. I did find it -- on Amazon, the new paperback priced at $165. I'll have one, as soon as I can manage it, and be careful to read it and refer to it often.

If you don't help yourself, no one else can, either. That's a simple, brutal fact.

It is also a fact that many alternatives in health care are as close as the stores that sell other OTC remedies and the little things we use daily. If those who cannot get relief via the conventional forms of health care dig deep enough, we'll find something else, like as not, that does work.

Remember, what works for me may not work for you. I'd suggest you add things one at a time, researching them carefully to avoid problems. That way you'll be more certain what caused a certain reaction. This is how we managed it, and it's working well. In the beginning, we had a hitch or two, but nothing major. I figured it out, dropped a certain compound and picked up individual parts of it which then worked as planned. It takes time, about a month on average, for any of it to begin working. Give it a chance, but don't hesitate to stop something if you think it may be harming instead of helping!

One last thing. I'll be deadly honest: I can't afford law suits. I'm too poor to pay for Big Business chemical-magic, and too poor to retain a lawyer. If you use this information I've provided here without research into the subject, and you're injured or sickened by it, you're on your own. I don't accept responsibility for someone else's free will decision, only for my own. The information here is provided to encourage people to go help themselves -- not to practice medicine without a license. That, I'll leave to the insurance companies who routinely argue that something isn't "an accepted and viable treatment" (or some such legalese BS), and so will not pay for it. (My husband and I have come across that over and over, despite some of the treatments in question being old items on the highly respected Mayo Clinic's website.) I am absolutely not responsible for your decisions, period. I do, however, encourage you to get help if you need it. Anywhere you can find it, as I did.

Good luck! I hope you feel better soon.