The Personal Responsibility of Health
For as long as I can remember, I have always viewed doctors as people who were all knowing, indisputable and certainly better equipped to make medical and health decisions than I was. From when I was a young girl, I would visit my doctor and take whatever she told me to take. I tried my best to follow any directions that she gave me without any questions, aside from the occasional request for clarification. This perception remained deeply ingrained in me until recently. Back then, little did I know that there are many different types of healers and healthcare practitioners in the world. Likewise, there are thousands of different ways to care for the body in a way that will promote health and wellbeing. I do not claim to know as much as a doctor about the inner functions and workings of the human body, but over time I have become aware that this information is not the only important factor in making prudent medical decisions for an individual.
When my daughter was diagnosed with eczema as an infant, we tried everything: conventional treatments, lotions, steroid creams ,and even the occasional round of antibiotics. According to the doctor’s advice, we were following the right protocol to manage eczema. There was nothing else we could do to treat this condition other than to keep testing various moisturizers in hopes of finding one that would calm her skin and minimize her flare-ups. Despite following the doctor’s instructions, my daughter’s eczema wasn’t getting any better. If anything, it was getting worse. What was causing the flare-ups? No one could tell me. What would make the flare-ups go away? I was told that there was no cure. Consequently, my daughter continued to suffer as per my doctor’s orders.
The day when I noticed a steroid cream causing thick dark hair to grow on my daughter’s face (a side effect that I was not aware of) I knew something had to change. None of the doctors seemed concerned that her eczema was spreading to several more areas of her body. Not only that, but her eczema also increased in severity from dry, weeping, and uncontrollably itchy skin to open wounds that would eventually become infected. Nail clipping and wearing mittens was no match for my baby. She would find a way to scratch. She was miserable, and all the doctors could suggest was, “Keep her skin well moisturized.” I was sick of hearing that. My baby had turned into a human slip-and-slide from being constantly moisturized!
Finally, one lucky day, I stopped into my daughter’s pediatrician’s office for a reason unrelated to eczema. A different pediatrician saw us that day. This pediatrician was a young lady who looked almost too young to be a doctor. Little did I know that this inexperienced doctor would give me a piece of information that would change my life forever. She took one look at my daughter’s skin and asked me if I was nursing. This led to asking me if I had tried removing milk and beef from my diet to see if that would have a positive effect on her skin. Until that moment, I was not aware that for some children, certain foods can trigger eczema flare-ups. If we had not seen a different pediatrician that day, I would still be fruitlessly trying out various moisturizers, never realizing that my daughter has some pretty intense food sensitivities.
From that moment on, I started doing my own research. I visited various doctors and was not afraid to ask to be referred to certain specialists. I no longer wanted my daughter’s fate to rest in the hands of one healthcare professional. I was done making uninformed decisions. When I started to become aware of our treatment options. I learned that often, chronic conditions have an underlying cause that too often goes untreated. Finding and treating this cause can make drastically positive improvements in a child’s life. At this time, we believe that my daughter may have a digestive condition called intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Her body is not able to digest and breakdown foods adequately and because she has holes in her intestines, which allows large undigested particles of food to enter into her bloodstream and cause an inflammatory immune response that expressed itself as eczema on the skin. By eating foods that reduced inflammation, are easy to digest and organic, while introducing digestive enzymes and probiotics into her diet, we are able to drastically reduce her flare-ups. Knowing more, I feel empowered and capable of making decisions regarding my daughter’s health. Most importantly, my daughter is getting better. The eczema patches are disappearing. Itching is a thing of the past, and flare-ups are virtually gone.
I am so grateful for that young doctor’s suggestions that day. Little does she know, what she set into motion has had a profound impact on my family’s well being. Never again would I place all of my faith in one doctor’s opinion. Of course, doctors have more information at their fingertips than we do but, we should keep in mind that doctors normally specialize only in certain types of treatments- they can’t be aware of every possible method to address a medical issue.
I have come to realize that ultimately, the health choices that I make for myself and my family are my responsibility. As mothers, it is up to us to learn what we can do for our children and find a qualified health practitioner to guide us through the process of recovery. I am convinced that there is a doctor and a treatment for every condition out there. We just have to commit to searching until we find it. Your family needs you. Taking responsibility for their health and your own, is a strong step towards a better quality of life.