Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Herbs and health

Tomorrow is my annual check up at the endocrine clinic in Glasgow. I am not looking forward to it, partly because it will be a waste of a sunny day but mainly because I dislike the attitude of the medical consultants that I deal with.

There is a tendency, particularly I believe in teaching hospitals, to treat results rather than patients. I have an illness which is fairly rare so I have had hundreds of tests - and I find that as soon as results come back the doctors stop listening to me and start checking numbers.

About six months after I began steroid replacement I read about a herbal remedy - rhodiola rosea - which is meant to support adrenal function and give more energy. I thought that I would give it a try and found the boost in energy to be amazing - I no longer had to spend the afternoon in bed in order to be up for the children coming home from school. At my next consultation I mentioned the rhodiola to the consultant and he completely dismissed it as though I had said that I had taken up witchcraft.

It occurred to me that if the rhodiola was having such a big effect, it should be being properly managed by a medical person. So I looked up medical herbalists in the yellow pages and called up Jean Riddell who practises in Helensburgh and Drymen.

The difference between Jean's approach and that of the hospital doctors has been amazing - she is interested in my long term quality of life rather than a set of figures and has addressed all sorts of issues, things which I had not worked out were connected to my lack of steroid production. We have been working towards maximizing my adrenal function and reducing my reliance on steroids. We have been able to take down the steroid dose which I am on by 3/4 which is far better for my general health - I look less like I have stored my lunch in my cheeks.

Yet I know that tomorrow the doctor I see will not be at all interested in the treatment I receive from Jean and will dismiss it all in an arrogant and insular manner. Euan's advice is to breeze in, tell him that I am keeping very well (which is the truth) and then breeze out again. I will endeavour to do just that and then take advantage of my time in Glasgow to hit the delis.

I would advise anyone who has a chronic condition - even something fairly minor - to go and see a medical herbalist - the first meeting is usually free and I have found the benefits to be amazing.

10 comments:

carolyn said...

Well done Jane I do so admire people who are prepared to take responsibility for their own health and not rely on Dr's. (Sorry Euan, I'm sure your a wonderful GP).
I agree whole heartedly that the cause rather than the symptoms should be treated and have always gone for "alternative therapies" (hate that term makes me sound wacky or hippy) first.
My views have usually been dismissed by the medical profession and I have taken to not saying a word, or visiting a doctor for that matter.

Heather said...

Of course I have a a herbalist on call 24 hours a day - and whilst I know she thinks I ignore her - I don't, although I do have to be careful exactly what I take because my issue is as you know my liver, which filters everything. I have found doctors very patchy - some have been wonderful, some have been quite frankly crap - and it is down to being treated like a person rather than a case study.

My consultant was lovely and very supportive, but I know that not everyone I know from a support group I belong to have been so lucky.

Generally though they are to a one- pretty anti everything 'alternative' - even vitamin supplements - which I have found helpful.

I think until I was diagnosed with PBC I had just taken for granted that doctors make you better - this has been a learning curve not just about this rotten illness but also about how I have had to take responsibility for my own health - there isn't and perhaps nor should there be a pill for every ill.

Good luck though

Alice said...

Good luck with your appointment Jane and don't be too hard on those doctors! Whatever they learn from you will help the people who come after you in that clinic - who may not be so confident and knowledgeable. It may assist them to make earlier diagnosis or improve the management of the condition. When you see them analysing the numbers think of another young mother in five years time who you won't know but who will be helped by you to achieve a happy, healthy life.
Alice
p.s. I like to think of your chickens reading your blog for ideas on how to manage the dog!

Kate said...

I understand what you are talking about, having had a chronic disease for many years. It is always worthwhile to check out alternative therapies and communicate them to your mainstream clinicians. If you are able to reduce your steroid dose and have more energy, then that's a good thing. It also is empowering to take more control over your health care decisions.

All the best ...

Jane said...

Thanks for your comments and for the personal e-mails. I will get back to you all over the next it ascouple of days.

Alice I do wish I shared your optimism that the doctor's take on board what I say and use it later to treat other patients. I have found that they tend to just blank what I say, and one even referred to medical herbalists (i.e. trained proifesdsionals) as quacks.

I am married to a GP and, as we have been together since University, many of our mutual friends are doctors. I actually think my natural tendency is to be too easy on doctors. My own GP (and Euan) do listen to me - it is the hospital doctors, consultants especially, that I have found to be insular. But I know that that can't apply to all hospital doctors!

One of the reasons that I wrote this post is that when I was first diagnosed with Addisons I did a google search and all I came up with was accounts of people languishing in their beds on invalidity benefit. It was depressing and I suspect that if you expect that to be the prognosis it is more likely to come true.

It is also not the whole picture and I do hope that if someone googles now they will find out that it is possible to live a full, busy, normal life. Though sometimes I think a bit of languishing sounds tempting.
J
x

angelfeet said...

Being a complementary therapist myself, I get really excited when people feel empowered to take control of their health management, and it's great that you're able to use herbalism along side your conventional medicine.

dioverton said...

My daughter had back problems and was given all sorts of dreadful but useless treatment via her GP then she visited a herbalist and a chiropractor of her choice and has never looked back. This has left her very distrustful of the NHS in general and has now got the healthiest baby I have ever met fed entirely on organic foods.
Her experiences have left her obsessed with healthy eating and drug averse which I suppose is not a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Jane,

Sorry to hear that you have to be at the hospital today, hope it's a better experience for you than previously.

I wonder if you could help - I bought a dahlia pack from you at the show and although I looked at the instruction leaflet that you had I didn't pick one up.
I've just opened the package to find that dahlias look like deformed-potato-things with fingers and I can't figure out what way to plant it...could you shed some light on it please??!!
Did have a look on a couple of dahlia websites but they are not really designed for clueless people like me.
Thanks very much!
Annie

Jane said...

Di - I think that there are a lot of parents now turning to alternative therapies and healthy food as a reaction to their own experiences with conventional medicine.

Today at the hospital was good - the consultant declared himself "amazed" with my progress but still refuses to even conider that it might be anything other than a fluke of my illness!

Annie - send me your address, either e-mail or snail mail to snapdragonjane@yahoo.co.uk and I shall get a copy of the instructions to you. In amongst the "deformed potatoes" you will find one bit that is an old stem, cylindrical and hollow - that is the top, the rest hang down into the soil. But you would probably be better with the whole sheet!

Jane

Jane said...

Di - I think that there are a lot of parents now turning to alternative therapies and healthy food as a reaction to their own experiences with conventional medicine.

Today at the hospital was good - the consultant declared himself "amazed" with my progress but still refuses to even conider that it might be anything other than a fluke of my illness!

Annie - send me your address, either e-mail or snail mail to snapdragonjane@yahoo.co.uk and I shall get a copy of the instructions to you. In amongst the "deformed potatoes" you will find one bit that is an old stem, cylindrical and hollow - that is the top, the rest hang down into the soil. But you would probably be better with the whole sheet!

Jane