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All around the world, although more in less developed countries than in the industrialised West, I have faced what must be the most widely spread superstition of our times: the belief that a doctor is a magician who can always administer a tablet or injection to cure any ailment. It's even worse than that; magical properties are attributed to the medical drug itself. The mere existence of a medicine, any medicine, must help. I have met sick people who screamed in agony and just wanted medicine, any medicine, because “medicine” will help.
It is almost impossible for such people to understand the paradigm of Felo-de-se, how degenerative disease is a slow suicide, for which they have the full responsibility themselves. In their opinion, they should be able to live in any way that pleases them, then a medicine should repair the damage they have done. To take responsibility for the way they live is a totally alien concept to them. They want medicines and they use them for everything, even small ailments that need no treatment at all. This is indeed superstition, an exaggerated belief in the power of medicines.
Once a man with symptoms of several degenerative conditions asked me for help. I explained to him that he must stop eating meat and – above all – stop consuming the large quantities of refined sugar which constitutes a significant part of the intake of energy in his country. If he did that, and a number of other things, it would be possible to reverse his ailments. Otherwise he would surely die within a few years.
His face became very troubled, and he said, almost screamed “IS THERE NO THERAPY [medicine]?”
“No”, I said. “I can give you a medicine that cheats your mind so you believe your pain or other symptoms are gone, but that's all. The medicine just disrupts normal nervous function, the signal systems of your body. The ailments are still there, but you cannot feel them. You are not better, although you'll believe you are better, and then you will continue to make your condition gradually worse until you die. But if you really want to become better, you must change the way you live. There is no shortcut!”
He looked confused. ”But meat!”, he exclaimed, “I want to be strong, like a buffalo. Then I must eat buffalo meat.”
“What sort of reasoning is that? If you admire a man for his abilities and you want to obtain them, do you desire to eat him? Certainly not. You study how he is living and imitate that. That is the only way you can try to develop his abilities for yourself. If you want to become strong as a buffalo, you must eat – not the buffalo - but what the buffalo eats.” Here I made a gesture towards a large green field by which we were sitting, while I continued, “And don't say that you need meat to build muscles. Just look at our very close relative, the gorilla. What does a gorilla eat?”
Suddenly he said, “You are a strange doctor. I want you to cure me, but you just tell me what I should do. Why don't you do something, why don't you give me medicine?”
“But I am doing something. I am teaching you how you can cure yourself.”
“I don't want to cure myself. You are the doctor, I want you to cure me!”
This is another troublesome paradigm, kept alive by doctors and patients alike.
For most people, healthcare is a passive activity. Once something is wrong, you expect a doctor to fix you. Then you should not have to think or do anything more about it, except maybe taking a prescribed drug.
This attitude is cultivated within the medical profession, which enjoys shrouding itself in unreachable mystery, as a wielder of knowledge and ability which is far above the reach of common humans.
If your doctor has this attitude; making him the active part, reducing you to a mere working object, a passive receiver of his favours; drop him! That approach is dangerous.
The first and foremost point you must realise is that the ultimate responsibility for your health is yours, only yours!
The relationship between doctor and patient should be one of mutual co-operation, not one of active and passive party. But even if he has the specialist knowledge and the experience, you are the one to cure yourself. It is what you do that counts.
In most cases the doctor will just care for your short term health, so he is focused on symptoms. Mostly it rests entirely with yourself to track and treat the root cause. If you are lucky enough to have a good doctor, he can help you, but basically it is your doing.
Ultimately, you are the one being in control of your health. It rests with you to understand it, and to care for it or abuse it. It is literally a matter of life and death. Your life and your death!
I have said this before, but it deserves to be repeated: Never forget that preventing is better than curing!
In ancient China they were aware of the importance of prevention. Actually, it was the main task of the physicians. As long as a patient was in good health, he (the physician) was paid. But if the patient got ill, payment stopped until health was restored. Meanwhile a sign was affixed outside the physician's door to warn people that he had a patient that was ill.
Maybe this attitude would be needed in our time! After all, would it not be more reasonable with a system paying success, than one paying failure?
Incidentally, speaking about eating as a buffalo or a gorilla: Popeye was right; it has been proved that spinach stimulates the formation of muscular tissue. Indeed, most, if not all green leaves do so.
(The image of Popeye is in the Public Domain or used under “fair use rights”, depending on jurisdiction.)
Popeye is a cartoon character, turning up for the first time in January 1927, who gets superhuman strength by eating spinach.
Why did Popeye's creator, Segar, choose spinach for his character? He cannot have been aware of scientific results which are still today quite new. Yet he did hardly choose it without any reason.
It has repeatedly been claimed that it was because of its content of iron, although that seems to be a mistake. At least one serious study of the reason has been made, and it indicates that the story about iron is false, and that Segar chose spinach for its content of vitamin A.
(This article is based on material previously published in Meriondho Leo.)