Monday, April 20, 2009

A Viewpoint on Healing – Part 1

What is healing? What does it mean to be healed? Does it mean the symptoms of any given illness or disorder are under control, that they don’t cause as many problems as they used to? Does it have to mean that the symptoms of a disease are traded in for the side effects of a drug?

Let’s take the example of acid reflux as a common complaint in our modern society. If you go to a doctor with the complaint of acid reflux, the doctor is likely to prescribe a drug, such as Nexium. Nexium, the “little purple pill”, is touted as a “cure” for acid reflux and associated problems with irritation in the esophagus. Truly, most people who use Nexium will see their acid reflux symptoms drastically reduced if not completely eliminated. Great! Problem solved . . . right?

Well, that depends. If you are O.K. with taking the drug for the rest of your life, and don’t mind the potential side effects or the cost, you might be set. But what happens when you try to go off the drug, and what about negative side effects? What’s really going on here?

The problem with Nexium and many other pharmaceutical approaches to diseases and disorders is that its function is not to heal the body, but to cover up the body’s distress signals. Nexium indeed reduces the amount of stomach acid produced, and thus relieves problems with acid reflux. But it can cause a whole slew of other problems that might be just as bad, or even worse – with too much a reduction in stomach acid, the body may struggle to properly digest food. Poor digestion is associated with too many chronic diseases to list here. Further, food-borne bacteria are more likely to survive past the stomach when there is insufficient stomach acid, and food poisoning becomes much more likely. And, as people often observe, they must take Nexium daily in order to maintain benefits during which time they are subject to the side effects of headache, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Lastly, the root causes of the acid reflux never get addressed, be it chronic stress, a less-than-ideal diet, or whatever the case may be. What is the likelihood of chronic stress and a poor diet eventually leading to other problems further down the road, even if the acid reflux appears to be contained?

Situations like these are repeated tens of thousands of time each and every day across the nation, as ordinary everyday Americans go to the their doctors seeking relief from any number of illnesses or sets of symptoms, and walk out the door with a piece of paper instructing them to buy a drug that comes with its own laundry list of risks and liabilities.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to look for solutions that: 1) are less likely to cause negative side effects, and 2) actually heal the problem?

Most people would be shocked to know that even doctors admit that at least 85% of all disorders are not optimally treated with pharmaceuticals and surgery! (This figure is probably a conservative estimate – the percentage may, in fact, be higher). Further, a full 70% of doctor visits are estimated to be with patients who have vague symptoms (such as headaches, insomnia, gastrointestinal upset, backache, etc…) for which no concrete cause can be found. Tests come back negative, doctors tell the patient the good news that nothing is really wrong, and the patient can either choose to just cope with the problem, fill the prescription the doctor gives to cover up the symptoms, or seek their answers elsewhere.

Interest in so-called “alternative” treatments and modalities has been on the rise in our society as more people have run into a dead end with modern medicine’s drug and surgery-centered paradigm. Some examples of holistic or alternative modalities include:

- Herbology
- Aromatherapy
- Massage (in all its many varieties)
- Acupuncture/acupressure
- Reflexology
- Energy work, such as Reiki, quantum touch, and pranic healing
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
- RET (Rapid Eye Therapy)
- Various forms of chiropractic medicine

And the list could go on . . .

These modalities, many of which have been around for millennia, have been gaining more credibility with mainstream society for at least some of the following reasons:

- They have fewer or no negative side effects,
- They can reduce and diffuse chronic stress, a major contributor to health problems,
- They can address the mind-body-spirit connection and may get to some of the root causes of disease, including emotional issues,
- They can help reduce toxicity in the body (rather than exacerbate it as drugs can do),
- They can help open the body’s energy channels so self-healing occurs more readily,
- Treatments need not continue indefinitely as they can actually help the individual to heal,
- Treatments are often cheaper and less invasive . . .

Further, some people have the realization that they have a great deal more control over the state of their health than they had previously realized, and begin to take care of the “little things” in their lifestyle that can have a dramatic influence over their health over time. While improvements may be slower in coming, they are generally longer-lived and even one change in lifestyle can impact an individual on multiple levels of their well-being.

Such lifestyle components that individuals can control include:

- Proper nutrition
- Hydration
- Adequate rest/sleep
- Exercise
- Clean air
- A little sunshine
- A healthy attitude – love of God and others, forgiveness of those who offend

Though I am not against doctors, drugs, and surgeries per se, as I believe there is a time to see a medical doctor, a time to visit the surgeon, and maybe even a time when a drug may be the best option for an individual, I am against the paradigm of our modern medical system as it stands today where drugs and surgery are usually the first (and sometimes only) treatments recommended to the patient.

With the heavy reliance on the modern, pharmaceutical approach while vastly important lifestyle choices are barely mentioned, and alternative therapies either relegated to the sidelines or even demonized, this model is top-heavy and unstable. Little wonder our nation is seeing plummeting stats in quality of the health of the populace in comparison to other developed nations. This combined with soaring costs ought to be of concern to every American.

The model of healthcare that I propose to be far more ideal would first emphasize the importance of each individual laying the foundation of good health for themselves through a healthy lifestyle, physically and emotionally (as well as spiritually). This alone would do much to prevent many of the chronic problems that plague society today.

When problems arise in spite of proper lifestyle choices, I would like to see people encouraged to try the real traditional medicine – natural remedies and treatments that have been used throughout the ages. Not only are holistic treatments less likely to cause additional problems to the individual, but they can be extremely effective – especially when proper lifestyle choices are adhered to.

When all else fails or when an emergency arises, then I believe it can be proper to turn to the more expensive and invasive measures of drugs and surgery as an option.

This model of health is imminently more stable than what we are currently experiencing in American society. And I also believe it will be much more effective in the long run at both preventing and healing diseases of all types.

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