Many people think that because I’m holistically trained, I hate on conventional medicine. One of the most common questions I get as a nutritionist is ‘what do you think about doctors/medicine/vaccines/antibiotics/etc?’ So I thought I’d give you my views on the conventional medicine system.
In order to be transparent, I do need to share a little of my own health journey.
When I was 16, it was found that I had thyroid antibodies. This was a battle with my GP at the time – I KNEW something was wrong, and she was convinced that I was just a sulky teen. But she did the blood test, and the thyroid problems were revealed.
When I was 19, it was discovered that those antibodies were hanging around because I had extensive thyroid cancer. This was because an after-hours doctor I’d never met noticed I had a goiter in my neck.
An ultrasound and biopsy confirmed multiple tumours throughout my thyroid and neck. I was in surgery within a couple of weeks, and then received radioactive iodine a few months later.
Conventional medicine would then diagnose me with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) when I was 22. It was finally an answer to symptoms I’d experienced my whole life.
Now, my health team spans across different modalities. It includes an integrative GP, two osteopaths, massage therapists, and some support from my fellow nutritionists and naturopaths at times too. I also frequent the student clinic at Endeavour when I can.
Conventional medicine has allowed me to:
- Not die of cancer (always a bonus!)
- Know that I am cancer-free (6 years and counting!)
- Stay alive with thyroid hormone replacement
- Manage severe flare-ups of my connective tissue disease
Complementary therapies have allowed me to:
- Live relatively pain-free
- Heal my body after cancer
- Manage my connective tissue disease more effectively
- Feel more supported in my health journey
- Learn about the role of mindset in wellness
As you can see, both have played a role in my life. I’ve experienced both the good and the bad of the conventional medicine world. So that’s why these are my views on the system as it stands.
What I like about conventional medicine
- It keeps people alive. Myself included. Without medicine, including surgery, I would not be here today.
- It can do things that complementary therapies cannot. If I have a gangrenous appendix, I don’t want a supplement or a massage. Give me some surgery, stat!
- It has the right concept at the heart of it. ‘First, do no harm’ is the philosophy of medicine.
- There are plenty of amazing doctors, nurses and others out there that care for people. I’m proud to know many who fall into this category.
- There’s also plenty of researchers working towards a healthier world thanks to conventional medicine.
What I don’t love about it
- The increasing view of using ‘a pill for every ill’. Just because drugs can help treat some conditions doesn’t mean they should be the first line every time.
- The disconnect that can occur between practitioner and patient. I experienced this personally – one doctor actually accused me of being a hypochondriac, instead of listening to my concerns.
- Many doctors will straight out dismiss non-conventional therapies without examining the evidence. I’ve heard it parroted that ‘there’s no evidence’. But I can guarantee you the people saying that have never done a proper search on the databases.
- Similarly, many accuse complementary therapies of being ‘dangerous’ or ‘ineffective’. But they never stop to think why they’re giving statins to women (as an example). Many drugs have the bare minimum research before being launched into the world. The side effects are often shrugged off.
- The high level of ‘us vs them’ mindset among doctors in particular. This is another prejudice that I experienced while volunteering in Greece. However, there are also a lot of holistic practitioners with the same mindset.
What I hope for the future
We can’t keep up this ‘war’ that is happening. I don’t believe that it should ever be ‘us vs them’. Every single person on the planet deserves to access whatever care they need to be healthy and happy. If that’s conventional medicine, complementary therapies, or a combination – let them have that.
I also hope that by combining therapies, we can encourage caring people into the healing professions. There are many people in the medical world who are in it for the fame or the money. I want them to all be in it because they want to help others be well.
So I’m going to keep working with conventional medicine practitioners. I want to learn from them, and I want to offer them my knowledge. Working together is much more effective than wasting energy on demeaning each other.