Learning to become the doctor of you
I went to my doctor’s office this week to have a mark on my back examined. Being fair-skinned, I’m always extra cautious about new marks that pop-up. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing.
But while I was there, I was asked a question that’s the crux of today’s post. And it’s a biggie.
What medications are you currently taking?
I’m sure you’ve all been asked this as well. It is a fairly standard question. Yet, I seem to always throw them for a loop. Because for me, the answer is simple.
The response I get back? A long pause with an utterly confused look. Then, some extra probing.
What do you mean you’re on nothing?
Surely you take something?
Birth Control? Nope
Pain Pills? Nope
Sleeping Pills? Nope
You really take nothing? Yep.
Quite reluctantly and confused the medical person then says, “Ok, I guess I’ll have to write nothing.”
But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, up until just a few years ago I had quite the laundry list of medications. It went something like this: birth control pills, inhalers, sleeping pills, ibuprofen and topical corticosteroids. Not to mention a Z-pack every time I got bronchitis.
Have we become a nation of pill poppers?
As a little experiment, do me a favor. Tonight, when you’re watching TV, count how many pharmaceutical ads are played during the commercials. Last night, in one commercial break, I counted four. FOUR! Four advertisements for drugs that included pain medications, heart medications, sexual dysfunction medications and birth control pills. In less than five minutes.
Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA), which started in 1983, has grown significantly over the last few decades. We see and hear drug ads everywhere – on TV, on billboards, on the radio and in the newspaper.
And because it’s so commonplace, particularly in the United States, you may not be aware that only two countries in the world allow DTCPA with product claims – the United States and New Zealand. Two countries – out of 196 countries in the world!
The EU and other countries have defiantly banned this practice. Much to the chagrin of Big Pharma. Why? Because it’s big business. Huge. To the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
Now, I could throw out tons of other scary factoids like pharma companies spend 2x more on marketing than they do on research and development, or doctors might get paid by pharma companies, which is why they’re pushing a certain drug, or that most drugs only work on 30% of the patients that they’re prescribed to. But this infographic sums it up nicely.
As a business person, I’ve always been told to follow the money to determine the ultimate motivating factor. If you do that, you might find that you’re being given a drug not because it’s the best solution, but because it’s quick, easy and quite frankly, it’s business.
Your health…and more accurately your sickness, is a very large business.
And we’ve become desensitized
So if we’re all tuning out the barrage of drug ads, you might think, what’s the problem?
Well, the problem is just that – that we’ve become desensitized to prescription medication. Once you start to see something everywhere, the psychological and subconscious impact is “everyone takes something.” And then, “how bad can this stuff really be?” Because everyone is taking it.
In fact, due to our “tuning out” behavior, in February of this year the FDA mentioned they’re considering allowing pharmaceutical companies to shorten the long list of possible side-effects mentioned in advertisements. So, we might still see those same commercials, but without hearing the annoying list of side-effects.
Sounds smart, right?
Getting to the root of the problem
It’s not easy to get to the root of health problems when band-aid solutions, in the form of prescription drugs, are so easy to come by. But I want you to try.
Because this exercise (practiced over and over) might be the most important thing you can do for your wellness.
Let’s look at a few examples:
You have a rash on your leg that looks like ezcema
Old approach: You go to your doctor and they prescribe a corticosteroid
New approach: You question why your skin developed a rash in the first place.
You have allergies or asthma
Old approach: You go to your doctor and they prescribe an inhaled corticosteroid and/or beta-agonist or other drug
New approach: You question why your immune system may be on hyperdrive
Your hormones are out of whack
Old approach: You go to your doctor and they prescribe birth control pills, thyroid medications and/or other hormonal medications.
New approach: You question why your endocrine system is disrupted
Do you see a theme here?
Pill-popping is easy to do, but more often than not, it’s only masking the problem.
Now, I’ll also be very clear that I am not anti-western medicine or anti-medications. In fact, I’ve worked for some world-renowned healthcare companies.
But pharmaceutical solutions, like those mentioned above, may prevent you from determining the underlying cause of illness. Additionally, they may have long-term side effects and disrupt other systems of the body.
Because everything is connected. Our immune system, digestive system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system and neurological system. We’re one big ‘ol intertwined system.
Are wellness and nutrition the missing links?
If you’re wondering why your doctor doesn’t recommend diet and lifestyle modifications to heal you, the answer is simple. They truly don’t know any better.
In the United States, less than 30% of accredited medical schools meet the minimum 25 required hours of nutrition education.  Ponder that for a second. Because really, there’s two doozies in there. First, with four years of medical school the nutrition requirement is only 25 hours. Less than one week! And second, that less than a third of medical schools even meet that!
I’m sure you’re just as flabbergasted as I was.
So when I say that your doctor truly doesn’t know any better. Sadly, I speak the truth.
Becoming the doctor of you
Now, more than ever, it’s critically important to become the doctor of you. To understand your inner workings and make your wellness a priority.
And here’s how you do that…
1. Ask a lot of “why’s”
Like a 2-year old who asks a question and isn’t happy with the answer, continue to ask why. If your skin develops a rash, ask why? That might lead you to something you ate. Then ask why again? Why is your body responding to something you ate? Why did your immune system respond a certain way? Why do you have inflammation? Your goal is to get to the root of the stimulus.
2. Connect the dots
You are empowered with the internet. Do some research and investigate for yourself. Of course, not everything you read on the internet is accurate *big disclaimer*, but it does give you an opportunity to connect the dots. That’s how I ultimately discovered my celiac. By cross-referencing many things like constipation, fatigue and eczema I kept coming across food sensitivities. Then, I was led to gluten and ultimately celiac. The key with internet research is sticking to the task at hand, otherwise you might accidentally become a crazy online hypochondriac (trust me, it’s easy to do!)
3. Question your doctor.
Ask if there are alternative and natural ways to treat something. If you don’t receive an answer you like, it’s ok to fire your doctor! I’ve done it several times now. When my psoriasis developed within months of going off birth control pills and gluten, my endocrinologist told me that the only solution would be to go back on birth control pills. Yep, birth control pills to control my psoriasis. So I fired him. Today, my psoriasis is managed through diet and lifestyle….and I’m still not on birth control pills. And in retrospect, I believe it was the stress of so many lifestyle changes (compounded by work stress!) that triggered my psoriasis. Remember, your doctor works for you. You are the CEO of your body. If you’re not happy with your doctor or don’t feel aligned with their thinking or motives, find someone else.
4. Experiment on yourself (naturally of course!)
Your body is one super large petri dish. You can change stimuli, stressors and your environment. If you feel like your body isn’t responding well to a certain food, remove it from your diet for a period of time. Write down notes, symptoms and feelings, then assess. If you find that your sleep needs improving, experiment with shutting down all electronics before 7pm (at least 2 hours before bedtime) to see if that helps? Or maybe try supplementing with magnesium…as magnesium deficiency is quite common. We’re all gloriously unique individuals, so what may work for one person may not necessarily work for you. Many times getting to the root of a problem is simply trial and error.
You’ll hear me say this many times – your body is amazingly resilient and wants to heal. Nothing is more true than that. Sometimes you just need to listen to it…more than you listen to all those slick pharmaceutical ads.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! What’s one thing you can do today to help improve your wellness? Do you feel empowered as the doctor of you?