For as long as I can remember, I have balked at the idea of using Western medicine. Not because I don’t respect what it is good at — in fact, what it is great at — but just because I think the school of thought that drives conventional practices is, for the most part, flawed.
Now, don’t get me wrong, if I was broken, bleeding, or couldn’t breathe, etc., I would want to go to a good physician trained in Western medicine (quickly), who could put me back together. In our country, we have access to some of the best technology and greatest minds and methods to do just this. I am well aware that Western medicine has its place. However, it is when Western medicine oversteps its place that things get a little murky.
Setting my alternative thinking aside
My youngest daughter (aged 14) recently became very, very healthy and lost quite a bit of weight — some 85 pounds or so. During the course of her losing the weight, she developed some gastrointestinal issues. Her symptoms, and my observation and knowledge, told me she may have been a little lactose intolerant and perhaps gluten sensitive. We dealt with this by making adjustments to her diet. She also became a vegetarian during this time, so there was lots going on for her body to adjust to: dramatic weight loss, a rigorous workout schedule, and a dramatic change in diet.
With that said, many of her gastrointestinal issues improved, especially when she began taking a probiotic and a digestive enzyme. However, something new was happening, she had what seemed like heartburn and pain in her upper right quadrant on and off. I was concerned that this sounded like gallbladder problems.
She did an apple juice and apple cider vinegar flush, and that seemed to curb the issue for a while. However, last week it came back with a vengeance, and I knew she was having an all-out gallbladder attack. There was nothing I could do to subdue her pain, and she was really struggling.
Off to the local emergency room we went. No one wants to see their child in such pain, and I was determined to get a quick diagnosis and have the gallbladder taken out. Perhaps, if we’d had a diagnosis before the issue became so acute, I would not have thought this way. However, at this point it was too late.
Sure enough, an ultrasound confirmed she had stones and sludge in her gallbladder, most likely due to her dramatic weight loss. Some gift for getting healthy!
I winced as they hooked her up to an IV, pumped her full of narcotics, and began to draw blood for testing. Part of me felt so very helpless and a bit like a failure. However, part of me also felt so relieved to have her in the hospital with a trained and caring medical staff to watch over her. I had done all I could with her clean diet, exercise program, whole-food supplements, etc. It was out of my hands now.
After being transported by ambulance to a bigger hospital, it was discovered that her white blood cell count was quite high and her liver enzyme test was not quite right. She clearly had an infection and perhaps a stone caught in a duct. If this were the case, she would have to be airlifted to an even bigger hospital… my nerves were pretty frayed by this time. It was so much for my gal to take in. She had never been in the hospital, never had an IV, and very rarely had been sick at all. In fact, they kept asking me who her doctor was and I had to say, “We don’t have one — haven’t needed one!”
The surgery was a success — no stones in the duct. Now, a week and a half later, she is pretty well pain free. I must say, as uncomfortable as I was with the drugs, the radiation from x-rays and the CT scan, and even the surgery itself, I know how necessary it all was, and I am very grateful for the care that my daughter received.
Why I lean towards alternative therapies
There is definitely a void that exists between alternative therapies (especially for prevention) and Western medicine. Many people may not be aware of the fact that doctors trained in the United States receive little, if any, education on nutrition. Food is always my first drug of choice.
Thomas Edison said, “The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Unfortunately, this has not happened — at least not if you see a conventionally trained physician.
Perhaps you have a conventional or Western mindset when it comes to health, and this is most likely due to the environment you were born into or live in presently. The driving force behind this mindset is the feeling that disease comes from outside of us — that it is not something we can control. In short, under the Western medical model for disease, it is thought that the body creates disease randomly — headaches come out of nowhere, and you may just “happen” to develop type 2 diabetes.
With this mindset, it is common to develop a very negative impression of your body — to blame your body. Also, you may blame your doctor, God, or anyone else that happens to be close at hand. As you blame others for your poor physical state, you take less responsibility. This moves you further and further away from the wellness that is available to you.
Western thought says that disease is a group of statistics, such as, “One in eight women will get breast cancer,” or, “One in six men will develop prostate cancer.” As we are drawn deeper into statistics, we become further removed from the real source of the problem. Perhaps you, like many others, sit back and just hope and pray that you won’t become one of the statistics. If you do get sick, you see yourself as a victim of a body that is way out of control. Now you are at war with yourself. A perilous attitude to have, no doubt.
What does holistic health teach?
Holistic or alternative health teaches that most of what happens to us from a health perspective happens because of our own creation. This includes what we eat, how we move, and how we think. These will all impact health. Of course, I would be remiss to acknowledge that there are outside forces, such as environmental influences we are either not aware of or can’t control. However, we have control over much more than we may think.
Yes, your body can heal itself
Western thought says that the only way to handle illness is to intervene. This means things like drugs and surgery. The holistic approach is to provide natural tools for the body, such as diet and movement, to help the body balance and heal.
In holistic medicine, the mind and body are treated as one, and treatment involves engaging all to move towards a healthy place. Once the root of the imbalance is found, tools such as herbs, diet, exercise and other alternative therapies can be put in place to move the body towards a place of wellness.
But… there are times when we need Western medicine
With all that said, and I do fervently believe everything I have written above, there does come a time when you may need the help of a conventionally trained physician, as my daughter did. It is at these times when those of us who think alternatively have to relax our ways a bit and accept that there are limitations. There are times when we need to reach over to the other side for help.
I celebrate the times that alternative therapy and conventional therapy have chosen to cooperate. For example, the use of cannabis for cancer, honey for wounds, and massage for pain.
We are moving in a better direction than we once were — towards more cooperation, shared research, and communication between the two schools of thought.
Now that my daughter is out of danger, I will be able to apply all I know from a holistic perspective during her recovery process. This is a good example of Western meets alternative for the good of the patient. There will be probiotics to help build up her healthy gut flora, freshly pressed juices to help her body flush out toxins, broth to build up her immune system, plenty of rest and sunshine, and any other natural support she needs to assist her body in the healing process.
It is my hope that conventional medicine will continue to learn as much as it can from alternative practices about prevention and whole-body balance, and the two will join together in a beautiful marriage of necessity.
One parting word: I urge you to take responsibility for your health — to learn as much as you can about prevention and the natural alternatives available. You have much more control over your health than you may think, and the more you learn, the better you will be able to make educated decisions.
Remember, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu
Susan is the Content Director at The Alternative Daily, a Certified Health Coach, Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and Master Gardener. With an extensive knowledge of whole foods and wellness, Susan has authored over 3,000 articles and numerous e-books. She presently lives in the mountains of Arizona where she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening and pursuing a healthy lifestyle with her three daughters and numerous animals.