Health & Harmony
Abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea are common symptoms that affect up to two million Americans. Inflammatory bowel disease is usually manifested between the ages of 15 and 40. More often than not, the symptoms are minor and come and go. They tend to go untreated professionally, as people are inclined to chalk it up to dietary indiscretions or a "nervous stomach" and will self-medicate with antacids, laxatives and other over-the-counter digestive aids. Other conditions, such as Crohn's disease, are more serious and people are more likely to seek the attention of a medical doctor and use prescription medications to seek relief.
Inflammation or irritation of the bowel ranges in intensity and location within the intestinal tract. Diverticulitis affects the large intestine when balloon like pouches push out from the walls of the intestine and create pockets that can become blocked, infected and inflamed. This condition is one of the most common colon diseases affecting about 10% of Americans and up to 50% of those over age 60, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide.
The inflammation in Crohn's disease most commonly affects the end of the small or large intestine but can appear in any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Repeated bouts of inflammation can cause obstruction and ulceration, sometimes requiring surgical removal of a piece of the intestine.
The more benign form of bowel disease is called irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, or spastic colon due to the characteristic cramping, diarrhea and bloating. Irritable bowel syndrome affects 10-2 percent of otherwise healthy adults, primarily women, and usually starts in early childhood, reports the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. The American Medical Association states that the cause of Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis
is unknown. The incidence has increased over the last 30 years, however, and everything from heredity, to stress, to abnormal allergic responses have been cited as factors.
The course of these diseases is one of chronicity with periodic exacerbations and remissions. Treatment options vary and run the gamut from anti-inflammatory medication to cortico steroids and surgery. The rate of recurrence after surgery, however, is high. The question of how to resolve the inflammatory response has sent researchers, clinicians and patients themselves into a scurry for a quick fix solution. Probiotics to stabilize the intestinal flora, and fish oils rich in Omega-3 content are known to decrease the inflammation. These are gaining acceptance in the conventional community and are recommended with increasing frequency. Increasing fiber content in foods is always recommended. ( The American Homeopath, 2006, Inflammatory and Irritable Bowel Disease by Nancy Gahles, DC, RSHom (NA), CCH.)
The mind-body component of chronic disease is recently receiving attention with the help of people like Jon Kabat- Zin, creator of mindfulness stress reduction through meditation, and Deepak Chopra. These are techniques that work to reduce the stress that is causing the pathology. Try as they might, some people simply cannot stop the thoughts, worries and anxieties that cause their suffering and their suffering cannot be stopped by the treatments currently available.
The world of conventional (allopathic) medicine is now attempting to create a space to hold the imponderables. This space is called Integrative Healthcare. Some hospitals feature treatment modalities such as massage therapy, Reiki and guided imagery into their breast cancer programs or surgical aftercare programs. The idea is to work collaboratively with other professions to alleviate the suffering of patients who live in the world of unknown causes and lack of treatment for their conditions. This is called palliative care. Therapies that give patients relief. There still remains to be addressed the issue of, where does the stress begin? Why more prevalent in women? When did it start in childhood and under what conditions?
Gathering the facts of causation is the "stuff' of the patient's story. The physician who will take the time to sit with the person and listen to his or her story will glean the origin of the disease and this will lead to discernment of treatment. The only way to address cure in a patient is to take the whole case of a person and address the totality of symptoms. The unique features of each person's symptoms and his or her story will inevitably suggest a remedy that matches the whole picture from beginning to end. There is a system of medicine listed on the website of The National Institute of Health (www.nih. gov/nccam) under Complementary and Alternative Medicine as complementary to the medical system we now have in prominence. It is called Homeopathy. This branch of the healing art and science called medicine emphasizes treating the whole person, the totality of symptoms with one remedy at a time. The Organon of The Medical Art by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann says, "The highest ideal of cure is the rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of health; that is, the lifting and annihilation of the disease in its entirety in the shortest, most reliable, and least disadvantageous way, according to clearly realizable principles." He prefaces this by saying, "The physician's highest and only calling is to make the sick healthy, to cure, as it is called."
Integrative healthcare must become a practical reality if we are going to achieve this high ideal of eradicating disease and alleviating the suffering of humanity. Thankfully, the concept is taking off. Witness a headline today of a major news magazine:
U.S. News & World Report, January 21, 2008
Alternative Medicine Goes Main-
stream. Top hospitals are now embracing such unconventional techniques as acupuncture, homeopathy, and energy healing.
When we all work together, change takes place. And, if you listen to the Presidential candidates, change is what they are offering. Change in healthcare choices is but one of the platform issues. However, it is one that you must consider thoughtfully. Change comes slowly, especially when you want to change an entire system such as healthcare and insurance. The reality is that it won't happen so quickly. There are a few things you can do within your own scheme of things. First, take back your power. Empower yourself with self knowledge. Inquire about options available to you regarding your choice of healthcare practitioners. Yes, practitioner(s)! I suggest taking a look at your current health insurance. Select a primary care physician that you can talk to. Select one who is open to pursuing options in treatment that are outside of pharmaceuticals and surgery, should the need arise for you. Select a doctor who is conversant with other practitioners in alternative fields. Choose an Integrative Practitioner. When renewal time comes up for your insurance, choose one that offers complementary and alternative coverage. Most do not. In that event, I suggest choosing a plan that has a high deductible and a Health Savings Account (HSA). In this way, you have the best of both worlds, that is, traditional medical/surgical coverage and a savings account to pay for services that are outside of your plan.
The time is now to take back your power. The time is now to be a co-creator in your health. The time is now to Live. Your life matters.
The Integrative Healthcare Symposium will be held January 17, 18, 19, 2008 at the Marriott Marquis in NYC. You are welcome to attend my lecture on IBS on Saturday January 19 and do stop by to see me in the exhibit hall at The National Center for Homeopathy booth. May The Blessings Be!