I had just finished my post on trusting to your instincts in the kitchen when I realised that it was not only in the kitchen that you needed to have the courage of your convictions. In dealing with your own health, especially if your symptoms or condition are somewhat out of the ordinary, you may also need to trust your instincts, even when they appear to run counter to accepted wisdom.
In a sense, doctors are not unlike cookery writers – they have a knowledge background and a good deal of experience so, although neither is infallible, it is worth listening to what they say. However, there is one major difference. Where as culinary ingredients may differ slightly (depending on where they were grown or how they have been processed), they react in more or less the same way to specific processes or ‘treatments’. But human beings are hugely complicated organic, biochemical, rational and emotional creatures and will rarely, if ever, react in exactly the same way to a virus, a bacteria, a trauma, a drug or a treatment. So a doctor’s experience with patient a. may be useful in giving a pointer as to how patient b. may react, but certainly does not give him or her a blueprint for patient b.s’ treatment.
Conventional medical science compounds this risk as it is based on studies which examine a number of patients (anything from 10 to 100,000) and how they react to a specific treatment or drug. If a significant majority react positively then that treatment or drug is deemed to be successful and put into use. ‘Successful’ does not necessarily mean that it is totally successful in terms of ‘curing’ the patient, but that it does deliver some benefit. However, we are talking about a majority here. What about the minority for whom it was not successful?
Once a treatment/drug has cleared the research hurdles and has been given the green light, it is then offered to everyone for whose condition it appears to be appropriate – including those who might have fallen into the minority in the research trial – eg those for whom it had no benefit, or who even felt worse while taking it? This is rarely taken into account by doctors who pressurise their patients into ‘the latest’ treatments and are extremely resisitant to the idea that, despite the hype of the drug companies and the results of inumerable trials, it just may not be suitable for that specific patient.
Both personally and through my years editing Foods Matter I have heard of more cases than I can recall of people suffering seriously adverse effects from drugs that their doctors have insisted they take despite their objections that they were deriving no benefit at all from the treatment – indeed quite the opposite.
Even more common are cases where doctors have refused to accept that the patient had anything actually wrong with them (because they did not suffer from a condition which fitted in with that practitioner’s previous experience) only for the patient to prove, often after long years of ill health and personal investigation, that there had been something significantly wrong with them all the time…
All of which brings me back to those convictions! While none of us should be pig headed enough to assume that we know everything about ourselves, and we should all be open minded enough to listen to and learn from those who have spend years studying and working with conditions similar to our own, everyone of us is unique in our physical and emotional make up, and the only treatment which will work for us is the one that is right for us. If you do not feel that the treatment that you are getting is right for you, have the courage to say so and not be brow-beaten into acquiescence.