Bonus Monday Post: Flirting With Nonsense

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Gentle Reader,

Since I’ve decided to be confident and speak my mind….

When you have ongoing health issues, you become an amateur expert on your condition. You do a lot of study. You look for answers. You develop an open mind. You do what your doctor tells you to do, but you also become interested in other theories. You read something or a friend suggests something and you think, “That sounds reasonable. They’re not recommending I give myself carrot juice enemas. Sure, I’ll try it.” And many times, it’s fine. You take a supplement and it does nothing so you stop. You change your diet and find you feel a little better so you stick with the plan. It’s an experiment.

Unfortunately, there’s a whole lotta nonsense to sift through in the experimenting.

I posted this back in June and…well, I’m actually kind of ashamed of it now.

The chiropractor gave me a beet-based supplement loaded with Vitamin A. And I thought, “Okay. I take other supplements. This can’t be bad.” Except it was – large doses of Vitamin A are actually toxic to an already-damaged liver. (Never mind the fact that chiropractor said that Vitamin A would “cure” the problem). Plus, the supplement contained herbs that would have greatly compounded things. (When I found out about this, I discontinued use immediately. Couldn’t have been more than a week later. Thank the Lord I never took the St. John’s Wort, because it’s also toxic for someone like me). But the chiropractor had held the bottle against my abdomen! He said I “responded well” to the supplement! He said my body “liked” it!

The chiropractor also believes that germ theory is a hoax and all disease is related to “subluxations” of the spine.

Who-na-na-ho-hee, anyone?

I have nothing personal against the chiropractor. Nothing at all. I think that he’s doing what he does out of a real desire to help others. Unfortunately, that desire isn’t always enough. I’m fine with seeing him if something feels out of joint, but it’s a hearty “no thanks” to the rest of it.

In the same post I claimed that the doTerra Zendocrine blend pills contained “essential oils that have been shown to help with liver function, as well as assist with hormone balance.” That was a lie. I didn’t realize it was a lie because I was repeating what I’d read. But there’s nothing except anecdote to back up the claim; no clinical studies cited, no peer-reviewed articles, no repeatable experiments. A friend gave these to me out of a genuine desire to help me feel better because she loves me, and I will forever thank her for that. I’m in no way upset with her.

But I took the entire bottle and it made no difference. In fact, my hormone levels actually got worse right along with my liver function. I don’t think the pills did that; I think they didn’t have any affect, good or bad. (As a side note, I have no beef with essential oils when used for basic aromatherapy, which I enjoy. But I just can’t buy into the idea that they cure everything from acne to cancer. There is also a very real threat of toxicity if ingested in an undiluted form. Use them if you want, but be careful).

I visited a naturopath once who put her foot next to mine to…I think get in line with my “energy?” She, like the chiropractor, would put bottles of different pills on my lap and “see” how my body “responded.” Now, if she’d just told me that Omega 3 supplements are good for heart health, that pretty much everyone who lives in this area needs a Vitamin D boost because we live at a high latitude with relatively small amounts of sunlight, that most women should consider taking a low-dose calcium supplement…all of that would have been fine. Instead, it had to be couched in semi-mystical terms.

I shake my head at myself. If you pay attention, doctors actually do advocate for good nutrition and exercise. They aren’t all about “just throwing a pill” at the problem. So I take several different supplements every day – vitamin deficiencies have been well-researched. Walking calms me down – endorphins have been well-researched. I do better when I don’t eat dairy – lactose-intolerance has been well-researched. Many of the things that alternative health practitioners clamor about have been coming from doctor’s mouths for years.

What really gets me is that I came close, more than once, to jumping uncritically onto a bandwagon. A bandwagon that, more often than not, contains dangerous spiritual undertones. A bandwagon that sometimes flies in the face of common sense. A bandwagon that sometimes makes unsupportable claims. The spiritual currents running in the alternative health movement should give every Christian a reason to pause and consider. The resurgence in Ayurvedic folk medicine, firmly rooted in the Hindu worldview, is just one example. We are not to mix our faith with other, false belief systems. It is certainly possible, when approaching the alternative health movement in general, to separate what is good and beneficial from what is wrong and dark, but there’d better be some serious wisdom-seeking in that process.

A critical mind is HUGE when you deal with chronic illness. Everyone and their mother is going to have an opinion – most of them come from love. People are going to have stories about their best friend’s cousin’s lawyer’s assistant who had the same thing and did X, Y or Z to treat it. I have learned that I have to approach the alternative health movement with a healthy amount of skepticism. (This is not to say that I trust modern medicine and its practitioners without reservation. But that is another post). If the evidence is merely anecdotal, it may not be evidence at all. If the advice comes from a blogger with an English degree who insists he knows more than someone who went to medical school, it may not be good advice. If it feels creepy and weird, it likely is.

At this point I conclude that it’s best to stick to what has been tested and that conclusion is highly influenced by my faith. Christianity, for all of the beauty of its mystery and miracles, is ordered and logical. Man screwed up, man can’t fix it, God fixed it. A to B to C. The cross and Resurrection were corroborated not only by the four Gospel authors, but by Paul and the hundreds who saw Christ before He ascended. They all told the same story. (This is not an attack on Christians who use alternative medicine. If you see it like that, walk away, come back and read it again).

I need the same level of order and logic in the ways I deal with my body.

My journey to faith. (15)

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12 thoughts on “Bonus Monday Post: Flirting With Nonsense

  1. I can relate to your story. I have to be really careful about what I actually use. I end up reading a lot of medical journals, particularly ones published abroad (I’m a bit concerned about drug company funded research). I can honestly say that my doctor was more committed to using medications, diet issues didn’t come up until I brought it up. I’m glad you found something that is working for you and I agree that being aware of what you are using and the support for it is important.

    I don’t have the same sort of suspicion of Ayurveda that you do, but overall I think that anytime you are going to jump on a bandwagon, you should know what you are getting into.

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    1. Sometimes I think we expect too much from doctors. They can’t read our minds. We have to be bold enough to ask questions and bring up concerns, like you mentioned. Certainly some doctors are happy pill-pushers; I’ve encountered a few of those. But so many others are willing to listen and take a holistic approach. In the end, like you said, we need to know what we’re getting into with any course of treatment.

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  2. Wonderful post, and I agree- alternative medicine is fine- if it has been well researched and well studied. Like using willow bark tea like you would aspirin (willow bark, like aspen bark, contains salicyc acid (sp?) which is the main ingredient in aspirin- in fact, that’s where aspirin got its name (from aspen) ;), or honey with tea for a sore throat, or mint for breathing/congestion and muscle aches or digestive aid, or unpasteurized honey for wound care as a natural antibiotic (avocado also works, as does garlic) and garlic also for heart health and to help clear a stuffy nose (I put a wee bit too much garlic in my last batch of hummus and WHOA! Could tolerate the spice- barely- but it certainly cleared out the sinuses!) or chicken soup when you’re sick. I got some natural lye soap in hopes that the glycerin in it would help with my eczema and it did (it didn’t cure it- it’s autoimmune and incurable- but it greatly helped reduce it and stop the incessant itching). ALL are natural, and all have been tested/studied/confirmed by both physicians and naturalists alike.

    And I am suspicious of “spiritual healing” also. Take for example yoga. Should I take a class with Dharma (from the tv series Dharma and Greg)? NO- her spiritual beliefs were very infused with it and greatly contradicted Christianity. But is it ok to take a yoga class that simply focuses on breathing, stillness, and slow movements for relaxation, flexibility and strength? Or to watch/purchase a yoga video where the only “spiritual thing” in it is simply to end with meditation (which a Christian can easily do without violating their faith by spending that time in either talking or silent prayer/time with God)? No. In fact, that’s an excellent way to de-stress (providing that one knows the motions already, and isn’t craning their neck in positions I’m willing to bet God didn’t intend for our bodies to do to see our computer screens lol! ;P ).

    But in the end, we simply have to do our homework on a treatment method, pray about it, and seek God’s guidance for our lives. If A B and C worked for one person, but D E and F works for another, then so be it. Our bodies are unique. The lye soap mentioned above made my friend so dry she about drew blood with scratching, but for me it works so well I won’t go back to storebought soap (well, technically I bought it at a store, but it’s a natural mom and pop style soap store with the soap made by the owner on premises, not commercially sold).

    In the end, it’s all about being an informed, well educated consumer. You wouldn’t buy a vehicle that has never been tested for crash endurance or whether or not the brakes work. You wouldn’t buy perishable food at the grocery store without knowing whether or not it’s properly handled (like you get milk out of a cold refrigerator, not off the shelves or warm). You wouldn’t buy a house without a thorough inspection. So don’t try a medicine that hasn’t been thoroughly studied.

    Common sense, and God sense- two invaluable tools no matter what 🙂

    I’m really glad you discovered what works for your body and what doesn’t 🙂

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    1. Really good thoughts here, Amanda. I’ve never heard of using lye soap for eczema. Mine tends to be patchy (left wrist, knees, sometimes a spot or two on my face) so I don’t know if it would work but I may give that a shot. Worst that’ll happen is I’ll wind up giving it to you. 🙂

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  3. I agree that you have to become well versed in your own condition so you can advocate for yourself. My wife leans toward more “natural” treatments and I have to do quite a bit of research to separate the wheat from the chafe. It’s also true that as some people get older, they tend to rely more on medications. I’ve tried to avoid that as much as possible.

    For instance. I have arthritis in my spine. After one really bad night of pain, I visited my doctor and he made the diagnosis. He prescribed some anti-inflammatory meds which my wife nixed. So I tried out more natural solutions and I haven’t had any serious discomfort again. Of course, I’ve also changed my diet and I work out rather strenuously at the gym five days a week, so that could have something to do with it as well.

    I like and trust my doctor. I’ve been a patient of his for about twenty years now. But I’m going to try and avoid prescribed medications as long as I can because it seems that once you get on that bandwagon, your health, at least in terms of age-related illnesses (your situation is quite different, Marie), really does go downhill.

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    1. Arthritis in your spine? Ouch!

      It’s definitely a fine line with medications. I tend to be more of the “and/both” and less of the “either/or” school. For instance, my dad takes cholesterol medication. It’s pretty much a genetic thing for him as he’s had problems since his late 20s. But he doesn’t just pop a pill and go out and eat bacon cheeseburgers every night.

      We have to be smart in how we approach things.

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  4. I’ve been becoming more and more of a “hippie dippie all-natural” type person. It wasn’t until recently I heard the term “germ-theory”. No matter how many natural remedies I like to use, I’ve never chosen to do so because I thought germs didn’t exist. I’ve used a microscope, I know they exist. 😉 Most of the “hippie” stuff I like to use have been studied and I like how many of them are known to have antiviral, antibacterial, etc qualities. I like learning about monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and polyphenols.

    Do we need to be careful with the use of natural things? Absolutely! If I were to see a natural remedy health care provider, I would definitely look into their credentials. (I hear that Washington state has stricter standards on licensing than Idaho does. College degree vs. a six week online course.)

    Personally, I think sometimes the natural approach to problems can make them sound less serious. For example, there are certain infections that can be treated with garlic. But someone might thing, “Meh, if all it takes is garlic, it must not be that bad, I’ll do it later…” and then when they don’t do anything… the infection can grow or spread to baby in childbirth and cause serious complications. Personally, I think prescription antibiotics are overused and overuse has some negative side-effects BUT I would rather someone use prescription antibiotics than take no action at all!

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    1. It’s a balancing act. I really don’t think we need to run to the doctor for every cold or scrape, but colds and scrapes can turn nasty quick. Like I told James, I’m often of the “both/and” way of thinking. Do what you can at home with fluids, rest, food, etc. but we have to be smart. Colds can cross the line into bronchitis. Scrapes can get horrible infections. We have to know where our ability/knowledge ends and not hesitate to get help.

      And Idaho’s certification requirements for anything… Don’t even get me started. No wonder we’re such a “herp-a-derp” state in the eyes of many.

      Liked by 1 person

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