Medical Problems and SolutionsMay 13, 2011 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Problems and solutions. Ultimately, that’s why we go to see doctors. We hope there are no problems. But, if there are, we expect to be informed about a solution. That’s fine as far as it goes. However, there’s a whole lot more that you and your physician can get out of a typical office visit if you simply ask a few reasonable questions.
It doesn’t matter what type of doctor is at the helm of your health care vessel. Both conventional and holistic physicians benefit from patients who participate in their own treatment plan. The following questions are a few examples of constructive inquiries: Why does this problem require treatment? What can I expect in terms of treatment results and safety? Are there any alternatives or complementary approaches that I can consider?
Here are five examples of common problems that may arise during the course of a doctor’s visit. In each case I will illustrate how an informed patient can actively participate in improving the quality of his/her own health care.
Problem #1 – You’re a postmenopausal woman who is struggling with hormonal changes and a less than ideal cardiovascular profile (blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides). Your conventional doctor suggests anti-hypertensive medication, hormone replacement and slow-release niacin to boost your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
While researching this issue you discover that a new study appearing in the May 2011 issue of the journal Climacteric describes how 2 grams/day of pumpkin seed oil may provide many of the same benefits in a much safer manner. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in question lasted 12 weeks and resulted in a statistically relevant rise in HDL cholesterol and a significant decline in diastolic blood pressure. Menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, headaches and joint pain decreased over the course of treatment as well. (1)
Possible Solution #1 – You present the above referenced, evidence based information to your physician and ask for his/her opinion about a trial of pumpkin seed oil as an alternative approach.
Problem #2 – You haven’t been brushing and flossing as often as you should. Your gums aren’t feeling or looking great. According to your dentist, the solution is a prescription mouthwash that will limit the number of pathogenic microbes associated with gingivitis.
Prior to filling your expensive prescription at the local pharmacy, you decide to do a little investigative work on your own. One of the research papers you come across, in the March 2011 issue of the Ceylon Medical Journal, reports that an herbal toothpaste (Sudantha) consisting of several traditional Indian herbs may be another way to go. This 12 week study involving 60 participants determined that daily use of this all natural dentifrice resulted in improvements in several key parameters pertaining to oral health: 1) a decline in plaque; 2) less “bleeding on probing” and; 3) a reduction in anaerobic bacterial counts. This trial used a placebo toothpaste as a comparison model. Those using the placebo did not show similar benefits. (2)
Possible Solution #2 – You embark on a trial of an all natural, antimicrobial toothpaste instead of the prescriptive mouthwash or ask your dentist whether the two strategies may complement one other.
Problem #3 – Your child suffers from periodic migraine headaches that haven’t responded well to conventional treatment. Your pediatrician suggests a new drug on the market.
Most parents understand that they need to be medical detectives on their children’s behalf. Part of your detective work turns up a new publication in the journal Neurological Science that supports the utility of an extract derived from the leaves of Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgolide B is known to reduce the levels of platelet activating factor (PAF), “a potent pro-inflammatory and nociceptive agent released during the inflammation process”. Italian researchers explain that a new, open label prospective trial of Ginkgolide B found that it effectively reduced “migraine attack frequency” and attenuated “the use of symptomatic medication” in a group of 30 boys and girls with migraines. The authors of the experiment also noted that the herbal medicine was associated with good compliance and was well tolerated. (3)
Possible Solution #3 – You print out the full text of the study and bring it to your doctor’s office for review. Ask for a follow up appointment or phone call to discuss the viability of using Ginkgolide B as a first line approach.
Declining Levels of Melatonin May Contribute to Cancer Risk
Source: Journal of Pineal Research Volume 48, Issue 1, Jan. 2010 (link)
Problem #4 – Your naturopathic doctor recommends that you supplement with berry extracts to naturally support your cardiovascular system. Better yet, he suggests you drink a daily serving of one of the most antioxidant-rich berry juices available: blackcurrant juice.
On the surface this sounds like a solid recommendation. However, while browsing through the medical literature you find evidence that blackcurrant juice may not be all it’s purported to be. A newly released study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition assessed the acute impact of blackcurrant juice consumption on cardiovascular health markers. The randomized, cross-over, double-blind study asked 20 healthy men and women to drink 250 ml of blackcurrant juice or a control drink “following a low-flavonoid diet for the previous 72 hours”. There was no evidence of significant changes in “biomarkers of endothelial function”, “lipid risk factors” or “measures of vascular reactivity”. The juice did increase antioxidant levels in the body slightly but this didn’t result in the anticipated cardiovascular benefits. (4)
Possible Solution #4 – Instead of drinking refined berry juice, opt for fresh or frozen whole berries – preferably low-glycemic options such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and raspberries. Eating a fiber rich, daily serving of whole berries has been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and oxidative stress. Whole berries may even support liver function in those with fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome. Whole blueberries may even improve liver function in those with fatty liver and metabolic syndrome. (5,6,7,8,9)
Problem #5 – You’re grappling with the grim diagnosis of lung cancer. Your oncologist informs you that chemotherapy is the only viable option. The advice is pretty straightforward: go to the chemo sessions and receive periodic testing to evaluate your response to treatment.
Part of your own personal cancer education leads you to a study from July 2010 that reveals that the “sleep hormone” melatonin (MLT) may improve the efficacy of certain forms of chemotherapy used to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). According to a group of Italian scientists, taking a high dosage (20 mg/day) of melatonin dramatically improved the “tumor response rate” in a group of 100 cancer patients receiving either chemotherapy + MLT or chemotherapy alone. All told the difference was quite remarkable: 21/50 MLT + chemo patients demonstrated “objective tumor regression” vs. only 24/100 in the chemo alone group. As an interesting side note, those who professed to having “spiritual faith” experienced even better outcomes. (10)
Possible Solution #5 – Some forms of cancer present rather poor treatment success rates. Any edge you and your doctor can call upon is usually most welcome by all parties involved. Also, the very real possibility of adding a glimmer of hope to a seemingly hopeless situation should not be underestimated. Alternative and complementary therapies often interject that valuable dimension into an otherwise cold treatment approach.
Two minds working towards a solution are almost always better than one. That’s what it comes down to. Too often patients discount their role in the healing process because of an erroneous belief that they’re simply there to be treated. This passive attitude detracts an immeasurable amount from the healing equation. Whether they tell you so or not, most physicians want your help in the healing process. Sure they want you to heed their advice and show proper respect. But ultimately, they want you to attain true health in whatever way possible. This goal can be best achieved with your full and vigorous participation. Your very life may depend on it.
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Women's Health
May 14th, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Enjoyed the approach of this informative article. Great work
May 15th, 2011 at 12:46 pm
Thank you, Mark. 🙂
May 17th, 2011 at 11:33 am
Great J.P. We all need to do a little more research for ourselves and ask a lot more questions when we are at the doctor and dentist
May 17th, 2011 at 12:18 pm
Thank you, Kelly! Agreed!