I received an email regarding a medication alert for a particular drug, with the caveat: “I don’t know how true this is, decide for yourselves”. It’s a great point: how true is it? We need to ask this question with everything we hear – even science. Now you could check snopes.com, or you could spend hours researching and trying to understand what you found… or you could think about it for a minute.
“Not enough research money has been made available to investigate integrative, leading-edge therapies that have proved in clinical practice to be beneficial to the patient. While the American demand for natural health care is at an all time high, as the public becomes more and more frustrated with traditional doctors, the amount of conflicting information that is out there puts the American public into a situation where they have an extremely difficult time separating beneficial therapies from those that are not.“
It seems that in order to make informed health decisions these days, one needs both medical and research degrees. Most people don’t want to devote their lives to health care – they just want to make good choices as they live their lives. So how can you make informed decision without earning advanced degrees in everything you may need to understand? You do it with pattern recognition and wise rules of thumb.
The Medical Brand
By understanding some fundamentals of the health care arena, we can get in the ball-park for good decisions; and in this ball-park, we will find people we can trust to help us sort things out. A major step needed to find more health options is getting over the idea that the U.S. health system is the “end-all, be-all”. Our medical system is not the definitive health science, it is merely a “brand” – just like Toyota and Ford. It “works”, but it is not the only way to do things. It is not right about everything. It does not do everything. It does some things right, and other things wrong. It has a certain methodology to it, as do other brands like osteopathy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and naturopathy.
The U.S. health system originated on the battlefield, and so the specialty is life saving. Hospital (allopathic) medicine is very good at saving lives, but not very good at maintaining life quality. For quality of life issues, you need to look somewhere else. All brands are designed to do certain things – but not everything. They all have strengths and weaknesses. They all address some issues, and not others. There is no one brand that does it all. Just as people need to know when a certain drug is being recalled (medication alert), they also need to know they have options beyond drugs – that there is more than one brand to choose from. If you want more options, stay open to the value of different perspectives.
No matter how much you research a topic on your own (not being an expert), you may never develop the insight in to how to interpret the information you find the way someone who has devoted their life to the subject has. So take advantage of their expertise – but don’t forfeit your personal responsibility to them (this is what helped to cause our current health information problems). You could spend months researching a topic, and end up confused and overwhelmed. Or you could let the experts do the heavy lifting, by paying for advice from several different brands of doctors, and applying some common sense to the agreements and disagreements of their collective advice.
The body is designed to process material from the environment (food, water etc) to sustain itself. The body does this naturally. What is unnatural (difficult) for the body is processing synthetic materials (processed “food”, drugs, etc). We can handle a little bit, but chronic synthetic stress over decades wears us out. Under ideal conditions, drugs are used only to help the body get through rough spots… if used for long periods of time, drugs begin to create problems of their own. So the point is to seek to understand a condition requiring drugs as much as possible, so that you can look for more natural and sustainable ways to address it long term. A good example of this is Dr Day‘s approach to her cancer.
A good Rule of Thumb for drug alerts:
“Better safe than sorry” – avoid any drug that is questioned.
“Deciding for ourselves” equates to determining which expert is right, and which is wrong – in other words: who do you want to believe? Who is qualified to do that? Not me. I don’t even waste my time tackling these types of arguments; and I can do this in relative safety with the rule of thumb. For the most part, I keep this type of stuff out of my body – so I don’t have to worry about what it’s doing to me…
Exceptions to the Rule
Obviously there are times when your life may depend on a drug – that’s an exception to the rule. Also for quality of life issues (pain management), the rule must be bent… but if you are always on the lookout to understand your condition in more depth, and to look for natural ways to address it, you will be better off in the long run.
When drug/substance alerts come out (especially for something found in many common drugs/foods), there will always be arguments about safety. A good example is aspartame/phenylalanine, an artificial sweetener. On one side is the industry making money off the drug in question, and on the other side are health watch-dogs. They both provide “expert” evidence… but “for every expert there is an equal and opposite expert“. Brains for hire (“experts”) can be bought, just like politicians. Ask a simple question: who is more trustworthy (not profiting)? Biochemistry is very complex. Like any science, it comes with conflicting philosophies/perspectives, and can be “spun”, just like the “facts” in a news story. “Scientific research” can be made to say anything an expert wants it to. Moral of the Story:
We simply need to be able to think for ourselves
This doesn’t mean we need to become perpetual “professional students”, studying everything under the sun in order to make informed decisions. No one knows everything. Intelligence requires data and education, and takes years of training and study. Using intelligence requires we gather all the facts, analyze and test them. Wisdom requires pattern recognition, and happens in a moment. Using wisdom requires:
1. Understanding that aspect of human nature that tends to mislead (profit motive)
2. Understanding the body is designed to process natural food (vs synthetic food-wanna-be’s and drugs)
3. Understanding that if you don’t have all the facts and ability to interpret them, the safe bet is to avoid synthetic food and drugs – find natural ways to stay healthy.
We could spend our lifetimes chasing facts that we could never begin to understand, because we don’t have PhDs in biochemistry. This path wastes a lot of time. The simple, easy and safe bet is to just avoid anything that “smokes” (chances are there is actually a “fire” somewhere)… this translates into avoiding drugs as much as possible. Every synthetic drug has “side effects”. These effects come from all the additional chemicals required to “hold” the main drug chemical in a form that can be bottled. These other ingredients place additional stress on the liver to neutralize and eliminate them from the body.
Food is Medicine
Any time we stray from pure, raw, organic food, there will be side effects, and potential problems. You don’t have to be a food nazi, but by realizing where the line is drawn (natural vs synthetic anything), we can make more informed choices. Keeping things in perspective, synthetic food (yummy as it may be) will never be the best thing for us, but it is less of a problem than drugs; which are concentrated and designed to aggressively alter body chemistry. Over time, a body can only take so much – so go easy on yours.
Health options are not an “us vs them” deal, it’s a matter of doing what works, while minimizing harm. Everything has its place, and there are more options then we have been led to believe. Our current system of medicine can provide drugs to ease arthritic pain… but realize that people have reversed such pain by cleaning up their diets. This often requires radical changes, that not everyone will want to commit to. So do as much as you can – its not “all or nothing” either.