Using Medical Practitioners Wisely

Good rules of thumb for dealing with any medical condition — rules that are useful when dealing with doctors, and when dealing with alternative medical practitioners. Of course, these rules apply to long-term, chronic conditions. If you’re in the emergency room with a life-threatening condition, it’s not a good time to quibble! Get yourself stabilized. But if what you’re experiencing is not something that is immediately and irrevocably harmful, apply these rules religiously.

Originally published 2007

These are the rules I use when dealing with a doctor:

  • Trust what the doctor knows — but find out the limits of that knowledge.
    The medical profession has the most incredibly advanced diagnostic equipment in the history of the world. With their state-of-art equipment and procedures, doctors can usually identify a disease with pinpoint accuracy, and describe exactly what is going on. Get all the information you can, so understand exactly how the disease manifests itself and how it progresses. But don’t stop there. Get a complete explanation of where the disease came from, how it is you came to acquire it, and what you can do about it. (Sadly, it is all too often that a condition has a name, but behind the name there is no deep understanding.)
  • Find out what caused the disease.
    It is at this point that the what the doctor knows is likely to appear limited. Do not accept an answer like, “its your genetics”. That is the same as saying “its fate”. Your particular genetics may have given you a predisposition towards developing this anomaly over some other one. Given the same cause, someone else may develop a different problem. But the important point is that there is somecause — something that triggered that particular genetic reaction. If the doctor doesn’t know what caused it, then your level of trust should be somewhat reduced. Not fully reduced, mind you, until you find someone who does know the cause, who can prove they know it by producing a cure. (If a cure isn’t happening, then you can be absolutely certain that the practitioner’s knowledge, however extensive, is limited in your particular case.)
  • Find out what the doctor’s recommendation is supposed to do, and sleep on it.
    Don’t jump into surgery or start pounding down medications until you understand what the remedies are supposed to do. Are they addressing symptoms or are they attacking the heart of the problem? Does the doctor even know what causes the problem? Listen carefully to the doctor’s explanation. Understand their recommendation. Get their advice, but don’t make any immediate decisions. Do your homework first.
  • Get the prescription, and get it filled, and find out what it does.
    If you get a prescription, by all means fill it. What have you got to lose? Filling the prescription is cheap insurance. But if you can afford a little time, don’t take it until you have investigated more deeply. Start by reading the information sheet that comes with the prescription.
  • Avoid suppressing symptoms.
    If the medice is only going to relieve your symptoms, you may not to take it unless the symptoms are too acute to live with. It depends on the severity of the symptoms. Remember, suppressing symptoms is like turning up the car radio so you won’t hear the clank of the engine, or disengaging the warning light.
  • Find out how the prescription works.
    If the doctor can’t tell you how it works, and the information sheet doesn’t tell you, then you have to take it on faith faith that it is actually doing the right thing — rather than doing the medicial equivalent of turning up the radio. But science is not supposed to be about faith. Its supposed to be about understanding. So be skeptical. If the prescription does tell you how it works, you now have two very useful ingredients in your search for a healthier way to deal with the problem — an understanding of the disease, and an understanding of how to cure it.
  • Find out the possible side effects.
    What is it going to cost you to suppress your symptoms? What are the risks of taking the prescription? Is the cost worth the possible benefit? You have to make the choice, here. It may be that the symptoms are so unbearable that it makes sense. Or maybe you need to buy yourself some time. But if you can live with what you have long enough to investigate alternatives that promise a cure, by all means do so.
  • Look for the real cause, and a real cure.
    Armed with all the information you have been able to obtain about the condition and how it manifests itself, start beating the bushes for some realistic, understandable explanation of how it occurred. Frequently, the nutritional literature contains explanations for medical conditions that the doctor is powerless to explain. When you understand what caused the condition, you can tell when a suggested remedy has a good chance of success. — a real success that restores you to complete health, rather than simply allowing you to cope with the problem. Even if the suggested cause is just a hypothesis, you can experiment with it to see if you get the results you’re after. The nice thing about nutritional remedies is that they’re not poisonous, so you can experiment a lot more easily than you can with prescription medicines.Note:
    So far, I’ve found the nutritional school of thought to be the most reliably informative as to causes and cures. There are dozens of reputed herbal cures, but unless someone can explain why they work, I tend not to get very excited about them. And there many other alternative “cures” of various kinds. Some may be worth an experiment, if they’re not too expensive. But, again, they frequently lack any coherent explanation as to why they are supposed to work. Research into human physiology and nutrition, on the other hand, has more often than not provided me with insights I needed to explain how a condition was precipitated, and how the recovery process works. I urge you to investigate this area as much as you can. If nothing comes of it, you always have the prescription or medical procedure to fall back on.
  • Don’t take my word for it.
    I am not a doctor. I am a computer systems designer and writer who has been student of nutrition and the body’s physiological responses to it for more than 30 years (off and on, since I first read Adelle Davis at age 15). I have an eye for the literature and the ability to formulate systems theoretical models based on my literature research and background in computer systems modeling. I have been skinny as a kid and overweight as an adult. I’ve dealt with fatigue, depression, anxiety attacks, and severe overtraining. I have had occasion to experiment and find things that work.
  • Don’t take any else’s word either.
    When Aunt WannaDoGood tells you that sprinkling holy water at midnight cures warts, don’t just believe it. Investigate! When A. Big Shyster offers you some wonder herb grown in secret in the Gautemaa Jungle, don’t jsut take their word that it will do some good. Find out why it’s supposed to help — in other words, find out how it works. Until you know how it works, you never really know what it’s doing. Ephedrine was good for losing weight. But when we found out that it was a vicious heart stimulant, we had to discontinue using it.For that matter, I remember when cocaine first appeared on the scene, and people were telling me how it gave you a lot of energy, with no side effects. They even said it wasn’t addictive. Right. By that time, I had learned not to take people’s advice at face value, and not to take any proposed remedy until I understood what it did and how it worked.

The bottom line is that there are many people out there who will take your money. Some of them have the best intentions. Some of them have less honorable intentions. It pays to be skeptical. Honest practitioners have no trouble telling you everything they know and giving you the pointers you need to find out more. They’ll tell you what they don’t know, too. It’s the ones who pretend they have all the answers that you need to watch out for.

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