Exploring all our options gives us an edge.

Because I write about alternative approaches to health, I suspect some readers may think I’m opposed to everything conventional. Today I’d like to set the record straight.

Out-of-hand rejection of conventional medicine would be as shortsighted as never considering alternative practices.

When I’m working toward resolution of a health issue, it’s so much more constructive to consider all available options and adopt those that best suit me and the situation at hand. The considerations could include surgery and prescription medications offered by conventional medicine, in conjunction with the holistic perspective and nutritional knowledge of functional practitioners.

Case in point…

I recently had cataract surgery. Removing a cloudy lens and putting in a new one is an amazing procedure. I greatly appreciate living in a time and place where this surgery is readily available.

Cataracts are not an emergency; they develop over time. When the optometrist first noticed mine, I asked if there was anything I could do. “No,” she said. “When they progress far enough, I’ll refer you to an ophthalmologist for removal.” And that’s what she did.

In the year I waited for the ophthalmologist to have an opening in his surgical schedule, I had time to think. And I kept coming back to the idea that there must be something I could do. If not to change the course of the cataracts, then at least to help my eyes be as healthy as possible before the procedure was undertaken. I needed advice from someone who took a holistic view.

I spoke to my functional medicine doctor, who referred me to a functional optometrist. A functional optometrist has traditional training as a doctor of optometry, with additional courses in functional medicine. She knew everything my previous optometrist did, and more.

When choosing how to treat health issues, a both/and mindset gives us a huge advantage.

From her broad base of information, the functional optometrist advised me that my somewhat-fragile eyes would benefit from specific supplements. I brought the list home, muscle tested to find out what would be optimum for me, and took them regularly.

It’s now two weeks after the second eye was done. The procedures went well, and I had no pain at all. I’m both continuing the supplements and applying several eye drops multiple times a day as prescribed. So far, so good.

Different thinking…

I’ve been told that I don’t think like other people. I take that as a compliment. Since the way I think comes naturally to me, I sometimes puzzle over what is different and why.

What’s different? I think it’s that I’m eclectic. Here’s the first definition that came up when I searched. I’d say both aspects apply to how I think.

ec·lec·tic

1. deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. “her musical tastes are eclectic”

2. PHILOSOPHY: of, denoting, or belonging to a class of ancient philosophers who did not belong to or found any recognized school of thought but selected…as they wished from various schools.

I draw from the resources around me, and bring together elements that are best suited to me in my situation. This means that I don’t buy into any particular point of view. For example, when the first optometrist said there was nothing to be done, I recognized that as the conventional mindset. I knew it had a limited focus, and didn’t accept it as the only possibility. I was open to finding more options than were offered by that practitioner.

Researching options…

A lot of my blogging has been about alternative means of resolving health issues. I present this information with a view to helping others expand their sense of what is possible. In the works: A resource guide to bring these resources together in one easily accessible, user-friendly format.

Checking options against your needs…

As I mentioned in my eye story, when I was given a list of eye-related supplements to take, I checked to see what my body needed at the time. Recommendations are always based on averages, so checking allows me to optimize the information as it applies to me. Doing this enables me to proceed with confidence. For more about how to check what your body needs, refer to my blogs here and here.

Pre- and post-operative care…

In my experience, which includes two major surgeries before the above-mentioned cataract procedure, patients receive little advice about what they should do before or after surgery—other than no food or water for a specified time before going to the hospital, and taking any prescribed medications once you are sent home.

Because it’s treated so casually, we don’t really appreciate how invasive and disruptive the surgical experience is. Yet there is so much we can do to reduce the impact of surgery and foster healing afterwards. Restorative measures include:

  • Nutrition and supplements
  • Probiotics to mitigate effect of antibiotics
  • Herbals and homeopathics
  • Meditation to reduce anxiety and discomfort
  • Energy practices like Chi gong and tai chi
  • Acupuncture and acupressure
  • Movement and gentle exercise

There’s plenty online material to expand your awareness of what to consider. If you search for “pre-and post operative instructions” you’ll get lists of standard recommendations from hospitals, clinics, and universities. If you want to tap into alternative approaches and holistic thinking, try “functional approach to recovering from surgery.”

Here is a comprehensive article from a website I respect. This site focuses on paleo eating, but don’t let that throw you. The article covers important aspects of recovery and contains plenty of sensible advice. I would add…ask family and friends to help, both before and after. What you need will depend on many factors.

Be realistic and plan accordingly as one of my friends did when she was scheduled for a procedure that required a day of rigorous and unpleasant advance preparation. Although she probably could have toughed it out and made her way through it alone, she enlisted help from two friends. One came to spend the day, facilitating the process in a number of ways. I arrived late in the afternoon, stayed overnight, took her to the hospital in the morning, brought her home, warmed up some lunch, and stayed until I was sure the sedative had worn off and she would be okay on her own.

A few days later, she commented how much better the experience was than it might have been. I was glad to help, and she gets full marks for recognizing what she needed and asking for it. This little plaque, and the Beatles, remind us that we all need a little help from our friends sometimes.

Help from our friends...

Enlist an advocate…

We should also think about who we can ask to advocate for us in the hospital. The need for such a person isn’t top of mind before surgery, when we are clear-headed and feeling capable. But once we are in the hospital, that changes.

The system is set up to be disempowering. I was surprised how much I lost my get-up-and-go once I had changed into the short ugly gown that gaped at the back no matter how tightly I tied the two pairs of strings. And once I’d had anesthetic and pain killers, I felt feeble in both brain and body. Certainly, I wasn’t in any shape to effectively look after myself and my interests.

For more about the systemic issues, read this article by David Katz, a medical doctor with a 25-year clinical career, writing on the topic after a family member was hospitalized. His experience is in the US, so there are some structural differences from what we experience in Canada. But the fundamental premises and resulting attitudes are similar.

The system – overwhelmed, understaffed, and itself a victim of misguided priorities ― is an inadvertent threat to you and your loved ones needing in-patient care…In the current context, our so-called “health care system” is really a system about disease, and money rather than health and caring.

Eye supplements

In case you’re curious, here’s the list of recommendations that were given to me, with amounts where they were specified.

  • ~ DHA 1000 mg, from Omega 3
  • ~ Glutathione
  • ~ N-acetyl cystine  1800 mg, split doses
  • ~ CoQ10 100 mg
  • ~ L-carnitine
  • ~ ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) 100 up to 800 mg
  • ~ Lutein 20 mg  …3 cups dark leafy greens will do it but be sure to have 1-2 tsp saturated fat with it (butter or coconut oil) to ensure absorption

2 thoughts on “Exploring all our options gives us an edge.

  1. I love this post. I guess I’ve been doing something similar with the care of my aging dog. I initially tried to go completely natural and was discouraged when I was having to resort to conventional medicine to help him. It felt like a failure, like I just wasn’t trying hard enough. His care is now a combination of treatments that I’m comfortable with… And so is he!

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