Treatment Outside The Box: Homeopathy

Brrr! The frigid temperatures of winter … the gusty wind … the snow … the ice … have a way of going right through you. For many, their joints stiffen and ache. For others, their entire body feels like its consumed by pain. The intensified symptoms are frustrating and stressful. It makes a lot of patients ask themselves, “Is there something more that I can do?” Maybe, there is. It’s called Homeopathic Therapy.

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This is nothing new. Homeopathy is a medical system that was developed, in Germany, back in the 1700’s. It’s commonly used in many European countries. But it has never achieved that level of popularity in the U.S. Does it work? A 6-year study conducted in an outpatient-setting in the UK revealed that 70.7% of patients involved in the study had positive health changes. Still, Homeopathy remains somewhat controversial. Perhaps, mysterious?

Homeopathy is often part of Naturopathy (the belief that diseases can be treated without medication).  Doctors who practice this holistic system of medicine are called  “Homeopaths“. Since Homeopathy training is not included in typical MD degree programs, doctors who are interested in providing this care must pursue additional training. Homeopathic practitioners also provide this treatment. They do not have medical degrees, but their educational background is in science. They do graduate-level training, complete a residency, earn certification and get a licensure.

Homeopathy is based on two unconventional theories:

  • “Like cures like” is the theory that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people.
  •  “Law of minimum dose” is the theory that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. 

Homeopathic products come from plants, minerals, or animals. Treatments are individualized for the patient and their specific illness. According to a 2012 survey, by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), approximately 5M adults and 1M children use this type of treatment in the U.S. In 2017, the FDA proposed a new risk-based enforcement approach to homeopathic products. This approach calls for more scrutiny of products. 

Some of the Chronic illnesses that can be treated with Homeopathy are:

  • Migraines
  • Depression
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia Syndrome

It is important to note that every patient is different. The treatment that some respond well to, others may not. We see this also in conventional medical treatment. There are no guarantees in life. Most of us learned that lesson, by the time we reached adulthood.

If you are interested in learning more about Homeopathy, you can read the links provided below. You can and should also discuss this with your physician. Homeopathy is considered, by most medical doctors, as part of Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM). He or she can discuss the options available, in your area. If not, those who live in North America can contact the North American Society of Homeopaths online at https://homeopathy.org/ for assistance. Sometimes, the path to feeling better and living more fully involves treatment outside the box! 

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16296912

https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-homeopathy#1

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/homeopathy#hed1

NASH | North American Society of Homeopaths

Fibromyalgia (2008)

https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/homeopathy

*Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplas

Building Your Support Team

Once you are diagnosed with a Chronic illness, life comes at you fast. There are tests, doctors, medications, procedures, treatment, etc., to be discussed … decided upon … and juggled. And the best way to manage it all is to build a “Support Team”. But how does that work? Who makes the cut? Let’s talk about that …

 

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Family and friends can be wonderful things. But, in reality, not all families provide strong support systems and not all friends are up to the task. This is your health that we are talking about. Anyone with a Chronic illness will tell you that managing your condition is vital. Your privacy is also involved. Which brings us back to who makes the cut:

  • Doctors are a given.
  • Disease Information. This will help you to make decisions & build your team.
  • Therapists and/or Nutritionists may be needed to get you started or even long-term.
  • Best Buds, i.e. spouse, partner, family, friends, a neighbor, or even a co-worker. People you can count on to help you emotionally and/or physically. This should be  dependable & responsible individuals. They should also know how to practice discretion. If you have more than one in your life … “Yea!”
  • Support Groups can be found in most areas — even online (hint, hint, hint). These are very beneficial if your Best Buds are limited or not living close-by.
  • A Good Pharmacy & I lean toward national chains. If you forget to pack a prescription, lose one, etc., it’s easier to get it replaced. Most offer mail-delivery, too.

Building your team may sound like a daunting task, but it’s not as difficult as you may think. Specialists and surgeons will be referred, if needed, by your physician. This is also true for therapists, nutritionists, etc. Your physician can provide information about your disease, too. And there’s a wealth of good information on sites like Mayo Clinic, WebMD, CDC, etc. Your “Best Buds” are the easiest to pick, because you know them and they know you. You also know their strengths and weaknesses. Some will be better for a specific task than others. So, talk to them. Discuss your condition as well as any help you may need, i.e. transportation, errands, watching the kids for a couple of hours, etc. Support Groups may be of interest to you, or they may not. The choice is yours and depends solely upon your needs and preferences. A good pharmacy is something that you don’t really think about, until it becomes a constant part of your life. If you don’t have one, now is the time to locate one. With any Chronic illness, you will need it. This is your new normal.

It’s a lot to take in. I know. Once diagnosed, you can easily feel overwhelmed … scared … frustrated … depressed … even angry. That’s why your support team is so important. Together, you can and will effectively manage your condition. Millions do so, every day. Last but not least, try not to let your imagination get the best of you in the worst of ways. Don’t worry yourself over things that may never happen. Don’t allow worst-case scenarios to keep you awake at night. Cross that bridge, when and if you come to it. You have better things to do, than dwell on the negatives. Prioritize. Focus. Embrace optimism. And live!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions

https://www.webmd.com/

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/chronic-illness

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-07-groups-boost-health-chronic-conditions.html

http://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/Changes/SelfManagement.aspx

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000602.htm

https://www.caregiver.org/resources-health-issue-or-condition

8 Ways to Build a Support System When You Feel Defeated and Alone

*Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash

January Is Thyroid Awareness Month

This time of year is famous for bringing sore throats, aches, hoarseness, fatigue, etc. That’s why most us buy an over-the-counter medication, a few cough drops and keep going. If it gets worse, we may even opt for our granny’s chicken soup and a warm blanket. But we seldom think of these symptoms as being something more … like a Chronic illness.  Let’s change that …

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An estimated 20M Americans have some form of thyroid disease. And as many as 60% of them are unaware that they are sick. That’s a little scary, but statistically accurate. The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower neck. Although the gland is rather small, it’s reach is a big one. Why? Because the thyroid produces a hormone that influences every cell, tissue and organ in the body!

Most patients are female. In fact, women are five to eight times more likely to have thyroid problems than men. Which in no way gets all of you guys off-the-hook, so pay attention. This can strike at any age. Even infants have been diagnosed with the condition. And symptoms of thyroid disease vary depending on what form the patient has.

For Hypothyroidism, the symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Development of a goiter

For Hyperthyroidism, the symptoms are:

  • Weight loss, despite an increased appetite
  • Increased heart rate, palpitations, higher blood pressure, nervousness 
  • More frequent bowel movements, diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness, trembling hands
  • Development of a goiter

For Thyroid Cancer, the symptoms are:

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin of the neck
  • Changes in voice, hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in the neck and throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

If you have had a prolonged period of experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor. So, please, make an appointment. You may need to be referred to an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat doctor) or an Endocrinologist for treatment. The good news is that thyroid disease is manageable. Thyroid cancer, though rare in the U.S., is also very treatable with a high success rate.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month. The more that we know, the healthier that we become. So, help spread the word. 

 

Reference Links:

General Information/Press Room

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/thyroid-disease-symptoms-and-treatment

https://www.webmd.com/women/understanding-thyroid-problems-symptoms

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thyroid-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20354161

https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/understanding-thyroid-problems-basics#2

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroid-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html

*Photo by Karissa Seeger on Unsplash

In 2020 … More Optimism!

Well, here we are … starting a new year … and wallowing in a mixture of emotions. Excitement. Curiosity. Frustration. Determination. Perhaps, even dread? A few tell-tale signs from the holidays are still lingering … cards, decorations, perhaps a return or two. Often times, people feel the need to start fresh as a way to welcome January. So, they make a resolution. Many would even call it a tradition to do so. If you are one of these folks, please, consider making yours “optimism”!

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Optimism, or Positive thinking, is a powerful thing that can have tremendous results. If you’re laughing, or just silently skeptical, visit the reference links below. Pessimists give up more easily. They are depressed more often. And they tend to have more health issues. Optimists, on the other hand, do better in school, at work, even in extracurricular activities. They have better overall health and they may even live longer. Is there a greater gift to give yourself in 2020? To me, there isn’t!

To put it simply, optimism equates to being healthier. There are five decades of medical research, from around the world, to support this. Being healthier means you are going to feel better, look better and enjoy life more. Optimistic people have better cardiovascular health, stronger immune function, lower stress levels and lower pain levels. When an optimistic person encounters an adverse health event, i.e. orthopedic surgery, they recover more quickly. And, if they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness, they can manage their disease better. Their survival rates are higher. Wow!

The best part is that optimism can be learned! So, if you are a born pessimist, you can change your outlook. Your glass doesn’t have to be perpetually half-empty. You too can reap the rewards of optimism. Are you ready? Here, are some helpful tips:

  • Change how you think. Instead of dwelling on a problem, focus on the solution.
  • Mentally, coach yourself. We all need a cheering section. Remember to be yours.
  • Practice positive self-talk. In other words, DON’T say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else.
  • Be open to humor. Smile. Laugh. Both release stress.
  • Identify areas of your life that you want to improve. Take some time, each day, to visualize that success. 
  • Exercise. Even a little can help a lot, i.e. walk around the block, a 10-minute session of Tai Chi, etc. It will positively effect your mood and reduce stress levels.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Supportive people can offer helpful advice and feedback. Negative ones cannot.
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments. Even the small ones count and add up. So, pat yourself on the back and keep moving forward!

A new year is like standing before a blank canvas. We are the artists. And our palettes are waiting. Optimism — like the paint, pencils, brushes, palette knives, etc. — is within our reach. Here’s hoping that each of us creates a beautiful masterpiece!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201208/the-mind-and-body-benefits-optimism-0

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-behind-behavior/201607/4-reasons-why-optimistic-outlook-is-good-your-health

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/optimism-and-your-health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23510498

https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/train-yourself-to-be-an-optimist-4-steps.html

*Photo by Izabelle Acheson on Unsplash

The Unknown …

The “unknown”, as it has come to be called in our house, is a very scary thing. If you are a perfectionist like me, it can be sheer torture. No matter how hard we try, we cannot make this earthly world perfect. Even the most idyllic families will, sooner or later, get theirs. Why? Life has imperfections. So, curve-balls and sucker-punches will come. There is no way to avoid them. I have had to remind myself of that a lot, this month. Because, like millions of others, we have had the wind and much of the holiday spirit slapped out of us by the unknown. A loved one was blindsided by a diagnosis. More tests were needed. Then, a biopsy … and still we waited … and waited … consumed by the unknown. Until, despite the madness, we remembered that we were not alone. At that moment, a peace began to fall over us like gently falling snow. Yes, the “unknown” still exists. But our faith and resolve is stronger. 

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” … Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

The unknown has a way of disrupting our lives. It knocks us off our feet. It takes the wind out of our sail. It baffles us, frustrates us and fills us with fear — sometimes anger. And if that describes your life, today, please remember that you are not alone. I feel your pain. Many of us have. What you are feeling is natural. Millions have reacted the same way. The unknown has instilled fear in the bravest of men and women, throughout history. None of us are immune to its effects. But we can fight back.

Prayer enables us to cope. And, miraculously, it can heal. Prayer allows the mind to focus positively, instead of being tormented. It lowers stress levels. Medical science has seen its results. If you or a loved one are ill, you don’t need the added impact of anxiety or depression. You need inner peace to make the best decisions, to rest, to heal. Prayer is the answer.

In these times of trial and loneliness, we must remember that God walks with us. He hears us. He comforts. And our prayers are still answered. There is light, at the end of this tunnel. Options exist. Healing can and will come. Joy will fill us, again. Laughter will slip from our lips. And life will go on. Until then …

May God Bless you & yours, in the coming year. And may the “unknowns” of your life be few and far between!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal#1

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/05/07/power-of-prayer/70943182/

*Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

 

All I Want …

Around this time of year, we often hear the dreamy wishes of young and old alike. Usually, these involve gifts (some more expensive than others) … travel … parties, etc. Hints are dropped … in texts … in emails … on Post-it notes, etc. To say, there are plenty of grand expectations is an understatement. But how important are these wishes? I wonder. People tend to take a lot for granted. Yet, now is the time we should all consider what we truly want — what we need. Life’s simple pleasures are far more priceless than they are given credit for being. Because these are the things that add true meaning to our lives. 

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Consider, for a moment, the popularity of a certain Christmas song. After 25 years, Mariah Carey has hit No. 1 on Billboard with “All I Want For Christmas Is You“. What resonates with fans? Is it an old favorite that stirs sentimental feelings? Or is it the simplicity of the message? Love.

As December and 2019 slips by, do some serious soul-searching. What are the things that are most important to you? For me, it’s my guys (husband, son & fur-baby). It’s their love that sustains me and encourages me. My faith, praise God, which has always lifted me. It’s good health, for me and my family. The ability to manage my Chronic illnesses. The joy of good friends, at the holidays and all year long. The quiet of our home, in the evening. The calm of flickering candles. Holding hands (even in church). Sharing a hug. Stealing a kiss under the mistletoe. The sheer peace of knowing, no matter what comes along, they have my back. And I have theirs. Some things cannot be bought. They must be felt. In this modern-age when our society seems all too willing to put a price on anything and everything, the simplest of pleasures are still the best. May each of you embrace yours.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/chart-beat/8546418/mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas-is-you-number-one

*Photo by Tom Mossholder on Unsplash

Do I Look Like A Guinea Pig?

When you live with a Chronic illness, you get used to periodically taking tests. Blood-work is probably the most common, but there are others too. It’s part of managing your disease. And you get used to taking medications. But have you ever wondered: How much is too much? Have you ever felt like a guinea pig instead of a patient? Unfortunately, millions of people have. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment is becoming a serious healthcare problem.

For example, in a 2014 analysis report, researchers noted that about 40% of adults worldwide have Hypertension. And more than half of them have mild cases of the disease (meaning they’re at low risk and don’t have existing cardiovascular disease). Yet, half of the patients with mild cases were being given blood pressure-lowering drugs (even though there is no research on whether this reduces cardiovascular-related disease and death). Let that sink in, for a moment. Researchers argue that this “overtreatment” is unnecessary. And it costs over $32B a year, in the U.S. alone! 

 

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You may be thinking that it’s better to err on the side of caution. But can we actually call overdiagnosis a cautionary move? Personally, I don’t think so. According to the NCBI, overdiagnosis is “the diagnosis of a medical condition that would never have caused any symptoms or problems”. Aside from unnecessary treatment, this type of diagnosis can also lead to harmful issues of stress and anxiety.

For the record, overdiagnosis is not a misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis is when a doctor says cancer, but what the patient actually has is a benign cyst. Overdiagnosis is the correct diagnosis. But it is diagnosing illnesses that may never actually make you sick. Most screening tests can lead to overdiagnosis. This is not to say that you should avoid having tests. They can and have proved to be vital to our health. But if you are starting to feel like a guinea pig, it could be time to seek a second opinion. If you question a diagnosis, then listen to that little inner-voice that’s eating at you — get a second opinion. Your health may be better for doing so.

According to the Harvard Health Letter, there are 5 things you should know about seeking a second opinion:

  • They’re less common than you think.
  • Your doctor won’t be mad.
  • You may need to make your priorities known.
  • The first opinion may affect the second.
  • You may need to bridge a communications breakdown.

It may feel awkward to ask for one, but this is your health. Your life. Your right. 

If you are sick and actually experiencing symptoms, you need treatment. That’s a given. But, today, we are seeing growing numbers of overtreatment. This encompasses a wide range of healthcare, from routine tests to surgeries. A study published in September of 2017, estimated that 21% of medical care is unnecessary. This leads to more medical expenses, higher insurance costs, more medications, stress, anxiety, possibly even financial hardship for many patients. And none of us needs that.

So before you nod your head and go along with whatever is being said, remember … you aren’t a guinea pig! Speak up. Ask questions. Seek a second opinion.  It’s your body and your health. You deserve good, quality care — not bad medicine!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/how-unnecessary-tests-scans-procedures-and-surgeries-are-affecting-your-patients

https://time.com/3379349/overdiagnosis-and-overtreatment/

https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g5432

https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/five-things-you-may-not-know-about-second-opinions

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430655/

https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2014/07/23/a-patients-guide-to-second-opinions

*Photo by Katherine McAdoo on Unsplash