Monthly Archives: November 2013

How to be the World’s Worst Patient

Please be aware: This post is sarcastic. I am not truly suggesting you do the “recommendations” the post shares. Keep that in mind as you read. Please also keep in mind that the issues discussed in this post only apply to a few select practitioners, not to all of them. 

If you’ve spent any time with me on my blog or my Facebook page, you know I strongly encourage everyone to be their owndoc health advocate. This post is the result of experiences some people had when they became their own health advocate. Unfortunately, their experiences were not all positive. It is sad that many mainstream physicians refuse to acknowledge that no one knows a body better than the person living in it.

We live in a world where many mainstream physicians spend a maximum of five to ten minutes with their patients. During that time, the physician is expected to listen to all of a patient’s symptoms and concerns, make a complete diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment protocol. This creates an environment where patients often feel ignored or rushed. It also creates a ripe opportunity for missed diagnoses since patients often do not have time to share the complete details of their health issues. In the old days, doctors were revered almost as gods. The thought that an MD could make a mistake or that it was acceptable to disagree with one’s physician was unthinkable. Times have changed, medicine has changed, and those days are over. Today, it is essential to be your own health advocate. There is no other way to ensure you get the care you need.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many wonderful MDs out there who would do anything to help their patients. I’m often encouraged to hear inspiring stories of people whose lives were saved or radically improved because a physician listened to them, ran tests no one else had thought to, or used holistic treatment methods. Unfortunately, there are also many physicians who let their pride and arrogance stand in the way of helping their patients. 

In the course of a typical day, I regularly speak with people who share horror stories of a physician ignoring their physical symptoms, refusing to provide copies of test results or discuss additional testing options, or who were FIRED from a practice because they challenged what was later proven to be a wrong diagnosis.  Many people come to see me because they know I respect their knowledge and because they know my goal is to find the cause of the problem instead of merely masking the symptoms. The horror stories I’ve heard about how people were treated by their physician have occasionally brought me to tears. The fact I went through it myself makes it easy to empathize.

Based on those stories, following is a list of “cardinal sins” you should always be sure to commit in assembly line medical practices to be considered the world’s worst patient:

  1. Do research: The worst thing you can do is to come into a doctor’s appointment with a strong body of knowledge. Your doctor spent eight years in medical school. How dare you presume to do your own research! This makes the doctor presume you think you know more than he does. Harming his or her ego is an unforgivable error. Your best bet is to remain completely, totally ignorant and to rely on your distracted physician to take a complete health history, order the correct tests, correctly diagnose you and write a prescription in under five minutes. They have practice quotas to fill, after all.
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  2. Ask your doctor to run tests he or she did not order: Silly, silly patient … do you seriously think you know more about what tests are appropriate and about your own body than your doctor does? How dare you question his wisdom! Just do what you’re told to and trust s/he knows better than you do. On a serious note … I’m not talking about asking your doctor to run unnecessary or extreme tests, I’m talking about asking your doc to add simple blood tests to the blood work s/he ordered, or to request a different type of test if your research has shown the type of test that was ordered is potentially incorrect or insufficient. Never forget that you are in charge. Your doctor works for you. You hired him or her and you have the right to request specific tests. Be prepared to prove and justify your request, but know that you definitely have the right to request additional testing if you believe it’s warranted.
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  3. Refuse a prescription: The best option for every condition under the sun is obviously a prescription, so don’t you dare ask to try to address something without a prescription. How dare you! Again on a serious note, I’m not talking about refusing a life-saving prescription or refusing to take a prescription to control a condition that could cause permanent damage, such as Type 1 diabetes or high blood pressure. I’m talking about asking your doctor to consider other options for mild conditions that are often corrected using lifestyle changes. A non-prescription approach is sometimes very valuable for issues where your blood work is normal but on the verge of being abnormal.
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  4. Request a different prescription: Again, how dare you presume that you know more than your physician! I was once fired as a patient because I requested a more natural alternative prescription (prescription – not supplement) for my thyroid condition. I happily shook the dust off my feet and moved on without looking back. The end result was that the alternative prescription, from a natural source was an absolute life-changer that brought my blood levels to normal for the first time in years. The bottom line is that many new pharmaceuticals are put on the market each year. It is virtually impossible for your physician to know everything there is to know about every available prescription medication. Additionally, some health conditions have multiple prescription options. Many MDs fall into the habit of only prescribing one or two, usually because the sales rep for those meds did a really good job. No MD can say he or she knows every side effect for every pharmaceutical. I once had a client who told his physician the medication the doctor prescribed was known to cause kidney damage. The physician very condescendingly told him he was wrong. This poor man came to see me because his kidney function fell to 40% after taking that prescription. If you are aware of side effects your physician is not, feel free to share your concerns and request an alternative. Take documentation proving your concerns if needed. If your MD refuses to consider your request, it may be time to interview new physicians. (On a side note to thyroid patients, hair loss is a known side effect of Synthroid that is listed in the patient information sheet, yet many physicians are unaware of and deny that side effect. If hair loss is an issue and you’re on Synthroid or one of its generic alternatives, it may be time to consider alternatives and to make sure your dosage is correct.) My current nurse practitioner often suggests prescriptions and always says they have no side effects. I adore her, but she’s wrong. I know from experience that doing your own research is essential when it comes to prescription side effects.
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  5. Mention another doctor: Silly, silly patient … are you foolish enough to think that two heads are better than one and that another doctor’s opinion might help provide more insight into your care? Blasphemy! It often makes sense to get a second opinion. I’ve spoken with patients who maintain relationships with three or more different holistic MDs and natural practitioners simply because they want a variety of opinions and options. Having multiple doctors doesn’t express a lack of faith in one, it simply communicates that you want the broadest depth of expertise possible. It is fine to see different practitioners. There is a limit, however. Running from doctor to doctor in search of one who will tell you what you want to hear never works. Use common sense. If you come across a doc who is offended you have more than one doctor, it may be time to move on.

There you have it. So, tell me: Are you a “good” patient or “bad”? Have you ever experienced any of these points? What “sins” would you add to the list? Please share your opinion of this perspective!

Graphic courtesy of Alan O’Rourke. Use of this graphic in no way implies the photographer’s support of this subject matter or of the opinions expressed by the author.

Keep it Simple, Smarty!

I recently chatted with a woman who said she was AFRAID to eat due to fears poured into her head by other practitioners about how “dangerous” food is. I don’t deny that our food system is filled with many toxins, but eating should be an enjoyable experience that creates pleasurable feelings, not fear. I feel it is absolutely criminal for a practitioner to put a burden kissof fear on a client instead of empowering people to make good choices for their particular situation. Choosing a healthy eating plan should be simple, not require memorization or deprivation.

There are many highly complicated, extreme eating programs being promoted at any given time. Following are a few guidelines to follow when creating or choosing an eating style for yourself:

  1. You’re not a cookie, so don’t expect a cookie cutter plan to work: Plans that propose everyone should eat the exact same foods in the exact same combinations do not work and are very misguided. Each person’s body chemistry is wonderfully unique. There is no single eating style that is perfect for everyone. Each style must be personalized to fit your specific needs. Just because a specific style worked for one person does not mean it will work for every person worldwide.
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  2. Focus on the positive:  If there are foods you have been told are not beneficial to your health, focus on all the things you CAN eat instead of focusing on what you choose NOT to eat. Focusing on improving your health and feeling better will help make it easier to eliminate foods. I work with many people who must eliminate specific foods and products from their eating habits due to allergies, illnesses, psychological challenges and other issues. It is perfectly normal to go through a grieving period after being told you need to eliminate foods from your lifestyle. Food and emotions have a link that cannot be severed, so let yourself grieve for a short time, get help figuring out how to make the changes you need to, and then move on. I often find people become so obsessed with the foods they can’t eat that they fail to remember all the foods they can eat. I also find some people feel food is such an important source of joy they cannot imagine having any quality of life without eating certain foods every day. They are living to eat instead of eating to live. If you find you need to eliminate certain foods, focus on the benefits you will gain from avoiding those foods and choose to find joy in experimenting with new foods instead of focusing on the foods you cannot eat. Make your transition positive and focus on the benefits instead of choosing to focus on the negative.
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  3. Don’t ignore the obvious: Related to the point I made above, if you know you respond poorly to a certain food, don’t eat it. Period. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a food allergy or not. Seems simple and makes sense, right? You wouldn’t believe how many people tell me they know a certain food causes negative side effects but they keep eating it because they “just can’t live without it.” If you’ve been diagnosed with food allergies or know a certain food causes a negative reaction, please stop eating that food. If you don’t know why a food is causing a negative reaction, find someone who will help you dig deeper to identify why the food causes the reaction it does. Related to food allergies, some people can reintroduce food allergens in small, infrequent quantities after completely avoiding them for a year, but you must work with a qualified practitioner before attempting to reintroduce a food you know you’re allergic to. This does not, of course, apply to people with Celiac. Here’s a simple way to help yourself make good decisions at every meal: Before choosing to eat foods that may have a questionable effect on your health, ask yourself whether or not the food you’re about to eat will help you or hurt you. Be honest. If the food is going to hurt you or cause a negative reaction, try to choose something else.
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  4. Avoid any eating plan that requires supplementation: I realize that it is almost impossible to get sufficient vitamins and minerals out of commercially produced produce due to soil depletion. However, there are some eating styles that absolutely require taking vitamin supplements because the restrictions in the program make it impossible to get certain nutrients. This also applies to diet plans that put extreme restrictions on caloric intake. I’m a firm believer we should be able to get every nutrient we need from food and should only need supplementation when a systemic weakness requires it. Following an eating style that requires supplementation to maintain good health just doesn’t make sense. Why purposely subject yourself to a vitamin deficiency that will have negative health effects?
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  5. Eat real food: Stick to whole, real foods instead of eating food that contains more chemicals than nutrition. Avoid food in a box, foods that have synthetic vitamins added, and highly processed foods. Eating real foods means you receive nutrition in a form your body can easily absorb. It also means your body won’t have to work hard to eliminate the toxins you’ve consumed. What foods are included in this style of eating? Organic whole grains, meats, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. “Organic” is the key word in that previous sentence. Please try to eat organic produce and animal products produced without the use of added hormones and antibiotics. You may not be able to adhere to this eating style at every single meal, but you WILL see a difference in your health if you follow it as much as possible.

There you have it! Eating well should be simple and should focus on improving health instead of feeding cravings. Eating should never be complicated or frightening.

Need help identifying which foods are beneficial and creating a personalized eating style? Please feel free to contact me. I’d love to help!

Natural Approaches for Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

Two weeks ago I woke up, sat up and almost fell off the bed because it felt as if I were spinning. (I promise I was sober.) As the day progressed, the dizziness occurred frequently. It became increasingly worse day by day. It took a few days before I realized I was suffering from what is commonly known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Vertigo and dizziness can have many different causes, some of which are serious and some of which are not serious at all. It is very important to seek professional assistance to identify the cause of dizziness, especially if the dizziness occurs repeatedly.

This must be said:  “Vertigo” does NOT mean a fear of heights; it means dizziness.

There are several different types of vertigo. Please note that this article is about Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). The information it contains pertains solely to that form of vertigo and is not applicable to most other forms of vertigo. Please work a trained health professional to identify the form of vertigo you have. Do not attempt self-treatment for vertigo, as several forms of it may be caused by serious health issues requiring medical attention.

BPPV is a vertigo that occurs when the head changes position. Deep within the structure of a normal ear, there are Spinning Man BPPVvery tiny hairs which have calcium carbonate crystals attached to them. When the head and body move, the hairs and their attached crystals send signals to the brain about the change in position. The body uses that information to maintain balance. BPPV occurs when one or more of the calcium carbonite crystals becomes unattached and floats into the fluid-filled tubes just outside of their correct location. Once they arrive in the wrong location, the crystals move when the head moves and wind up stimulating neurons erratically. The erratic neurological stimulation sends misinformation to the brain about the body’s position. That misinformation causes vertigo as the body tries to maintain balance using misinformation. The dizziness typically occurs when the head is tilted up or down, but may also occur when the head is turned to the right or left.

In the simplest terms, vertigo can either be the sensation that the world is spinning or that the person’s body is spinning. Sometimes the vertigo lasts for a few seconds, other times it can last for up to a minute. People who have frequent vertigo of a long duration often also experience nausea. Luckily, BPPV typically only occurs in one ear, which makes it easier to control the head movements that trigger the vertigo.

No one knows what causes BPPV, but all of the following have been found to have potential involvement:

  • A viral or bacterial inner-ear infection
  • A head injury or blow to the head
  • Poor calcium metabolism
  • A Vitamin D deficiency
  • Meniere’s Disease and other inner-ear conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Estrogen deficiency

What is is like to have vertigo? Imagine trying to walk down a flight a stairs having to look straight ahead because looking down at your feet causes dizziness so severe you have to sit down to avoid falling. Now imagine trying to drive without moving your head, or trying to give a presentation and not being able to use notes because the change between looking down at the notes and up at the audience causes dizziness so severe you become completely disoriented. Imagine trying to put dishes away and having to hold onto the counter to avoid falling down every time you look up to reach a shelf. Imagine falling and not knowing where to reach to break the fall because you can’t tell which way is up. Imagine knowing that every time your turn your face up to kiss your very tall husband you will wind up spinning in a way you never have before. If you were able to successfully imagine those sensations, then you have a slight sense of what vertigo is and how much it interferes with daily life.

Living with BPPV and having every daily activity affected took a toll. I began researching, but found very little help. Most of what I read said BPPV goes away on its own in a few days to a few months. That was not an acceptable answer!

I visited my doctor. She used a test called the Dix-Hallpike Maneuver (a series of head and body movements to measure the degree of vertigo that corresponds with each movement) to confirm the vertigo was caused by BPPV and not by physiological imbalances. She confirmed I had BPPV and recommended a set of home exercises. Unfortunately, those exercises made things worse instead of better.

For those who are seeking exercises for BPPV, the most common ones are the Epley Maneuver, The Semont Maneuver and the Brandt-Daroff exercises. The purpose of the exercises is to move the calcium crystals to locations in the inner-ear where they cause less disruption. Most of the exercises are supposed to be done one to three times daily. The hope is that the repetition of the exercises will gradually move the crystals to a location where they no longer cause problems. One problem with these exercises is that the same movements are used regardless of which ear is affected.

My biggest frustration with BPPV treatment approaches is that they all deal with diminishing the symptoms, not with addressing the cause. My goal became to figure out how to eliminate the calcium carbonite crystals instead of simply moving them around several times a day. In my case, I suspected the calcium supplement I had taken for my broken foot had not been metabolized well, leading to problems with the crystals in the inner-ear. I cannot definitively say the poorly chosen calcium supplement was the cause of the vertigo, but my gut instinct knows it was. I bought the synthetic calcium because the store was out of the whole food calcium I usually recommend. I thought my broken foot needed the calcium right away. I will never make that mistake again!

There are a few supplements commonly recommended for BPPV, such as Gingko Biloba, Hawthorne Berry, Omega 3s, etc. Unfortunately, I have never seen those remedies work quickly or efficiently. I was therefore determined to find a solution that brought quick relief. My doctor recommended a prescription called Antivert, which has negative side effects including drowsiness, constipation, persistent cough, dry mouth and others. Oddly enough, one of the ironic side effects of Antivert is dizziness. I filled the prescription in a moment of desperation, but it did not help, made me very tired and caused horrible constipation. I chose to never use it again.

I am happy to say I was able to completely resolve the BPPV using the following approaches:

  • The Foster Method:  The Foster Method is a set of exercises developed by an MD who developed BPPV. She designed the exercises after thoroughly studying the anatomy of the inner-ear and considering what would be required to move the crystals into a location where the body could eliminate them. She also created two distinct sets of movements, one for BPPV occurring on each side of the head. I am happy to say I got immediate relief using the Foster Method. I repeated the exercises three times daily until the problem disappeared. (You can find instructions on how to do the Foster Method here: The Foster Method.)
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  • Zeolite:  Zeolite is a volcanic mineral commonly used for heavy metal detoxification. Zeolite is incredibly effective because its molecules have a honeycomb shape that easily attaches to and binds with other mineral structures. Since heavy metals and calcium are all minerals, it occurred to me that taking Zeolite might help my body eliminate the crystals that were causing the problem. (Zeolite does not negatively affect bones and teeth, but is drawn to any minerals which are not where they should be.) I noticed improvement within a few days of starting to take the Zeolite. I continue to take it, but doubt I will purchase another bottle when this one is gone. I used Omica Organics Zeolite Capsules, but many people prefer the Omica Organics Zeolite Liquid. I cannot find any other site recommending Zeolite for BPPV, but it seems to have worked wonders for me.

I will add that while I had BPPV I ate a very clean anti-inflammatory diet, continued exercising and took good care of myself in every way possible. I am certain those factors contributed to my speedy recovery. 

Have you dealt with BPPV? What worked for you?

Photograph provided courtesy of Marco.