Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chasing Symptoms

Recently, a patient called to report another bout of a recurring, painful and bothersome sinus infection. Sheepishly, she was asking me, the naturopathic doctor, to prescribe an antibiotic. As a naturopathic doctor in Oregon, I have prescribing rights to many antibiotics. I think there is a time and a place for them, and I am grateful that I have access to them when needed. I also know that antibiotics have negative effects on the gastrointestinal bacteria. The immediate feelings of relief could ultimately result in decreased overall health in the long run. The decision of what to do next becomes the business of weighing carefully the current condition of the patient but also looking for the ultimate cause of the infections.

The patient recently had a constitutional hydrotherapy treatment and a nutritional IV support treatment. The nutrition in the IV was directed toward improving her immune system. Three days later, the chronic sinus infections reared their ugly head as a new, acute crisis. Was this a sign that natural medicine does not work?
I look for understanding in the words of the traditional naturopathic doctors, those that practiced at the beginning of the 20th century. One great example is Henry Lindlhar. He was a successful business man who turned to naturopathic medicine when he, a 5 foot 6 inch tall man weighed in at 250 pounds and soon thereafter developed diabetes.

Here is his philosophy:

"(Lindlahr) considered most symptoms beneficent and constructive - healing efforts of Nature. He called them crises, and spoke of them as healing crises. He taught his patients to regard symptoms in an entirely different light from that in which they had formerly been led to consider them."

I will be talking much more about the wisdom from Dr. Lindlahr as told by his son Victor Lindlahr in a now out of print book titled, "The Natural Way to Health."
The point here is that this patient was in the process of healing. This sinus infection is actually a sign of success. The body now had the energy to mount an immune response and begin to fight off this chronic, probably often latent bacteria or virus. I recommended that we wait on the antibiotic, always holding it as a possibility if there was a need for it. I prescribed three constitutional hydrotherapy treatments, one each day, with the application of short-wave diathermy. Diet was to consist mostly of broths, like the mineralizing broth that I often recommend. Avoid sugar, wheat, dairy, rich foods.

This allowed the body's natural defense systems to work instead of being shut down. Medicines that can make us feel better instantly may not support our long-term health. However, they do allow us to run right back to work and continue to strain an already impaired system. Which do we really want? True healing and recover take time. Time to rest and time to allow the body's immune system to respond. This is incredibly vital in the quest for optimal health.

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