The rules

Wouldn't it be great if our bodies came with an attached set of rules and instructions -- an operators manual if you will -- with an unabridged section on troubleshooting. It would be user friendly with simple instructions, lots of ''how tos,'' color diagrams and fold-out pictures. No, I'm not talking about an anatomy book. Staring at an anatomy book in the middle of the night won't help you calm the indigestion that's keeping you awake or make your headache go away -- nor will it help resolve the less tangible symptoms like worry over finances or troubled relationships.

Of course this is why we hire trained professionals, doctors, physical therapists, midwives and other kinds of health professionals to help us decipher the sometimes strange and frightening symptoms of pain and ''dis-ease'' in the body. But what happens when we don't get our answers -- or worse yet -- we get an answer but they tell us there's no known cure?

Up to a third of all Americans are now choosing to look beyond the traditional medical model for help. The world of alternative/complementary health care has become a multibillion dollar industry. Everyone wants a piece of the action. The grocery, the drug stores, the discount stores all carry vitamins, supplements, minerals and magnets. The American consumer has spoken, and business in turn has responded!

Herein lies the problem. What do I buy; what will work? Many individuals rely on a friend, family member or neighbor's experience with a particular supplement. When we find it doesn't work for us, we're only further confused but still determined or driven by pain and discomfort, finding ourselves returning for bottle after bottle as if health was only a swallow away.

When the individual is finally confused enough by their large grocery bag full of potions, they find themselves in places like my office. Believe me, sometimes I am just as confused! At this point there's nothing left to do but start over.

Now my work is really cut out for me. Sometimes it helps to share my own experiences with a long illness -- trying to mix traditional and complementary medicine together. I worked with three separate nutritionists and a lot of other holistic professionals. All very well-meaning but it wasn't until I met Lynn, an herbalist/naturalist who finally convinced me I did have a set of rules, an owners manual that I could, with a little practice learn to decipher and use.

Here's what she taught me:

1. The only rules that will work for me belong uniquely to me -- not a neighbor or a friend.

2. When you are ill to any degree and begin working with a new supplement, work only with that supplement until you are sure it's right for you. Your body will tell you what it wants through an increase in symptoms, or a decrease. It may be subtle, so pay attention!

3. Journal your findings. Don't haphazardly self-medicate with supplements.

4. When you hire professionals, find out who they are and what their credentials are.

Put yourself in their hands, but if a trial of a few weeks does not bring improvement, move on.

5. Buy only high quality supplements from the health food store, or from a health care professional. That doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive ones.

6. Taking supplements, herbals or other natural healing supplements while you continue using a poor diet is a lousy insurance policy.

7. Share your experiences of healing with those that will support you. Your family may or may not be your best choice.

8. Educate yourself about your illness. Read only reliable informative sources regarding any holistic therapy you may be contemplating.

9. Don't ignore the need for a spiritual outlet.

10. PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE! Till next time, Rebecca.

Have a comment, want to be heard, have a topic you'd like to like to hear more about? Let me know!

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online February 29, 2000

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