Shards of Consciousness

Treat the Person, Not the Disease

The Back Story

"I know Crohn's can be uncomfortable." That's what the lady said as she sat across the table from me.

That's one way of putting it. I've been fortunate, lucky, had good karma. Call it what you will. When I was first diagnosed with Crohn's I had lost forty pounds, lived in the bathroom, and was so weak that to get to the upstairs of my house I had to crawl. I used a cane. In the dead of summer I wore a sweatshirt to bed and covered up with at least three or four blankets. Freezing to the bone, my body would be covered with sweat.

Uncomfortable.

Untreated, Crohn's can kill you. Not directly, no, and not quickly, but through malnutrition and secondary infections brought on through the abscesses and fistulas that can develop. Crohn's is an autoimmune disorder similar to rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The area of the body attacked by your own immune system is your digestive tract instead of your joints or the sheathing of your nerves.

After diagnosis it took a few years to get the disorder under control. It still flares up occasionally. I don't have the stamina I used to have. But it's under control. Every day I take a medication originally intended for leukemia that depresses my immune system. Every other month I get an IV treatment. I meditate. I watch my diet (mostly). Animal fats, beef, high fiber foods are all sure to cause a flare if overused. As a result, I eat what I would have one time called a horrible diet. Few fresh fruits and vegetable, little in the way of 100% whole grains. I never thought I would look with lust at a salad, but I do now. :) I eat foods to improve the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract, fish, some chicken, relatively low fiber fruits and vegetables. I take a B complex with iron and Vitamin C. I rest when I'm tired. I exercise regularly, primarily with yoga.

Disease Has No Single Cause

I'm not saying any of this for sympathy, or even to explain anything about me. I'm talking about it because, like many disorders, the actual cause of Crohn's isn't known. Even infectious diseases like the flu and other viral and bacteriological diseases are seen as being caused by a virus or bacteria only because the virus or bacteria has been pinpointed as common to every single case. But every single person who is exposed to a destructive virus or bacterium doesn't develop that disease. Even the Black Plague, which wiped out between a third and two thirds of the European population in the Middle Ages and up to 75 million people worldwide, left a large portion of the population alive, even though most, if not all, were exposed.

This is important. Even in cases where every single incident of a disorder has a common factor, not every single person who displays that factor develops the disorder. Disease results due to internal and external factors, not just due to internal or external factors. Our immune system is the physical mediator between our bodies, thoughts, and environment.

Treat All Aspects of The Person

Treatment of illness, to be most effective, will treat all of these aspects. It will look at our bodies. It will look at our environment. It will look at our diet. It will look at our emotions. Treatment of only one aspect will be ineffective or less effective than it could be.

See a doctor. They are most familiar with the physical aspects of whatever disorder you display and can best help you treat it. It can be an allopath. It can be a homeopath. It can be the type of doctor most used in your culture. They can help you. Even if you don't follow their advice, you will be ahead of the game.

Examine your diet. Each of our bodies is different. Each of us will need somewhat of a different diet. Obviously, since all of us are human, general things such as getting enough protein, vitamins, and minerals will hold true, but within such general boundaries there is a lot of room for difference depending on your body, your age, your climate, your activity levels, etc. See what effects different foods have on you.

Look into herbal supplements or remedies. Be well informed before using any, though. Until the past century, almost all medicine was herbal. These can be very strong, very active, and used improperly can hurt you as well as healing you. Natural doesn't always mean good, especially when you factor in that since most herbs are counted as nutritional supplements, their harvesting, preparation, and packaging can be somewhat less than desirable.

Meditate and practice progressive relaxation. These are effective tools to help normalize nervous system and immune system function.

Do something creative or enjoyable. Drawing, painting, music, writing, gardening, crafts; anything that allows you to express yourself just for the sheer joy of doing so can be therapeutic as well as meditative.

If you feel the need for a psychotherapist, see them. Sometimes our most basic beliefs and thought patterns are so much a part of our world view that we cannot see them. An effective therapist can help us do so, and in so doing, show paths to break out from them.

It Still May Not Help

Some people say we each have our cross to bear. Others say we have face our karma. However you want to say it, all things, once set in motion, must be played out.

Even with holistic treatment, you may, and often do, continue to experience the effects of disease. Often, though, you will make more progress than if you try just one modality of treatment. A treatment approach such as this puts the power to do something about your health in your hands, not just the hands of your physician. You are treating yourself as a whole person, not just a mind, not just a body, not as the victim of your environmental circumstances, but as a whole.

Note: I am not a doctor. More to the point, I am not a healer. As the old story goes "Doc. It hurts when I do this." "Then don't do that." Use your own good sense in regards to health.

17 Responses to Treat the Person, Not the Disease

  • Rick, you share insights from the heart, so that others can truly receive them! Be blessed.

  • Hello Robyn,

    Thank you for the blessing.

    I'm slowly starting to learn to put things in the context of life.

    I've got a question for you. One thing I ran across while looking at autoimmune disorders was a reference to kind of cortisol switch in which the brain produces cortisol, even when it isn't call for or receptors become desensitized. Now, of course, I can't find the reference since I can't remember how I got there other than it related to neuroimmunology or a related term. Do you know anything about this? If you do, could you write a post on it?

  • This was a GREAT post. It's funny how things are so timely. I read some information the other day about medications, I heard a wonderful chiropractor speak today and now I read this. Obviously the world is trying to tell me something.

    I have had a medical condition for 6 years now - though they have no idea what it is. It's kinda like a stroke - but who knows. Sounds minor but I was 28 when it happened. What I have learned is what you said. But most importantly is I need to manage my health - not anyone else. AND that I have to keep trying all kinds of things until I find what works.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Hello Brooke,

    As I said in another place today, synchronicity works! We do tend to get the things we need.

    In my day job I work with older people. They tend to have a lot more health problems than younger people. The ones who do better are the ones who take an active role in their own care and their own lives. They don't rely only on the doctor. They don't sit and say "I'm old. What do you expect?" The ones who are less healthy tend to be just the opposite. Some of the oldest people I know are the healthiest, and the happiest.

    No one knows our bodies and our minds like we do. We have to be active in our own health.

    I wish you well in finding out what your condition is and ways to control it's effects. This is one area in which the internet excels. I've been able to use it to find out a great deal of information about Crohn's that, combined with a holistic approach, has helped me control it.

  • Thanks for this excellent advice. I have myoclonic seizures, another of those disorders that makes doctors throw up their hands. I find it helpful to record symptoms and anything related to causing/alleviating them (when I sleep, when and what I eat, etc.) to pinpoint triggers and have better control.

  • My daughter was diagnosed with Crohn's as a teenager and struggles with it to this day.....surgeries, hospitalizations, multiple meds, etc
    so I know what you are going through. It can be diffficult to manage
    it as each person is different. I am glad you are finding some ways
    to make it a little easier for you. I'll keep you in my prayers.

  • Hello Lillie,

    I don't know if it is excellent advice. I do know that to date it has worked for me. Physicians can be very good at what they do. But no one can know our bodies as well as we can if we pay attention. I don't keep a physical record of my symptoms now, though I did as the Crohn's developed and I realized something was wrong.

    I hope you've been successful in finding some of your triggers to ease the seizures. My wife used to suffer from frequent migraines. It took us quite a while to realize one of her triggers was peanut butter. After she cut it out of her diet, their frequency decreased dramatically.

  • Hello Amy,

    One of the things that surprised me with the Crohn's is that, as with your daughter, most people develop symptoms in their teens or early twenties. My sister also has it. She developed symptoms when she was in her late teens, but it was variously diagnosed as hormonal or pancreatic problems for several years before she received a proper diagonosis. I was in my forties. I've read that up to 80% of the people that have Crohn's undergo at least one surgery. I've been fortunate.

    I know the surgeries are hard, the drugs can make her ill, and the disorder is by no means glamorous. Quite the opposite. My prayers and thought go to your daughter.

  • hi rick

    I really liked what you wrote, infact i was going to close the tab when I saw the heading of the post.

    I am a doctor, and i was taught this as a mantra all through my student days, but now as an intern, it is so difficult to actually look at a patient beyond his or her present ailment.

    Thanks for the reminder

    take care

    has someone suggested you start smoking? nicotine is apparently good for IBD's :-)

    ciao

    schizo

  • Hello schizo,

    Thanks for not closing the tab on me. :)

    I understand doctors are busy and it's easy to focus on the obvious symptoms, but I also understand that doctors may be more effective if they see themselves as healers than mechanics, something that seems to have become more common during my lifetime. If nothing else, patients who are treated as people will more likely respond better to their treatment, which in turn may be more effective.

    I smoke. The physician I see for Crohn's is forever telling me I should quit. Nicotine has differential effects depending on what type of IBD you have. For Crohn's, the effect appears to be deleterious. For ulcerative colitis, you're correct and it appears to have a helpful effect, but only really helpful during flareups. If someone is a non-smoker, opening them up to nicotine addiction seems like a case of short-term good being outweighed by the long-term negative side effect.

  • you say it perfect rick, we are healers not mechanics as my fave prof says.

    :-) yep i rememberd just after i cammented thath Cd is not helped by nicotine.

    you do realize that not quitting smoking is kind of taking the juice away from you post:-)

    ciao

    me

  • Hi schizo,

    My smoking may take away from people's view of me, but not the post. I don't worry about it.

  • pardon me, the doc in me slips out at inappropriate ways:-)
    all the best , hope to be read you more often ciao

    schizo

  • Not inappropriate at all, schizo, and I hope I didn't sound short.

    Like most changes, stopping smoking doesn't happen until you really want to. I tried several times because of health reasons, obviously unsuccessfully. I was trying to quit because it was bad for me, not because I wanted to quit, if that makes sense to you. I decided beating myself up about it wasn't really getting anywhere, so I quit worrying about it.

    Take care. I'll be glad to see you again.

    Rick

  • good luck rick
    hope you kick the habit someday

    ciao

  • Hi Richard, I hope you are doing well. I really enjoy your blog and this article in particular struck home to me. I have healed myself of chronic pain and now write about natural methods of healing. I have met another blogger Greg Butler who was diagnosed with Crohn's and thought you might like to read his post: http://holistic-personal-development.com/2007/03/30/crohns-disease-symptom-free/
    Your writing is GREAT and I look forward to making my way through your MANY interesting articles.... I'm subscribing! Gratefully, Jenny

  • Hello Jenny,

    Physically, I've been better, but I'm doing much better than I was a few weeks ago. I enjoyed Greg's post. I'm going to start taking the flax oil. It may be able to replace the B-complex I take. A natural food is better than synthetic any day.

    Thank you for the subscription. Thoughts like your's give me a warm feeling and let me know people do find some useful things here. Enjoy your reading. :)

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