I would rather puke on the treadmill than wait in the doctor’s office, would you?

Actually I don’t even remember visiting a medical practice in North America and not get frustrated or angry one way or the other. What I personally experienced with increased wellness over my body transformation made me realized that preventive medicine is much more superior. I grew to eventually resent modern medicine.

Once, I waited for 4 hours for a 15 minute slot with a doctor after throwing up at 3 AM the night before, only to get a sheet of paper that says “Gastroenteritis.” It instructed me to go home and rest. Very useful, indeed.

Seriously, I would rather puke on the treadmill than go and wait in a doctor’s office. Typically, the 2 weeks wait time often resolves the problem on its own, which perhaps is a good treatment solution.

And it’s not like the appointments are useful, either. For 9 of out 10 appointments, I left the offices with vague diagnoses and nothing else in hand, or referrals that led to more appointments and more wait times. American doctors appeared a lot more reluctant and conservative in their approaches than the Thai doctors.

Just as McDonalds decide the standard size for all chicken breasts in North America, the litigious society shape American professional health care practices. To me now modern medicine feels like the prevention of death and lawsuits.

Who am I to judge? I was a premed, mind you. I have many family members and lifelong friends who are medical professionals. I spent many of my childhood afterschools in the hospitals just waiting for my parents. I observed surgery for the first time when I was seven.

Medicine was this awesome thing to me back home. Our culture is more trusting and we have much better hospitality. A doctor’s visit was always welcoming and at least I usually left with a solution in hand. (Later I found that this is a double-edged sword.)

Once I got to North America, medicine metamorphosed into something irritating yet necessary. Over my recent body transformation, it evolved into something avoidable and should be avoided at all costs.

Perhaps I should consider myself lucky that I can avoid the doctor’s office at all costs. The doctors would probably agree. I often hear them discredit patients that visit their offices or emergency rooms with trivial problems like common cold, stomach flu, constipation, hangover, severe symptoms of undiagnosable causes, etc.

Of course I understand where they are coming from, scientifically. The viral infections will clear up on its own and ribavarin would only speed up the process by just a day. Hangovers could only be recovered by sleep, rest and lots of water. (speaking of this, I have once spent 3 hours in the emergency room pleading the nurses to put IV on a very hungover friend, and they refused.)

The philosophy of medical treatment in Thailand errs on keeping the patients comfortable and satisfied while being less conservative. Just like modern medicine anywhere, they rarely treats problems at the root cause and pay less attention to the side effects of the treatments.

It was common to be prescribed chlopheniramine maleate (an antihistamine), a cough suppressant and vitamin C if you visit a doctor’s office for a common cold. In fact, I and some family members occasionally took chlopheniramine maleate to sleep because it caused drowsiness.

On my first dermatologist visit for my acne during my late teenage years, I was prescribed 0.01% Retin A and 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide. The dose doubled every 2 weeks until it topped at the highest available dose at 0.1% Retin A and 10% Benzoyl peroxide. Following every consultation was the Iontophoresis treatment (i.e. using electric current) to get these medications deeper into my skin. Every night after the treatment my face would burn so badly that I cried myself to sleep. My skin subsequently adjusted to it and no longer felt the burns after a few days.

For my eczema, the dermatologist prescribed me Chlopheniramine Maleate and 0.025% Triamcinolone Acetonide (a medium to high potency cortocosteroid). Every 2 weeks she doubled the dose of the TA dose until my eczema cleared up.

When I asked the dermatologists when I could get off the topical medications, the answer was “until you don’t get (acne/eczema) anymore.” My acne returned just a few weeks after getting off the acne medications. My eczema only came back a few years later when I faced the North American winters. My brother who has a much worse case of incurable dermatitis became constantly tied to Chlopheniramine Maleate and Triamcinolone Acetonide. You don’t need to be a doctor to know that applying high potency steroid cream on yourself every day for the rest of your life is BAD, do you?

For my recent body transformation, I switched from the USDA food pyramid to a low glycemic impact diet and introduced a few supplements (omega-3, multivitamin, antioxidants and calcium). I eat mostly whole foods, cut down grains and sugar. Beyond the fat loss, I noticed that my acne has completely cleared up. I got significantly less allergies and virus infections.

There is indeed a real scientific basis behind low glycemic impact and good nutrition healing acne and improving immune responses. Everything is better.

Then I wondered if all my nights of crying myself to sleep because my face was on fire was all worth it. I got angry about it, that if only I knew… It was the poor lifestyle choices that caused my acne.

Looking back at the doctor’s visits where I left empty-handed, I now understand the reasons behind their conservative approaches. Every treatment in modern medicine comes with side effects one way or the other, and our body has its own way of combating diseases (or being defeated by it). American doctors tend to be much more cautious in weighting risk/benefits before prescribing treatments even though the medications were over the counter.

I now passionately believe that there are always lifestyle solutions to all these little diseases eating us. Some may seem less tangible than others (e.g. you hating your job can cause your eczema flare up). Being a scientist, I understand that, oftentimes, science just hasn’t caught up yet. Otherwise, there shall be no need for scientists in the society.

And then I wondered what other problems could be solved just by a few simple lifestyle changes. You can pretty much wean off most prescription medications, especially for lifestyle-related diseases. The key is to solve the problem at the root cause(s).

It goes the other way around as well. If you are not ill enough to need a doctor’s visit doesn’t mean you are well. Someone with a heart attack today isn’t well yesterday. If you constantly need coffee to live then that’s a manifestation of a much larger issue. Wellness isn’t easy to achieve, but I assure you that it is much better to have wellness than to clean up the mess of illnesses later.

More than half the times, we know with our gut feeling what the root cause is. Perhaps we can use the experts and healthcare professionals for guidance. I encourage you to take an active role in healing yourself and get healthy.

What do you think? Ever got really angry or frustrated with the doctors? Have you made lifestyle changes that improved your health in ways you didn’t expect?

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