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Thinking Holistically about Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome are diagnoses that promise little help to patients in terms of treatment. Cystitis is roughly just a chronic inflammation of the bladder wall. What causes interstitial cystitis is unknown and doctors agree that women’s symptoms vary greatly. According to the Interstitial Cystitis Association, the problem occurs in both men and women and affects 4 to 12 million people in the United States. That’s 3 to 6% of the population. The statistics indicate that women are more prone to being diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, but that may only be because men are more likely to receive a diagnosis of chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Doctors don’t have much to offer patients who receive this diagnosis, but if you’ve been told that you have chronic cystitis don’t give up hope yet. I received my first cystitis diagnosis years ago from a doctor who was irritated with me for showing up in his office without a urinary tract infection (UTI). I was very convinced that I had a UTI, but the tests showed otherwise. I wanted antibiotics, but he refused to give them to me. I went home with no relief from the irritation. Several doctors later, I was at least able to find drugs to relieve the bladder discomfort. This doctor told me about Cystex and AZO. Both drugs worked reasonably well, but cystex didn’t last as long. AZO, on the other hand, turned my pee a very bright yellow. Cystex contained a mild antibiotic which was a plus, in my opinion since sometimes my bladder discomfort turned into a full fledged UTI. This doctor also prescribed a month’s supply of Macrobid (or Nitrofurantoin) to take after having sex as a prophylactic. Around this time, I suddenly developed symptoms of fibromyalgia. Some nights, I could hardly pull the sheets up on my bed to cover myself. My joints had stiffened for what seemed to be no good reason. As a long-distance runner, this scared me enough to make me re-evaluate my lifestyle and what I was putting into my body. I was in my twenties at this time and I was quite fit and high-energy most of the time. I lived on coffee. My exercise routine involved over an hour of exercise every day. My family and I had recently moved to a higher altitude in Colorado Springs. Sometimes, my sweat was so acidic, it would bleach my running clothes. I started to... read more

How Acupuncture Differs from Western Medicine

As Americans, we think about health and medicine in a culturally unique way. For most of us, medicine is something that is practiced in sterile settings and usually health is achieved by taking pills or doing surgery. Doctors use specific tools such as stethoscopes and tongue depressors to examine patients. According to our worldview, there is a long list of diseases and every patient should receive a diagnosis of one of these. Patients even experience distress when they experience pain or discomfort and their doctor can’t assign a disease from this list. Our way of doing medicine seems best to us, but practitioners of acupuncture would beg to differ. It’s a mistake to assume that your acupuncturist will understand or be able to make use of a diagnosis that you received from a doctor practicing western medicine. Acupuncture is not just a different treatment modality, it is an entirely different way of looking at health and well-being. Some westerners view this alternate view of health as refreshing. Others feel lost when it becomes clear that they can’t cling to even the most rudimentary aspects of western medicine. But acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have their virtues. For example, there are a number of ailments that western medicine can’t cure. Seasonal allergies are a good example of a pervasive health-related problem that western doctors cannot cure. If you go to a western doctor complaining of allergies, chances are, you’ll be sent to a “specialist” who will poke you with a lot of needles and then suggest drugs like Claritin (also known generically as loratadine). There are a variety of different allergy drugs on the market that your doctor might suggest, but all of them have side effects. Long term use of Claritin, for instance, can cause high blood pressure. A number of allergy medication can affect sexual function. Always read the fine print when your doctor suggests pharmaceuticals. In contrast, if you go to an acupuncturist, you’ll probably be given a short exam that will specifically involve a thorough, but brief look at your tongue. Then, you’ll be told to hold some little glass jars that contain the “essence” of a large variety of plants. Your acupuncturist will do a simple, non-invasive test using these plant essences to determine what you’re sensitive to. The acupuncture treatment for allergies is quick and easy even for people who are afraid of needles (there are needle-less options available for treatments as well). You... read more

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