Among many health support communities, there is an ongoing discussion about pharmaceuticals versus natural healing.
Once we, the patients, have a diagnosis, the next step is to determine a treatment plan. But how do we know what is the best way to keep our immune system clean and functioning, with the lowest risk of disease relapse?
Of course, body chemistry varies widely, as do autoimmune symptoms and their severity, so there is no one answer. But for most patients, the perfect balance lies somewhere in the middle. We need anti-inflammatory chemicals to control disease, but we can also relieve our symptoms through natural means.
The frustrating reality is that sometimes we have to rely on treatments like steroids or chemo just to survive. Vasculitis has been recognized as a separate disease only for less than 100 years oldso the technology around it hasn’t advanced to the point where we can take risks, especially if our condition manifests itself in a more serious form.
“Did you try [fill in the blank]?”
If I had a dime for every time a well-meaning friend asked me, I would never see medical debt! Usually the suggestion is for what I ingest daily, like following an anti-inflammatory diet or eating strictly organic foods.
Of course, the questioner is only trying to help. I can’t blame them for not understanding the position I’m in. I’ve spent years living with and researching my condition, and I can’t expect anyone else to know that a change in diet or lifestyle won’t help. is not a guarantee of improved autoimmune health.
It is frustrating and exhausting to have to defend myself on treatment decisions. It feels like an accusation, like I haven’t tried hard enough to manage the disease. Worse, it’s offensive: does anyone who questions my (really, my doctor’s) methods really believe that I (we) haven’t exhausted all possible options?
Homeopathic medicines, acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, and changes in diet or exercise are some of the more well-known alternative options. Treatments that get a bad rap for thinking outside the box can have some merit if used correctly and adhered to long enough to see results.
I’m tempted to give all the benefit of the doubt until proven ineffective – as long as I take care of my immediate needs and don’t risk my health unnecessarily. After all, humans managed disease carefully for thousands of years before we knew about things like prednisone, azathioprine, or methotrexate. I’d like to think it’s possible to strike a good balance, and a trusted doctor can help me make those decisions with sound advice.
If someone chooses to follow their doctor’s orders and go the pharmaceutical route, it could be expensive and lead to possible drug side effects. If they experiment with alternative treatments instead, the sacrifice is one of time and energy. During the process, it is not guaranteed that a specific strategy will work.
The reality is that, in some cases, vasculitis patients simply don’t have the luxury of time. There may be a danger that lies in the type of organ damage that could be caused. If I had tried to explore alternative methods in my early teens, I would not have survived. The disease had already progressed so far that it was dangerous not dive forward with chemo and steroids – although each of them has harmful side effects.
Although a strict diet is not a guarantee of improved autoimmune health, it certainly helps in many cases. We have reliable research that indicates eliminating things like sugar and processed foods is a huge benefit for a balanced immune system.
Again, the restriction is simply a time restriction. If the body is inflamed to a certain point, there is a higher risk of letting it go longer without taking drastic measures. So any changes we make must be made gradually, once the immediate danger is under control.
It never hurts to research alternative treatment methods. Staying curious and optimistic helps improve our outlook. At a minimum, it can make us feel more in control of an illness that can be totally unpredictable. If we keep an open mind, we can find additions to our current treatment plan that support it in healthy ways without destabilizing our immediate state.
To note: News ANCA Vasculitis is strictly a disease news and information site. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of anything you read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of News ANCA Vasculitis or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about vasculitis issues at ANCA.