Sarah’s Rap: The American healthcare system has long been a subject of debate, criticism and disappointment to many, particularly in recent years. No matter one’s opinion, we can likely all agree that we each feel passionately about our own views and that it is a tricky and complex situation without an easy answer. Even as I write this, I am filled with anger and frustration at some of the aspects of our healthcare system. In my last post, I dug into the problems with the Standard American Diet and the negative impact it has on the health of Americans and others around the world. Another contributing factor, in my opinion, to the increase and severity of disease in the U.S. is what I call a “disabling healthcare system”. When combined with the SAD diet, Americans are getting sicker and oftentimes the care they receive is failing to help.
When I was growing up, I believed that the governmental departments that provide services to the American population, were always looking out for the well-being of those they were providing for. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become infinitely more cynical as I observed the power of money to sway those in places of influence, chemical-producing companies like Monsanto behind so many aspects of our food system and the bribery of doctors by pharmaceutical companies with “gifts”, not to mention my firsthand experience of the problems with the American healthcare system. There are many aspects that are necessary in traditional healthcare – surgeries for broken bones or serious internal issues, obstetrical care for pregnant women, and more, however the aspects I have the most trouble with are restrictions placed by insurance companies and their ability to govern our care, the huge number of pharmaceuticals being prescribed and the lack of holistic treatment available by mainstream healthcare professionals and the fact that those treatments are not covered by insurance.
dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone and not just a part
My health is partly in shambles due to a healthcare system which I trusted with my own health and body. When a dermatologist put me on antibiotics for a year for a bacterial infection which was really a fungal infection, my digestive track was screwed (see my health story for more). And I’m not alone. I just talked to someone else the other day that had the exact same thing happen, but his antibiotics were for acne and he took them for years resulting in similar digestive issues to me. There are thousands of people suffering from similar problems and finding little help from modern medicine or even support from mainstream medical professionals or insurance companies.
We might just chalk these cases up to misinformed doctors. But, then I was further misdiagnosed by another doctor with anxiety after that, instead of the silent reflux I was really experiencing as a result of my then unknown Leaky Gut. I turned down the offer of anti-anxiety medication. I suffered with shortness of breath for months. I thought I was 1) going crazy that I could be having anxiety attacks when lying in bed at night and 2) I was surely dying of something horrific. Another doctor put me on IBS meds for the GI issues I was then experiencing, without doing any tests of any kind. These meds did not help at all. This same doctor put me on thyroid medication because by this point I was suffering from hypothyroidism as a result of overworking to compensate for all the food my body was not tolerating (which I was still unaware of). No conversation occurred about what I was eating in those two years. I continued to get sicker and the long-term effect it’s had on my health has been debilitating.
If I didn’t have the drive and income to search until I found answers, I’d surely have much worse problems to deal with, including one or more autoimmune diseases, a dozen prescriptions and a boatload of misery. It wasn’t until I found naturopathic healthcare professionals that sadly my medical insurance doesn’t cover, that I started to discover what was ailing me and how I could repair it.
It’s not that doctors are out to get us. Most physicians truly want to help their patients, but the small amount of study on nutrition in their medical schooling often hasn’t prepared them for dealing with the onslaught of diseases resulting from the Standard American Diet and Lifestyle (see below) or from debilitating, but often misunderstood, illnesses such as chronic Lyme Disease or Candida overgrowth. Also, if doctors want to be able to bill to insurance companies, they essentially have to follow the guidelines that those insurance companies dictate when it comes to treating patients with symptoms X,Y, and Z, and you can be sure that those guidelines include a laundry list of prescription drugs and are likely lacking in any truly helpful lifestyle and dietary changes. These guidelines sometimes help people to cope with their symptoms and help to standardize care and save costs, but these treatments are rarely sufficient on their own to restore good health.
Most insurance companies won’t cover natural supplements or alternative treatments that truly work, like muscle response testing, acupuncture, nutrition counseling and natural supplements. This informative article dissects many of the reasons behind this. This ensures that pharmaceutical company offerings are affordable and food/mineral/vitamin-based supplements are not for many hard working Americans.
It is up to us to lead the charge in the fight for our own health. Here are a few recommendations based on my own personal experiences:
- Do your own research
- Ask questions
- Seek multiple opinions
- Call your insurance company to see if acupuncture, naturopathic healthcare, massage, nutritionists, etc. are covered
- Don’t go cold turkey on prescriptions. There are medical conditions that do require prescription medication and it is important that you don’t completely abandon traditional healthcare, but try to find doctors that combine traditional and naturopathic medication (such as Functional Medicine docs or Internal Medicine docs that also support naturopathic treatments). These doctors often take a holistic approach to healthcare, digging into root causes, recommending lifestyle changes and not limiting treatment to just prescription medications. Some of these are even covered by insurance, either in-network or out-of-network.
- Be willing to make difficult changes to your lifestyle – if you expect someone to give you a pill to fix your health problems and you make no other changes, there is a good chance that you will continue to decline, rather than improve your health and vitality. Even if you had a wonderful holistic doctor and all the natural supplements you want covered, if you continue to exhibit behaviors that are contributing to your illness, you won’t get better YOU play the biggest role in your health! Be the change you want to see in yourself.
- Read books and blogs from others that have overcome the same illness
All of these efforts to take control of your healthcare and your health can be enhanced if you also…
- Eat well (see recommendations in my post on the Standard American Diet)
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep/night
- Reduce stress
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, mindfulness or progressive relaxation
Despite the fact that most of us know the keys to better health is through healthy eating and lifestyle, many are often unwilling to make those hard changes. I can’t stress how important these last five things are for one’s health. Combined with taking an active role in your healthcare, finding medical professionals that can combine traditional and holistic treatments and gaining increased knowledge of your illness and treatment options can make a huge difference in your wellness and happiness.
It is just as important, if not more, for you to seek for root causes as to find out a diagnosis. No one is going to care about your health as much as you.
I wish you all good health and a successful journey to taking hold of your own health and well-being.
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