Homeopathy: The Real Deal

Last year I began a course of Homeopathy; an alternative form of therapy that works to treat disease by prescribing small doses of natural substances. With all the stigma surrounding alternative therapy, people tend to err on the side of caution: Surely anyone can say they are a homeopath…it must be the placebo effect…what if they put me in a trance?  But with a little digging, I wanted to let you know what you could be missing out on if you don’t give alternative/complementary therapy a try.

Dodo Kitching, from Sage Homeopathy, based in South London, kindly answered a few frequently unasked questions.

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1. What sparked your interest in homeopathy?
I took my baby to see a homeopath because he kept getting ear infections. The outcome was that he never had another one. I then began treatment myself as I had had a lot of problems after the birth and was amazed at how I not only benefited physically but emotionally as well.

2. How do you train to be a homeopath?
I trained at the School of Homeopathy in Stroud which is accredited by the PSA (Professional Standards Authority) and the Society of Homeopaths.  Training is either three years full-time or four years part-time. At the end you receive a Diploma in Homeopathy which allows you to practice. Alongside this you must complete a course in Anatomy and Physiology as well as Pathology and Disease.

3. What should I expect at my first appointment?
The first consultation take about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. This is because we need to understand as much as possible about the physical, emotional and mental state of the patient in order to give the best possible prescription. We will find as much out as possible about the presenting complaint and the effect it has physically and emotionally. We will then take a full family medical history and ask about any life changing events, likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. Sometimes questions in the homeopathic consultation can feel unrelated to the  complaint the patient has come with. This is because we see the mental, emotional and physical planes of the patient as being intrinsically linked and so we are looking for patterns on every level to confirm our prescription.

4. Will it cure me?
No medical practitioner can ever make a promise like that as it would be misleading and unfair. All any of us can do is to promise to do the very best we can to help our patients.

I think one of the most important things for anyone to think about, is what is their expectation of cure? What in fact is cure? Realistically, most medical treatment results in management of symptoms in order to enable daily  life to carry on although increasingly there is an attitude that modern medicine should cure everything. In homeopathy, if we can improve the emotional and mental well-being of the patient then this is a huge achievement, even if the physical symptoms can only be palliated. This is because the patient’s whole outlook changes. For me this is health.

5. Prescription medicine is based on science. What is homeopathy based on?
I looked up the definition of science in the Oxford English Dictionary – ‘the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.’ Contentious as some people may find this, this is how most complementary medicine works.

Homeopathy has been around for over 200 hundred years and is an evidence based medicine. All our remedies go through rigorous testing and data collection with control groups before we prescribe them to our patients.

6.  So there’s no difference?
Our approach toward disease differs hugely from allopathic medicine in that we treat the individual’s response to the disease rather than treating the disease as a ‘one size fits all’. A simple example would be if you infected ten people with the same flu virus, they will all share common symptoms e.g.slight temperature, sore throat but everyone will have unique ways of expressing the virus.

One person will have the sensation of sandpaper in the throat and feel better for drinking huge quantities of cold water,whereas another will have vague throat symptoms but have a high temperature made all the worse from company. All of these symptoms are individualising and it is why it’s likely a homeopath would prescribe a different remedy for each person.

7. Can you take prescribed medication while you are treated with homeopathy?
Homeopathy can work effectively alongside prescribed drugs although there are always exceptions. It can be very effective in counteracting the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.   A homeopath should never advise a patient to change their prescription medicines and should always ask them to discuss any change that they might be considering with their doctor first.

8. How long will it take to see results?
We are all individual and we all respond differently depending on what the ailment is, at what stage they are in the disease and how vital they are. However, I would always expect to see a change after one month, to the patient’s general well being, however subtle.  They may describe it as feeling lighter, having more energy or feeling brighter or it may be more profound.

For more information or to book a consultation, in the South London area, contact Dodo Kitching on: 

E: sagehomeopathy@gmail.com

W: http://www.sagehomeopathy.com 

To find a homeopath in your area go to findahomepath.org

Image courtesy of Sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Autoimmune Hepatitis (what is it?)

So the results are in.

Unfortunately for me, they aren’t the best results in the world. Following months of blood tests, a scan and a biopsy, a Hepatologist has now diagnosed me with Autoimmune Hepatitis.  What on earth is that? I hear you ask. Well let me explain…

Hepatitis is the sciency word for inflammation of the liver and there are many ways of contracting Hepatitis including alcohol abuse or a viral infection. Autoimmune Hepatitis (commonly referred to as AIH) is when the body’s immune system turns against the liver’s cells (hepatocytes) and starts to destroy it. Yes my dear Itisites, the body tells itself to attack, even though the mighty liver has done no wrong!  The cause of this disease is unclear but genetics and environment can play a key factor; I guess my immune system is currently playing top trumps with my insides.

 

Is Autoimmune Hepatitis curable?

AIH is a suppressible, manageable but not curable disease. There is medication to keep it from progressing and causing real damage. If AIH is left untreated, it can develop into cirrohsis of the liver. Cirrohsis, which can take years to develop, is when the liver is so badly scarred that it is no longer functions as it should and at this point you are likely to need a liver transplant. Thankfully, although my liver is inflamed and slightly scarred, my doctor has suggested that this hasn’t developed into cirrohsis, but the scarring suggests my liver has been under attack for some time.  So we found it out at an early stage!

How am I treating my Autoimmune Hepatitis?

To stop the progression of the inflammation and scarring I have been prescribed a corticosteroid called budesonide. It’s designed to target the colon, not the stomach and this is where it slowly releases and is then absorbed by the liver – it treats both my Ulcerative Colitis and the Autoimmune Hepatitis. Here’s a really cool Youtube video which shows the process of absorption by the body.

I’ll be back to see my Hepatology doctor in a month where we’ll talk about tapering down my steriod and putting me on to Azathioprine which is an immunosuppressant oral drug. My research suggests will treat my Ankylosing Spondilitis, Ulcerative Colitis and Autoimmune Hepatitis…say that with a mouth full of marshmallows!

How am I handling it? 

Well I’m honestly incredibly peeved and angry at my body for being so feeble and for a while I’ll need the space to just wallow in my own misery and shake my fist at the world. But I know that over time, with more rational thought I’ll start to feel gratitude for the fact that I’ve caught this bastard thing early enough that I can kick its sorry ass. Also, if you throw a slice of lime in a small glass of water it sure as heck looks like a gin and tonic.

 

 

How to cope with waiting for test results

This morning I’m going to the hospital to receive the results of my liver biopsy. Earlier this year, elevated ALT in my blood test results and an ultrasound had doctors predicting I could have Autoimmune Hepatitis!

Following my liver biopsy a month ago, I’ve had to wait patiently, like a small child in a sweet shop, for my results. It got me thinking that sometimes not knowing what your future holds can send your mind into overdrive.

How do you not go insane while you wait for your diagnosis? Please people, learn from my mistake.

Don’t die waiting

In my mind so far I have died while waiting for a liver transplant. I’ve definitely put a tight time limit on my own mortality and thought I might even die before I receive these results. Worst case scenario is I die while I write this section of the blog post which would be both tragic and comedy at the same time.

Occupy your mind with anything that takes your mind off of being ill. Sports activities are a good shout or simply being around people who can talk to you about more than the gore will do wonders. Surround yourself with happy and positive family and friends.

Positivity is the key. You need to be in the right frame of mind to recieve a diagnosis and decide on the best next steps for you and you won’t be able to do that with a black cloud hanging over your head.

Don’t self diagnose

Some light research is perfectly fine. It’s good to know what options you might be faced with and go to your appointments knowledgeable so you can ask educated questions. However, be careful of the amount of information you consume. Especially if you find it all daunting amd don’t understand it all. It can lead to you form your own judgement about an illness and what it means to you.

Following my own research, I appear to have developed every single symptom of the disease, that I hadn’t had before and now I can’t be sure if these are faux symptoms or real life pains. Go easy on the search engines and don’t Ask Jeeves absolutely everything.

Tell someone you trust

I just reveal my fears to those I trust and who understand my condition. For me my boyfriend, mum, dad, brothers and sister-in-law are aware of my fears and have been with me through the tears and range of emotion about possibly having another AI disease. It’s always nice to know that people, who really care, are waiting for your results with you.

Tell your employer

Now this is really going to be your call as to whether you tell your employer or not.  For me its been great to know someone at work will understand if I might need a time-out from the chaos when things get too much. I had no choice, with all my various hosptial appointments, but to explain what I’m going through and the process. It also helps them to know why you may not be handling things if a possible illness is affecting you.

Good luck to all who are waiting for test results. I’ll be sure to update you on mine. Feel free to share what results you’re waiting for below.

Wish me luck!

My first 5 tips to beat feeling unwell

​I knew, when I woke up this morning, that I didn’t feel well enough to handle the day but I told myself to ‘get a grip’ and go in to work anyway. Have you had a morning like that before? 

The worst part is that I can’t identify what’s actually wrong with me; I just have a sudden feeling of being overwhelmed with all my aches and pains from head to toe.

So what do you do when all your pains feels too a bit too much? Here’s my five go-to tips, for bringing your body and mind back to normality.

Stop

Sometimes the pressure you put on yourself to keep going makes everything feel worse and you need to press pause. If that means taking a more lengthy trip to the toilet while you’re at work so you can do the next step, then find the time and space to do it!

Sense check

Try a short 5 or 10 minute meditation so you can get a sense of how your body feels. Start by focusing on the top of your head and work your way down to your toes. Try and identify what area feels painful and check whether these are everyday aches or if anything feel unusual. Unusual pains should be monitored and then may need to be reported to your GP or consultant. 

Beyond the physical pain ask yourself, how are my pains making me feel emotionally? It’s good to have awareness of yourself and grasp how much more of your day that your senses and physical body can take.

Medicate

Don’t be a hero. If you have an auto-immune disease or anything that means you’ll feel chronic or acute pain you’re likely to be prescribed some form of pain relief. If it gets too much then take your prescribed painkillers without a feeling of guilt. There won’t be a cheering audience for you when you’ve made it outside of the other end of the tunnel, that is pain, without them so do yourself a favour.

Rest or Exercise or both

Sometimes there isn’t a drug that can solve feeling ‘blah’ (that’s general unwellness by the way). Simply powering down is all you need to power up. On the other hand, it might be light exercise like stretching or walking that will relieve ill-feeling in the body. Decide if its one or the other or a combination of both that you need next.

Bathe 

You’ll be surprised how good you’ll feel after a soak in the tub. Water is really therapeutic. I’ll talk more about the power of water and the best things to use in it, in a later blog. If a soak isn’t possible then a long warm soapy shower should do it. 

There you have it. Once you’ve done at least some of these five tips, you’ll be on to a better, less stressful tomorrow. Now I’ve written this blog post, I’m off to do no.4! Rest. Toodles.

Quote: Tony Robbins

The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.

http://www.brainyquote.com/

My Ulcerative Colitis story

With my diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondilitis (AS) three years ago, came the first of the prescribed medicines. My Rheumatologist started me off on Naproxen, although unfortunately I can’t be 100 per cent sure on the dosage. After doing a little bit of digging I discovered that Naproxen isn’t a drug that’s specific to AS. It’s a simple anti-inflammatory which is prescribed for various things. Here in the UK, medicine is unjustifiably expensive, and I’ve come to the realisation that you’re always given the cheapest drug first before you’re moved on up to the stuff that actually works and that also come with a price tag!

I took Naproxen for no more than a month and then started to get pains in my stomach. This developed into seeing spots of blood in my stool. Convinced that the Naproxen was not agreeing with me, I stopped taking the medication immediately.  As time went on, every once in a while I’d notice signs of blood and this continued for a year until it started to take a turn for the worst.

I was sent for a colonoscopy, on my birthday, which was probably up there with one of the worst presents you could ask for, and the results showed that there was a presence of ulcers on the left and right side of my colon. For this I was prescribed Pentasa which is a mesalazine. Strangely, not long afterwards, I started to get an increase in my symptoms.  My older brother too had been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis many years ago so I knew the signs:

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis is a condition that causes inflammation and ulceration of the inner lining of the rectum and colon (the large bowel). In UC, tiny ulcers develop on the surface of the lining and these may bleed and produce pus.

The inflammation usually begins in the rectum and lower colon, but it may affect the entire colon. If UC only affects the rectum, it is called proctitis, while if it affects the whole colon it may be called total colitis or pancolitis.

It’s one of the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The other is Crohn’s Disease.

Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic condition. This means that it is ongoing and life-long, although you may have periods of good health (remission), as well as times when symptoms are more active (relapses or flare-ups).

Source: https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/about-inflammatory-bowel-disease/ulcerative-colitis

So, it looked just like it was described above. I’ll refrain from repeating the gruesome details, but let’s just say within a week or two the frequency of me passing a stool went from 4 times a day to 13! I was in total denial. I thought it would go back to normal eventually, that this would pass (excuse the pun). But I was fooling myself. I work as a Primary School Teacher and at the time, was fortunate that I had an adult in the room so I could make regular mad dashes across the hall to the toilet but it was embarrassing and I was confused about what was happening to my body.

When I called my Gastroenterologist doctor the next day, he told me to go down to the A&E, my notes would be there waiting and I would be immediately examined. My notes weren’t there. It wasn’t immediate. But I was examined and kept in for 5 days on a fluid drip and steroid drip. Both of which had me feeling much better by the end of the stay as an inpatient. I was sent home and signed off work for 3 weeks to recover. The effects of the medication et al. I will discuss in another blog. But this is the story of how I came to have two inflammatory diseases.

Image: Freeimages.com/Adam Ciesielski

My AS story

It hasn’t been all bad. It could have been far worse. I could have had a severely traumatising diagnosis which saw me with a mere few months or days to live. It hasn’t been like that at all. But it sucks nonetheless.

I was 20 when I first discovered that I had a back problem. It started with me walking to the train station after a long day at my desk job and discovering that my back pain was so acute that I couldn’t properly lift my knees and walk like…well like a human being. Albeit over a decade ago, I still remember the strange and unusual method I adopted of shuffling my feet one at a time along the ground, in order to make what felt like a gruelling trek to the station.

From there it went downhill. There were numerous calls to the doctor and even a late night call to A&E. Embarrassingly, the pain was so sharp I had to phone my parents (who were only across the landing) for help. They called for an ambulance and by the time the paramedics arrived, the pain had subsided. Awkward. I felt like a fraud. I was taken in for checks and sent home with some co-codamol and told, as I would discover would be the medics go-to phrase, that it was just ‘back pain’.

My GP at the time was no use. Unfriendly, uncomfortable and for want of a better word unsympathetic. It didn’t seem to strike him as odd that a girl in her early 20’s was suffering as bad as I was. So, it went on for ten years until I had enough. The pain although not consistent for ten years was indeed chronic. I was feeling worn down by the constant changes in how I felt each day. It was draining. I called the GP again, this time speaking to a new doctor. I was all pumped up and told him how ready I was to investigate private health care. He insisted that there was more that could be done on the NHS first. I was referred to a physiotherapist who seemed unsure why I had been referred to her at all. Within five minutes she had confirmed that I who I really needed to see was a Rheumatologist. This is where the fun began.

I was sent for an MRI and had a Rheumatology appointment which confirmed that I had Ankylosing Spondilitis – a type of arthritis that affects the spine. It was a relief. Ironically. I was simply happy to have a name for it. Little did I know that it would be just the start of more names to come.

image: http://stockmedia.cc