Monday, May 11, 2009

Stupidity Influences More Than Politics

PZ Myers, who I almost always agree with even though he has no use for acupuncturists, has an interesting article promoting a book on the rise of stupidity in the United States and how experts are perceived to be elitists and out of touch with reality.  Heaven forbid that someone should be trained in their subject.

In California only acupuncturists are tested in herbology by the state, this  makes us the experts on herbs, not the minimum wage worker at GNC.  We are required to know about interactions with pharmaceuticals and to know which herbs can be taken safely and under which circumstances.  Which is why every time I see Gingko Biloba advertised as a memory enhancer I want to run into a brick wall head first.  In our Materia Medica it is known as a toxic substance that should not be taken for more than six weeks at a time.  It's main function is to work in conjunction with another herb that is seriously misused, Ma Huang aka ephedra, to clear fluid from the lungs and that is all.  They are not diet drugs and they will not make your memory any better.  Period.

Chinese medicine, when practiced correctly, excels at preventative medicine because it treats the individual as an individual not as a statistic on a chart.  We have a tendency to spend more time asking the patient questions and generally have a better feel for their everyday lives.  Yes there are quacks out there but some of us so-called quacks have a scientific background to go along with the woo woo stuff.  I wouldn't let most of my classmates treat me any more than I would some of the doctors I have had the misfortune to deal with.  Like the one who ignored mom's daily fecal incontinence and then turned me into adult protective services because mom was losing weight or the one who kept diagnosing me with diabetes because I'm an overweight black woman even though all my fasting blood tests came back between 84 and 93.  When he found out that I was only half black his comment was "oh that explains it."  I believe there's a word for that but I don't like to toss it around.

Back in 2003 when I was still a practicing acupuncturist I had a patient that came to me with a diagnosis of Peripheral Artery Disease.  She had been treated for sciatica for several years by someone else and it had gotten no better so I suggested that there might be another cause for her pain.  When she told me what her doctor had discovered I tried to explain to her that if she was having problems with the arteries in her legs that she also had problems with the arteries in her heart and that she should have a cardiac stress test to evaluate the damage.  She and her husband were so offended that they never came back.

At first I was hurt but I got over it because not everyone wants to face their own mortality. The fact that her husband had a dissecting aorta at the age of 43 and almost died before they got him to Stanford also made no impression upon them.  It didn't matter what arguments I used to try and convince them that this wasn't just a pain issue but a lifestyle that was more than likely to result in early death.  I talked about changing their diet, lowering their cholesterol and increasing the amount of daily exercise to lower their risk in the future.  It was all for naught.  Their reasoning was that the doctor hadn't mentioned it and since I was only an acupuncturist that I couldn't be right.  Even showing them pictures of how small the coronary arteries were and comparing them to the arteries in the legs didn't help.

After several years of patients like this I quit practicing.  People don't want to hear the truth, they want to hear news that makes them feel better about themselves.  It doesn't matter if it's a lie or it glosses over the truth, which is stupid if you stop to think about it.  And every time I see the Plavix commercial for Peripheral Artery Disease and how it affects the heart, I think about that patient and wonder if they are still alive.  Somehow I doubt it.

Oh yeah, if you are worried about your health eating out at some of these places can seriously undermine all your efforts.  Four and a half days worth of sodium in one meal.  Wow!


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