|Issue #20 - May 2004|
Welcome to this issue of Naturopathic News, issue #20. It’s my goal to help you find natural solutions to health problems. This newsletter is one way to do that. The more educated you are about your health options the better able you will be to take control of your health.
HOMEOPATHY—WHY SYMPTOMS ARE IMPORTANT
Symptoms are the lifeblood of homeopathic practice. Homeopaths depend on what their patients actually experience to prescribe the appropriate homeopathic medicine. As long as symptoms can be observed or communicated the homeopath has something to work with. This is in stark contrast to conventional medicine where the prescribed drug is determined by the diagnostic label. If the lab test says you are ‘normal’, and there is “nothing wrong with you” then, other than the ubiquitous Prozac and/or hormone for female patients, you’re out of luck. If anything the implication is that your problems are all “in your head” or worse, that you are faking it.
Many if not most of my patients come to me with this dilemma. They have symptoms but “no one can figure out what is wrong”. They want to know what’s wrong—what my diagnosis is. Assuming that something simple hasn’t been missed—iron deficiency anemia, yeast problems form an antibiotic, too much caffeine or artificial sweeteners, etc., the answer I provide is radically different from what they are used to. “You are in an Arsenicum state”, “that’s what Aconite does when they are frightened”, “Arnica doesn’t want any help when they are hurt”…In simple terms, the name of the disease is the name of the remedy. Since the remedy choice is determined by your symptoms, the name of what you have is the name of the homeopathic medicine that best fits your overall state. The homeopathic diagnosis if you will. This of course includes the other information—lab tests, nutritional status, etc., it just isn’t driven by it. Otherwise, to give an example, everyone that comes to me with a complaint of depression would just get the homeopathic version of Prozac. The reality of homeopathic practice is far from that however. There are at least 749 homeopathic medicines that have depression as part of their symptom picture. It is the actual symptoms that each patient with depression experiences which determine the choice of remedy. This is one of the reasons why homeopathy is so powerful—it is a uniquely individualized approach to health care. At the same time it is very difficult. Symptoms must be characteristic to help the homeopath differentiate among those 749 remedies.
So what defines a characteristic symptom? The following qualities make a symptom useful in the final analysis—sensation, location, timing, modality, and concomitants. Sensation is often the hardest thing for a patient to describe. “I’m depressed” or “It just hurts” is all that many can initially say. Though the words are the same, these phrases mean different things to different people, based on what their experience is. To some, ‘depression’ is a sense of tiredness that they feel; they’re not really depressed. Others feel such a crushing weight of sadness that it overpowers their daily existence. Only by understanding what they feel can the homeopath know what their ‘depression’ is. Pain presents a similar conundrum. There are 583 remedies with Head pain. Knowing whether it is ascending, descending, as from a band, biting, and so on (there are at least 64 other possible sensations) helps narrow this list down.
The location of a symptom can be very important. For instance, many remedies are predominantly right or left sided. If most of the patient’s symptoms are on the right side the question is “Why that side?” It is a unique expression of that individual’s state. Locality is most useful as a characterizing feature (e.g.): (1) when it lends an unusual note to the symptom (e.g., herpes eruption inside the nose), (2) when it can be easily abstracted (e.g., several symptoms are clearly right-sided without obvious explanation as to why), or (3) when there is more to it than just the location of a fixed feature (e.g., pain in right throat on swallowing extending to the right ear).
When does the symptom occur? Does it last seconds or minutes or hours or days? Does it come and go every hour or day? Does it cease for a time or return at intervals? Knowing when a symptom started helps the homeopathy understand possible exciting causes or exacerbating circumstances. When it comes to homeopathic symptoms there are no coincidences. Major symptoms often occur at the same time as life-changing events—births, deaths, accidents, abuse, etc. As the mental/emotional/physical aspects are intimately entwined any significant alteration in one sphere affects the others. This occurs whether the person is consciously aware of these relationships or not. The timeline of a person’s health, how symptoms begin, modify, and are suppressed informs homeopathic prognosis and helps create an understanding of the disease process.
Closely related to the cause, are the circumstances under which disease, and the conditions that modify it, makes its appearance. These are commonly known as the modalities; they individualize and define every sickness as well as every remedy, hence the most suitable medicine cannot be chosen if they remain unknown. They include such modifying agents as the effect of posture, the different kinds of motion, the various forms of heat and cold, the effects of the weather, or bathing, washing, getting wet, etc. Simply put, what makes the symptom better or worse, what makes the patient in general better or worse? Modalities are highly individualistic, giving us so much information about the pattern of the person that much of the case may be found here.
Concomitant symptoms are ones that occur simultaneously with those of the main complaint but are otherwise unrelated. Example: Feet freezing cold with the headache, or great thirst with the headache, or diarrhea with menses, toothache with menses. When concomitants are present they can be very helpful.
The bottom line in looking at these symptom features is being discriminating. The more striking, singular, uncommon and peculiar symptoms (characteristic) of the case of disease are the ones to pay attention to. For it is most particularly these symptoms that the very similar ones in the list of symptoms of the selected medicine must correspond to. Discovering what is characteristic in the case and matching it to the characteristic symptoms of a homeopathic medicine is a fundamental homeopathic process. That’s why we need to know about your symptoms.
FOOD LABEL ACCURACY
If you eat processed or packaged food, ideally you should be able to tell what is in the food you are eating by looking at the ingredient list and the nutrition facts label. However, this is not always the case and what you see on the label may not always be what you get.
While most prepared foods sold in the United States are required to contain nutrition labels, in one U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) survey of nutritional labels it was found that one out of every 10 products had inaccuracies. These, they said, were excellent results.
A food label must be more than 20 percent off in order for it to violate federal law, and government food labs have a 10 percent margin of error. This means that an item labeled as having 400 calories can legally have up to 480 calories, plus there is the 10 percent testing margin of error.
Nonetheless, some foods, particularly those making low-fat, low-carb or no-sugar claims, contain drastically different nutrients than are listed on the label. For instance, according to an ABC News report from May 2004, two doughnut vendors that claimed their doughnuts were low fat had dramatically understated the calorie and fat content of the doughnuts. In one case, a "carob-coated" doughnut with three grams of fat and 135 calories was actually a chocolate doughnut that contained 18 grams of fat and 530 calories.
There are many other companies that have misbranded their products, including some of the newer products making low-carb claims. Carbolite’s vanilla mousse mix, which claimed 2 grams of carbs and no sugar per serving, actually had 8 grams of carbs and 4.2 grams of sugar. Another product, chocolate chips with zero crabs, actually had 14.2 grams of carbohydrates.
Hidden and Misleading Ingredients
Aside from the potential errors with nutrition labels, product ingredients can also be misleading. For instance, food products that say they contain milk, fruit or vegetables may not contain them at all.
Some examples include Pillsbury Blueberry Muffins, which do not contain blueberries--they contain artificial blueberry bits--and Chex Milk and Cereal Bars, which contain no real milk. Instead, they actually contain non-fat powdered milk, palm oil, sugar and additives.
Further, allergenic ingredients may not be listed on food labels. Cross contamination, which can occur when the same equipment is used to manufacture multiple products, can potentially cause allergic products to be introduced to non-allergic products if equipment is not cleaned adequately.
There is also the potentially daunting task of trying to decipher what exactly certain ingredients are. For instance, if you were trying to avoid corn you would have to avoid not only anything listed as corn, but also:
All of these items could potentially be made from corn, but unless you are specifically aware of what to look for it would be easy to overlook these items when looking for corn on an ingredient label.
GP: There’s a simple solution available to ensure that you know exactly what you are eating:
WATCHFUL WAITING FOR OTITIS MEDIA
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that childhood ear infections were best treated, by being left alone to clear up on their own.
Two million cases of the common ear infection called otitis media with effusion are diagnosed each year in the United States and are also predicted to afflict every toddler and preschooler at some point in their lives.
The treatment recommended by experts consisted of a “watchful waiting” approach for at least a three-month period, unless the child was at risk for speech, language or learning problems. Other experts explained the ineffectiveness of using antihistamines, decongestants, or antibiotics such as penicillin as routine management treatment options for children.
Pediatrics May 5, 2004;113(5)
GP: How many studies are needed before pediatricians get it? Since the Sept. 15, 2003 review article in the Journal of American Medical Association there has been no scientific reason to give antibiotics in the majority of otitis cases. That JAMA study found that it took 6 cases of acute OM treated with antibiotics to see on positive result. And it took 9 cases of chronic OM to see one positive result with antibiotics. Those are pretty poor odds when the problems of over-antibiotic use are frequently making headlines.
If any of you would like to check out Emerson Ecologics online here is the address of their home page. http://www.emersonecologics.com/Main.asp. Here you will find information on herbal products and nutritional supplements as well as product specials. If you have any questions about these items feel free to email me.
That’s it for this issue of Naturopathic News. If you’ve thought a bit extra or learned something new, then I achieved my goal. As usual, if you have questions or concerns brought up by these subjects, let me know.
Gregory Pais, ND, DHANP