Before addressing today’s question, I’m just going to start out by being completely honest with how I’m doing today.I was completely truthful in my previous posts, but every chronic warrior (even the most well adjusted, which I am NOT) have bad days. I want to be open and honest about my feelings in my posts. Highs and lows, happiness and sadness, are all part of living with a chronic illness. After posting last night, I started to get this unrelenting sense of defeat. I have tried treatment after treatment, medication after medication, have had test after test, and each time my body resists falling further and further away from normality. It’s hard not to feel defeated when everything that is suppose to help you, simply doesn’t. I say this, but do want to follow up by saying, just because I feel defeat, does not mean I AM defeated. But I digress from the true nature of this post.
Day 9: Have you ever tried alternative therapies? If so, what? Did they work?
So this is actually very interesting, because we are now considering herbal supplements, and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Before going into detail, I think it is important to define what CAM is. Complementary and alternative medicine is typically used to refer to any therapy that is not part of western medicine. This includes but is not limited to biofeedback, acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, and homeopathy. Complementary medicine means that it is used in addition to conventional medicine, while alternative means it is used in place of conventional medicine.
I also want to take the time to debunk a typical myth about CAM:
When you mention alternative medicine to people, they tend to think of psudoscientific therapies, without any evidence of their efficacy. While this is true of some alternative therapies (and believe it or not some non-alternative therapies as well), there is actually a lot of science behind many alternative therapies. For example, biofeedback is a therapy that actually teaches a patient to be able to control their body functions, such as heart rate, as well as being used in pain management. Biofeedback has been proven to be efficacious in the treatment of anxiety, headaches, chronic pain, and high blood pressure to name a few. The take home message here is that some alternative therapies have been scientifically proven to provide symptom relief in some conditions and diseases.
So this takes us back to me and my experience, or soon to be experience, with alternative therapies. My GI team and I have decided recently that we are going to try a supplement, Iberogast. Iberogast is a German herbal supplement that, among other things, is said to regulate peristalsis (the contractions and relaxations of the stomach and intestines that moves food along your digestive tract). For anyone out there who is a major nerd like me, click here for a link to an article from the American Journal of Gastroenterology regarding Iberogast. Unfortunately, is not scheduled to get to me until between February 27th – March 20th. Though once I have received it, and had the chance to test it on myself, I will update on my experience.
In addition to the Iberogast, we have also been looking into two other therapies. Though these have not been verified yet. A) We have been looking into the use of a TENS unit. A TENS unit, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, has shown some promise after prolonged use in increasing gastric motility in some patients. I have done my share of research on the matter, however, I will defer going into further detail until I know more. In addition to a TENS unit, we have also been looking into B) acupuncture. I’m sure everyone here has heard of acupuncture, so I wont go into a detailed description of this. The major barrier to acupuncture treatments, however, is that both of my insurance companies refuse to cover many alternative therapies (acupuncture included). My amazing nurse case manager is doing her best to find a way for me to receive acupuncture, but at this time it remains up in the air. I personally have no experience with acupuncture. Additionally, as a scientist biased by the myth mentioned above, I remain skeptical of acupuncture. That being said, I have heard many people speak very highly of it after serious illness and injury.
Overall, I have had very little experience with CAM in the treatment of my diseases. It was not until recently that we started discussing these types of treatments in the management of my diseases. Though I, like many others, remain skeptical of these treatments, I feel anything is worth a shot. Our bodies are mysterious machines, that we may never fully understand. As such, we may never understand why certain therapies work.
Thanks for reading and baring with my endless rantings.
Lots of love,