Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Home Health Care with Natural Medicine


With the recent emphasis on health care at the National level over the past few years, several facts have become painfully obvious. First, if you wait for the government or private insurance companies to take care of you properly before you decide to be healthy, you will be waiting a really long time.

Second, it has become obvious that the conventional medical system is in the process of failing. They no longer are interested in the role of primary care doctors (a 2008 study by the Physicians Foundation found that half the primary care medical doctors currently in practice plan to cut back or quit entirely, and 60% would not recommend medicine as a career. A separate study in 2008 found that only 2% of 4th year medical students planned to enter Primary Care as their specialty). As a result, the conventional system really doesn’t effectively treat minor illnesses. Furthermore, they are failing at long term health care and prevention, as evidenced by the still increasing epidemic levels of the chronic disease as a group, and heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity in particular. Table 1 shows data from the CDC listing the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. Except for accidents, they are all caused primarily by nutritional problems, and all are taking place at rates roughly ten time higher than 100 years ago.

Third, Alternative and Natural medicine methods, largely ignored by the conventional medical system, have been proven to be effective, especially against those same chronic diseases. Since the vast majority of insurance companies don’t cover most alternative methods, patients are forced to pay for these out of pocket, which severely limits access to care for many.

While the political debates continue to rage and probably will for quite some time, many families are looking for options. Just as Home Schooling has become the option of choice for many people tired of the erosion of the public school system, Home Health Care is the new trend among pro-active families tired of the constant erosion of our health care system and frustrated with waiting for their doctors or insurance companies to realize that nutrition and other Natural methods are effective treatments for many conditions.

Actually, taking care of yourself and family at home is a return to an old trend, when our self-sufficient ancestors struck out across a wild continent with no one to rely on for help except themselves.

Top 10 Causes of Death in the U.S.
Rank Disease % of Top 10
1 Cardiovascular 37.4
2 Cancer 29.0
3 Stroke 8.9
4 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary 6.4
5 Accidents 5.1
6 Diabetes 3.6
7 Influenza 3.4
8 Alzheimers 2.6
9 Nephritis 2.0
10 Septicemia 1.6
Table 1
It is only in relatively recent times that relying on doctors and a health care system, especially for simple ailments, has become the norm.

What Exactly is Home Health Care?
There is no one answer to this question, and the details will vary from family to family. Basically, any time you treat yourself or a family member for an illness for which the average American would normally seek a health care provider, you are practicing home health care.

More significantly, home health care is they natural result of a larger and larger percentage of the population simply taking responsibility for their own health. The “pop a pill and forget it” model of treating illnesses clearly doesn’t work. As more people discover that simple changes such as making healthier choices with their foods can prevent and treat illness, this attitude of self-responsibility is clearly the key to long-term health.

As a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist, I have treated a wide range of illnesses, from common colds, to injuries to advanced chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. I can honestly say, there are some conditions for which you should not need to see a doctor. While I can help you heal from the common cold faster and easier than you otherwise would, you should not be paying to see a doctor for colds and I would rather spend my time helping people with other, more serious illnesses, who really do need the help of a doctor.

The focus on Home Health Care needs to start with prevention. While in the world of conventional medicine, “prevention” seems to consist of nothing more than early diagnosis and starting the same, standard treatment sooner. In the world of natural, holistic medicine, prevention means, you don’t get the illness at all.

The main purpose of this article is to give you a roadmap to the types of illnesses that can be treated at home, an overall prevention plan that will be appropriate for many of the major illnesses facing our country, and to help educate you on when it would be best to seek a holistic health care provider for more advanced illnesses.

Prevention of the Chronic Diseases
When we analyze to Top 10 causes of deaths in the above table from the standpoint of holistic and natural medicine, it becomes clear that nutrition and food quality are the major contributing causes to these diseases. A secondary influence is exposure to environmental toxins, which would include cigarette smoke, either first hand or second hand. One could make an argument that other factors may be present in some cases – genetics or the side effects of vaccinations for example – but overall, nutrition and toxic exposure seem the be the biggest culprits.

It is important to address the subject of genetics with respect to the chronic diseases. While some evidence suggests associations of particular genes with certain of these chronic illnesses, there has not yet been a successful case made that genetics are their cause. The available date show that on average, heart disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer, for example were all present at a rate of about 3 to 5 per cent or less about 100 years ago. Today, they are approaching and in some cases exceeding 50 per cent. This time frame corresponds to about 4 generations.

Human genetics simply cannot change enough in only four generations to account for a 10 fold increase in disease rates. If we truly had genes in the human race that gave us fatal diseases at a rate of 50 per cent of the population, the human race could not have survived. The fact that we are here, and this change in disease rates has occurred in barely 4 generations is proof that genetics is not the cause of chronic illnesses. This is a crucial fact that is either being overlooked or ignored by those who are pushing the “only genetics” model of human illnesses. This, unfortunately, propagates the notion that your health and your illnesses are out of your control.

Often overlooked in the genetic studies is the affect of inherited eating and lifestyle patterns. Families don’t just share their DNA; they also share the same dinner table. Parental beliefs about food and exercise will rub off on children.

The role of genetics seems to be more accurately described by to idea of susceptibility. Some individuals are more susceptible to particular disease than others when all other factors are taken into account. Poor nutrition and toxins will cause a breakdown in whatever organ has the weakest link. For some, this might be the heart, for others, the liver, still others the pancreas, and so on.

Nutrition, then, is the area of most importance, and is one area where you and your family have nearly complete control. We really don’t need yet more laws to eliminate offending foods from the marketplace. What we need are more educated shoppers who know the difference between processed white flour and whole grains for example. Market pressure alone can bring about significant changes in what foods are available in the supermarket and your local restaurants. In the past ten years, for example, organically grown produce has gone from being an exotic specialty available only in highly specialized markets and health food stores, to now being found on the shelves of almost every supermarket, side-by-side next to conventionally prepared produce.

There were no government regulations that forced the regular supermarkets to start carrying organic produce and other foods. Instead it was a market opportunity which convinced them to start carrying organics.

Extending this to our food supply, the holistic, natural approach to foods can be summarized briefly as follows:

• Whole food in its natural state, that hasn’t been processed by removing parts (white flour vs. whole grains), or to alter its basic chemical structure (using heat and pressure to alter healthy oils into margarine or shortening)
• Food from animals that were fed their own, natural diets rather than artificial foods or food they would not eat in nature, and hence is not compatible for them (grass fed beef vs. grain fed beef; wild-caught fish vs. farm raised fish)
• Produce grown in mineral-rich soil, which will result in naturally high levels of the essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals
• Organically-grown foods whenever possible, which eliminates poisonous fertilizers, weed killers and insecticides from the food
• Supplementation of the Essential Nutrients, to levels adequate to deal with the increased levels of environmental toxins we are all exposed to daily

Each one of these items can be, and has been, the subject of entire books. This article can serve only as a brief introduction to these ideas. If this is all new to you, then welcome to the world of real nutrition and health, and I encourage you to study more.

Prevention and Treatment of Colds and Flus

Colds and flus are the most frequently encountered infectious illnesses in the United States. They are caused by different strains of viruses, among the smallest of the infectious micro-organisms. The flu, also known by its longer name of Influenza, is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. Treatment for colds and flu are among the most frequent cause of doctors visits for acute illnesses.

It is possible, however, to significantly reduce your chances of catching a cold or the flu through some basic preventive measures. If you still manage to get sick after following the basics of prevention, your case is almost always much milder than it would have been otherwise, and you will tend to recover much quicker.

We experience a sharp rise in the rates of cold and flu cases between November and March of every year. It has become so commonplace, we now call this Cold and Flu Season. This also takes place in areas of the country such as southern California where temperatures never drop below freezing. In an era of central heating, there is no good explanation for this from a purely environmental standpoint. What does take place from the end of October through spring, however, is what many of us in natural medicine call Immune Suppression Season. It starts with the dramatic increase of sugar intake around Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, Christmas parties and dinners, New Years, football bowl game parties, and so on.

Sugar consumption is one of the main factors that can suppress your immune system. For each 100 grams of sugar you ingest, about 1/3 cup, your levels of white blood cells for up to five hours. The first part of preventing colds and flu, therefore, is DON’T EAT SUGAR! This includes white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and any other form of refined simple carbohydrates. The studies that looked at the suppression of white blood cells when eating sugar found that processed orange juice and processed honey also caused the same effects. Other studies, however, have found that raw, unpasteurized honey does not.

Sugar also makes your body more acidic, rather than alkaline. Bacteria and viruses thrive when your body becomes acidic, so in addition to reducing the activity of your immune system, sugar makes it easier for infectious micro-organisms to survive.

Artificial sweeteners, touted as a healthier and lower calorie alternative to sugar, are in fact worse for your health. Aspartame, the main chemical ingredient in many artificial sweeteners, has been proven to cause a variety of health problems including cancer.

Raw honey is the best sweetener to be used in most instances. Stevia is the next best. Switching your family over to raw honey and stevia instead of sugar is a crucial part of prevention and home health care. The first part of cold and flu prevention is to not eat refined sugar. Limit what your children eat around Halloween. Learn to prepare deserts using honey or other sweeteners.

Several key nutrients also boost your immune system. Vitamin C is perhaps the most versatile and important of the vitamins. Among its many functions, it specifically boosts your immune system and raises your white cell count. For the “average” adult, if there really is such a thing as average, between 500 mg and 1,000 mg of Vitamin C per day is a good maintenance dosage. The only major side effect of taking too much Vitamin C is that you can develop diarrhea. This is known as “bowel tolerance”. It is rare to find anyone whose bowel tolerance level is under 5,000 mg per day. If you find that you develop diarrhea with too much Vitamin C, simply reducing your dosage solves the problem within a day or two.

Vitamin A also has some very specific anti-viral properties. 5,000 to 10,000 International Units, or IUs, is a good maintenance dosage for most. There is some anecdotal evidence that women who take more than this and then become pregnant have a higher rate of birth defects among their babies. These studies are not entirely conclusive, as this phenomena might be influenced by deficiencies of other nutrients. To be safe, however, if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, limit your Vitamin A intake to no more than 5,000 to 10,000 IU.

Selenium is a mineral that naturally occurs in soils, provided the soil hasn’t been depleted by over farming. It too, is very specific to help prevent viral infections, and interestingly, it helps prevent cancer. Studies have been done which show an inverse relationship between soil levels of Selenium, and rates of cancer. Where soil levels are high, cancer rates are low; where soil levels of Selenium are low, cancer rates are high. For preventing viral infections, a dose of 200 to 400 micrograms is generally appropriate.

The best way to treat a cold or flu is when the very first symptoms start to appear. By the time you start sneezing, your nose is running, you are coughing, have a sore throat, muscle aches, you have a fully blown case. By the time you get to this point, most people remember that a day or two earlier you were tired, slightly achy, and maybe felt a scratching in your throat or some other symptom that you know from experience means you’re about to catch a cold. That is the time to start treatment! Hitting a viral infection hard when you experience those first signs of the early onset can, in most cases, “nip it in the bud”.

After food and basic vitamin and mineral supplements, some of the most frequently used natural Home Health Care products are Herbs and Homeopathic medicines. Herbs come in a variety of forms, most often teas, or liquid herbal extracts called Tinctures, made either with alcohol or glycerine. Homeopathics are highly dilute medicines which stimulate your own immune system.

The following list is a summary of what I have seen work, both in myself and my family, as well as with many patients over the time I’ve been in practice. Always temper these dosage recommendations with what you know works for you and your family. Pay attention to what you know is your own bowel tolerance for Vitamin C. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, don’t take the high doses of Vitamin A I recommend here, but stick to the safer ranges I mention above.

Early Onset Cold or Flu Program
• Immediately eliminate ALL forms of sugar, white flour and dairy products from your diet
• Drink plenty of fluids such as water and dilute juices
• Eat vegetable or chicken soups
• Start taking Vitamin C, about 1,000 mg every 1 to 2 hours, all day while you are awake
• Start taking Vitamin A, about 50,000 IU to 100,000 IU, twice per day
• Selenium, 200 to 400 micrograms twice per day
• Start taking an herbal extract of Echinacea and Goldenseal, about 1 teaspoon, every two hours while you are awake. The liquid tincture form of the herbs is most effective in this case.
• As an alternative to Echinacea/Goldenseal, an extract of Black Elderberry can also work
• Homeopathic medicines specifically formulated for early onset of colds or flu are often as effective as the herbs for many people. You probably don’t need both herbs and the homeopathics, but it won’t hurt to take both and it might help
• REST! Stay in bed, don’t try to push through it and keep working.

In many cases, this program can stop a cold or flu in its tracks. I’ve seen cases where someone was coming down with the early onset symptoms in mid morning, started this program, and by the end of the day were completely back to normal, never developing a cold or flu.

Serious Acute Conditions
At some point, you or a family member may have a more serious acute condition. Serious cuts and bleeding, any loss of consciousness, broken bones, any illness you don’t recognize, these all need a trip to the Emergency Room of Urgent Care. Use the conventional medical system for what it does best. Go through the diagnostic process, patch the holes, set the bones, stabilize your organ functions, then follow up with a visit to a holistic health provider who can probably help you heal faster than you otherwise would have.

Serious Chronic Conditions
The various chronic illnesses such as those listed in the Top 10 list above, generally need to be treated by a knowledgeable holistic practitioner. At times, the conventional medical system can provide help for some aspects of some of these conditions. Keep in mind, however, that the more the conventional system has tried to wage “war” against heart disease, cancer or diabetes, for example, the more widespread these diseases have become. It has been my observation that the conventional medical system can help with stabilizing patients with these conditions who are having acute flare ups. They do this well. The conventional system, however, is very limited in its ability to prevent or reverse these conditions.

In addition to the illnesses in the Top 10 list which are killing a lot of people, there are a variety of other chronic illnesses which cause discomfort, reduced lifestyle and cost a lot of money. This would include diseases such as Thyroid disorders, Fibromyalgia, Gallbladder disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other inflammatory bowel conditions, and so on. The conventional approach is generally aimed at controlling symptoms. The natural approach is to find the root cause and restore you to health.

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of Homeopathy, once said “The physician's highest calling, his only calling, is to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is termed." It is important to remember that the ability to heal, to cure an illness, is part of our inherent, natural healing ability that is encoded in our DNA. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be here. Using a little common sense in your day-to-day lifestyle can prevent most of the serious chronic illnesses, and stop many acute illnesses before they really start.

If you or a family member have a more serious chronic illness, you need to know that in most cases, it can be helped or completely reversed through proper natural treatment. I recommend you see a licensed natural health care provider to help get you started on the right track, and most of the follow up treatment will then be done at home. Home health care is part of our cultural history and is an inherent right for all of us.

Dr. Arlan Cage, ND, LAc, is a licensed Naturopathic doctor as well as a licensed Acupuncturist based in Mount Shasta, California, where he emphasizes primary care medicine from a Holistic point of view. He routinely combines Western and Eastern holistic approaches which are individually customized for each patient. He regularly treats cases involving cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, endocrine disorder, including thyroid illness, menopause, infertility, and menstrual disorders, as well as acute care for a variety of infectious illnesses such as colds, flus and intestinal disorders. His primary treatment methods are nutrition, herbal medicine and homeopathy. He also treats musculoskeletal pain using kinesiology, gentle manipulation and acupuncture. Dr. Cage sees patients both in Mount Shasta and Redding, CA. For more information, visit his website at, or call 530-926-1600.


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