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Friday, October 14, 2011

Doctor, Heal Thyself...

Here in the US we spend a lot of money, time and political effort on a health system that is oriented toward treating "symptoms."

Now, if you sit down and think about it, the "treating symptoms" approach seems really, well, er, kind of stupid.  So stupid, in fact, that treating my automobile the same way, at least here in Pennsylvania, is illegal.

Let me explain.

Here in Pennsylvania we have a legally mandated annual inspection program.  On the windshield of every PA-registered car or truck there are two stickers.  One for safety and one for emissions.  These stickers, good for one year, are earned when you vehicle passes the safety and emissions test you are required to take. 

They are actually two separate things.  Safety is required no matter what.  Emissions has various exemptions if the cost of repair exceeds a certain limit, or you drive under five thousand miles in a year, and so on.

Here we'll focus on the safety side.

Now let's take brakes.  PA requires all cars with disk brakes to have break pads that leave some margin above "fully worn."  As an example (I'm sure you can look this up online but I didn't) let's say that your break pads are 3/8 of one inch thick.  PA law says that you cannot pass inspection if the pads are worn by more than, say 1/4 of an inch (which leaves 1/8 inch until they are warn out).  Now the assumption here on PA's part is that at least once a year your break wear will be checked by a mechanic - leaving your vehicle safer than if you had no check.

Now let's suppose you have brakes that are squealing.

Most brake pads today have "squealers" in them.  These are small metal pieces that are designed to make noise when the pads are worn down to an unsafe limit.

So, if your brakes suddenly start to squeal its very likely this is the cause and, if you take your car in, only the pads will need to be replaced (though rotors may need replacement as well as the car ages).

Now, in the "treating symptoms" category, the unscrupulous car mechanic might "treat the symptom" of squealing brakes by removing the brake squealer, charging you for new pads, and sending you on your way.

Not nice and certainly not legal.

But really, when you think about it, its exactly what the modern medical system does 90% of the time.

Suppose you have a child with an earache.  Virtually any trip to the doctor for this condition will result in a prescription for antibiotics.  Usually there's a quick peak in the throat and ear and bingo - a script.

Does the doctor really bother to "understand" the situation.  No, not really.

He or she probably sees this all the time and really isn't too concerned about the exact cause or even if the antibiotics are what's needed given the situation.  A "standard" treatment was called for and supplied.

Now suppose I bring my car into the brake shop for squealing brakes.  There are, in fact, any number of reasons brakes can squeal, including dangerous ones where things break or come off inside the breaking system.  Some of these can cause squealing.

How would you feel if the mechanic stood at the counter, listened to your complaint of squealing brakes, and then simply changed the brake pads because that was the standard treatment for squealing brakes.

You'd be unhappy (not to say this does not go on, but various laws exist to prevent it).

You'd really want the mechanic to diagnose the underlying problem first, wouldn't you?

So why to people accept standard "treatments" for health issues then? 

Even when state law requires a more detailed interaction for things like vehicles.

Two things I see really.

One, peoples perceptions of things like cars is different from themselves.

Everyone likes a new car and, when they get it, they want the car to "stay new" as long as possible.  That's why car insurance replaces a damaged fender these days (instead of having the body man just bang it out).

It makes the car more "valuable" if its kept within spec.

But from a health perspective people don't look at things quite the same way (or at least most in the US don't).  People don't think of themselves as healthy all the time nor about getting themselves healthy again after a problem.  Instead they think about masking over unpleasant symptoms.

Every mechanic knows how and why brakes work to the nth degree.

But no one really understand many diseases (like cancer) or what causes them.  But instead of spending money on this directly we spend money on treatments for symptoms so we can feel things are okay even when they are not.

Have a fever, take an aspirin.  Does the aspirin "treat" anything?  No.  It simply thins your blood in a way so as to reduce your pain - and no one really knows why or how.  Does it make you "better"?  No. It just makes the symptoms go away for a while.

Have a cold?  Take pseudoephedrine.  It dries up you sinuses.  Does it cure the cold? No.  Does it make you better? No.

Yet if the mechanic simply pours some "gas booster" into your gas tank instead of fixing your engine's actual problem what will happen to your car down the road?

So we like our "things" to be like new.  But not ourselves.

And this is what's fundamentally wrong with medicine in the US.  We only care about treating symptoms.  Sure surgeons fix broken bones, etc. but to me this is a different part of medicine than, say the Lipitor drug push (see this).

I, for one, have grown tired of all this.

I no longer allow doctors to treat symptoms.  Instead I worry about the actual causes.

So for the last six or so years I have been working on why I get nasty coughs from flu and colds.  (Many have read my other posts on sinus flushing, iodine, sinuses, etc.)

I have a theory which experimenting on myself has so far proven 100% accurate.

The theory is this.  Coughs "due to colds" occur because mucus from your sinus travels down the back of your throat carrying bacteria and/or viruses and enters your lungs.  The mucus then settles in your lungs and throat and allows these pathogens access.

If you stop this mucus from traveling into your throat you don't get a coughs.

This same mucus causes a "sore throat." 

Again, if you stop the mucus from leaving your sinuses you don't get a "sore throat" and, if you have a sore throat, flushing your sinuses will stop the pain by killing the source of the bacteria and/or viruses.

Now I am not a doctor and this is only my opinion.

SO I reasoned that the hydrogen peroxide in the sinus flush would kill all this stuff in my sinuses and then, even if it went down into my throat and lungs, it would not give me a cough.

And it in fact works for me...

I no longer get coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis, or anything similar when I have a cold.

I used to get them all the time and it was always a direct, predictable result of a cold.

Usually I would wake up with a cough after having a cold to I surmised that while I was laying down the mucus from my sinuses made its way down the back of my nose, into my throat, and caused a problem.

So, whenever I have a cold these days, I always flush my sinuses before I go to bed.  It usually works all night and I do it again in the morning.  If I get a bad flu or the cold is bad I do it throughout the day as well and perhaps in the middle of the night.

No more coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis, or anything similar.

No medications, no doctors.  (I tried them all, too.)

I am now usually over the cold in about three days and for the most part I don't really feel it much at all nor does it impact me.

(I do also use iodine and vitamin C on a regular basis - but only recently.  I had been flushing sinuses for colds for several years predating my use of iodine and vitamin C.)

So my view is this:  Here is a simply way to stop a common problem.  Fall colds bother people for months causing medical expenses, time off work, and various other forms of misery.

The cost for me to do all of this?  Less than $2.00 USD a year.

Now I have not stopped my self from getting colds, but I have stopped the cold from causing me anymore misery than just a cold.

Sure the sinus flushing is a bit unpleasant and inconvenient - I spend perhaps 3-4 minutes a day doing it when I am sick - a little more time than taking pills, say.  I am used to it now too.

But it solves the basic problem as far as I can see and I have eliminated all my coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis, and anything similar.

This is my little "health care research" project.  It harms no one.  It helps only me.  I offer my opinions about how and why it works. 

Soon the FDA will come and shut me down for exercising my right to free speech...

Before modern times people were responsible for themselves - there were no doctors or healthcare systems.  Yet they survived.

Today we are lazy - if its a medical problem with foist it off onto others.  Yet its our body.

When your car breaks do you give it to your brother-in-law to fix for you?  "Hey Bob, here's $150 bucks, get my car fixed..." 

Right - a $4 can of gas booster and Bob and his honey are out on the town that night having fun.

Yet this is what our healthcare system is...

At least to myself I have proven there is another way.

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