The doctor visit and the pharmaceutical prescription usually get us back on the job quickly and with a minimum of inconvenience.
Modern pharmaceutical medicine is like the medical equivalent of fast food – it’s fast, it’s convenient, and too much of it erodes our health over time.
In contrast, at-home healthcare and natural remedies are like home-cooked, real food, in that they take more time and effort. They also work more slowly, and they work best if there is already a foundation of healthy living habits in place.
Home healthcare and natural remedies may sometimes be less convenient, but over time they build robust health on many levels.
Recently, one of our children had a bacterial skin infection called impetigo or “school sores.” It took several weeks for us to resolve it, and there was a point in time when I was not sure that home remedies were going to be sufficient.
In my search for solutions I spoke to women who have dealt with school sores in their family and community, I did lots of reading, and I made an appointment with a doctor. That was our first doctor appointment since well before my children were born more than 11 years ago.
Everyone I spoke to and everything I read told me that I’d end up using oral antibiotics,because that was the only alternative to a long, traumatic battle with a dubious outcome.
I’m relieved and happy to report that although we did go to a doctor and receive a prescription for antibiotics, we never had to use it.
The experience left me pondering the contrast between these twovastly different kinds of healthcare, which led to this article.
At-home healthcare, versus the modern healthcare system
On the one hand, we have at-home healthcare.
In the case of our daughter’s skin infection, at-home care meant weeks of intensive full-time diligence. Washing bedding and towels daily, scrubbing fingernails, providing comfort, bathing in salt water many times per day, careful nutrition, careful observation and moment by moment awareness of what might be needed, what might help, and lengthy homeopathic consultations.
Versus, the modern healthcare system. The doctor appointment and the prescription.
One quick visit to the doctor. A little bottle of magic antibiotic pills. Back to normal social life in 48 hours. No need for washing, caring, mindful presence, taking time. On with the whirlwind of life outside the home. The at-home healthcare option was real, messy, exhausting, and had its moments of worry. It concluded with the deep satisfaction of knowing we didn’t only resolve the school sores.
We also built our child’s overall health and immune function rather than depleting and weakening it [i], re-affirmed our personal power as the primary healthcare providers for our family, and empowered our children with a valuable lesson in appreciating mainstream medicine as a backup, but not relying on it as a first resort.
The magic-pills option would have been much faster and much easier. But except in rare cases where it’s truly called for, it seems to me that the quick-and-easy fix that the antibiotic prescription offers isdelusional.
The downside of the quick-and-easy-fix
Everywhere I look in our culture,Isee quick-and-easy-fixes. Fast food, fast internet connections, lightning fast aps on our smartphones, fast, attention grabbing media that holds us spellbound, fast shipping, fast service, and… fast healthcare.
But there is a downside to all this speed and convenience. Even, or perhaps especially, in the arena of healthcare. Modern medicine excels at handling acute emergencies where a rapid, dramatic response is required. I am deeply grateful to live in a time and place where such fast, high tech medical help is so readily available.
But in non-emergency situations, I avoid the use of modern medicine. There is more to achieving robust long-term health than relying on prescriptions like the one that would have rapidly wiped out the infection on my child’s skin, along with her entire protective microbiota[ii] as collateral damage.
Aside from the issue of appropriate use of antibiotics, a sick person is still a whole person – they are not reduced to just a set of symptoms and a diagnosis that can be fixed with a pharmaceutical prescription. And a person is, hopefully, part of a family. Which, hopefully, is part of a community.
(I read somewhere recently about a culture in which instead of saying, “So and so is sick,” they say, “The village is sick.” The whole village or tribe is part of the fabric into which the individual is woven, and the whole village concerns itself with the wellness of each individual. That’s a very different picture than one in which, when a person dies alone in a city apartment, it can take days for the body to be discovered.)
Acute emergencies aside, individual health—what I would call true health and wholeness on a social/emotional level as well as just a physical level—relies on family health, which relies on community health.
So, what does the doctor visit and the pharmaceutical prescription have to do with the health and stability of families and communities?
In our case, the quick-and-easy fix of the doctor’s prescription would have precluded two significant things in terms of maintaining our family’s long-term health and resilience.
First, there would not have been the same need for me to be present, aware, and focused on my child. I could have dispensed a magic pill twice per day until the bottle was empty and continued on with my own concerns. An opportunity to connect, to care, to take time out of the busy-ness of my life in service to my child, would have been lost.
Second, I would not have had to reach out for support and advice in the same way. Tendrils of connection were built or strengthened, experiencepooled, relationships reinforced, as a result of my reaching out into my local community for advice.
None of that connecting, and strengthening of relationships, would have happened if I had just gone to the doctor at the outset and used the quick-fix prescription to get us back on the road as quickly as possible.
That’s part of the delusion: quick-fix healthcare gets you back up and running fast, so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t been prioritizing healthy living, and you don’t have to rely on your social network for help.
A foundation of good health (from healthy living and avoiding prescription medicines) and a strong network of inter-reliant relationships (not the twitter kind; the kind you can call on when you need serious help) are like muscles – if you want them to be strong, you need to use them.
If you take care of them, use them, and rely on them, they grow stronger. If you by-pass them in favour of the quick fix, they atrophy and wither away.
[i]Science has made strides in understanding the role of our friendly bacteria in supporting our health. But the full range of bacteria that live inside and outside our bodies is still not known, and neither is the long-term effect of antibiotics on our health. Of course, I would use antibiotics in a life-threatening situation. But in anything other than a life-threatening situation, I’d rather not use my children as guinea pigs in the ongoing antibiotics experiment.
[ii]“Microbiota” means“an ecological community of … microorganisms” found in and on [humans and] all multicellular organisms. Microbiota have been found to be crucial for [the health] of their host, [particularly in terms of immune function and hormonal and metabolic processes].
Kate writes about thinking differently and living a more natural and sustainable life, at ARealGreenLife.com.
Download a free copy of her eGuide, Ditching the Supermarket.