In the past 21 years, I’ve seen probably 10-15 different specialists, gone to the doctor more than twice per year, had unexplainable symptoms, and had someone think I was a hypochondriac. It’s really a dreadful situation because I’m not the type of person to exaggerate things or make up stories for attention. Actually, the less attention I get, the better.
So why is it that after years and years of going to the doctor, I was no closer to the answers than the doctors were to believing me? Or to listening?
I want to illustrate one (the most recent) problem I had with a doctor I went to see.
Neglecting to ask questions
My doctor was smart. They all seem to be. And perhaps this was partially my fault. I called and made an appointment with this doctor per the recommendation of my nutritionist at my school (who is not willing to give me further advice until I see certain doctors). The gastroenterologist needed to know why I was calling, so I told the office that I was experiencing IBS symptoms because that was the best way I could describe it.
I knew as I was calling that there was more to the story. I have random dandruff spells that get better when I eat better, and it feels like my intestines swell after I eat certain things. My intention was to talk to this doctor about all of these things.
To calm my nerves a week before I went, I even looked him up online. He had the best reviews of everyone in his office. I was thrilled that I might finally get some information. And truthfully, that’s all I wanted. I was not in any sort of rush to get more treatments or tests. I really wanted information about SIBO and yeast. Maybe he had some clue into food allergies. But when I got into the office, I was sorely surprised.
He sat down and only talked to me about my IBS symptoms. He asked me if I had any food allergies. I told him I had celiac (undiagnosed, of course) and lactose intolerance as far as I knew. He knew that I removed gluten from my diet and felt better.
But he couldn’t stop talking about how he wished I was with him at the beginning of my gluten-free journey so that he could test me.
I understand that these doctors want to know about celiac. It’s important. But he didn’t ask if I had any celiac in my family. He simply asked me if I wanted to do the “gluten challenge” and when I said no, he seemed disappointed. He acted like “gluten challenge” was supposed to be some fun experiment. Forgive my frustration, but I went to the doctor about issues separate from my gluten-intolerance. I’ve been living gluten-free for quite some time, and I’ve been well.
I also understand that perhaps my gluten-related issues might be connected to other problems. But did he say anything like that related to the subject? No.
He asked me if I wanted prescriptions, laxatives, testing. I said no, I just want information. He gave me almost nothing except the name of a probiotic that I requested.
And do you know what else? It all happened in 10 minutes.
I was in and out with no one to talk to and nowhere to go. Mind you, I’m not feeling bad for myself. I did leave upset, but there are worse things in life. I have certainly neglected the hopes I had for the medical field.
Huffington Post did a report on how people feel about their doctors. The number one report is that doctors don’t listen.
Think about what you’re doing before you go to see the doctor. I was desperate, and I didn’t do as much thinking as I should have. As soon as my school nutritionist said she wanted me to see a gastro, I knew that all of the above would happen. But I followed her instruction blindly because I had such hope. In hindsight, I think getting a food allergy test might have been smarter, but those can be very costly.
That’s why I recommend logging on to your insurance website and using a cost calculator to determine how much an allergy test might cost you if you’re in the same boat. If that’s not possible, I would call your insurance company or call a provider in your network to get a quote (and realize that this may not be 100 percent accurate).
No insurance? That’s fine. You could spend about $500 on an allergy test, or you can take the advice of many Paleo experts and just try elimination diets. For someone like me — perhaps in college or some other community — where you cannot make your own foods and are thus subjected to the availability of what everyone feeds you, an elimination diet may not be the best route. Cross-contamination could effect your results. Allergy testing might be the only way for now.
If you do get this kind of test and it turns out you have a long list of food allergies, it is likely you have leaky gut. Cut out all grains and focus on nourishing foods.
Lastly, a lot of people recommend that you always talk with your health care professional before starting new things, changing diets, etc. In my experience, this has not only failed me, but it has also made me very sick. My personal recommendation is to do your research online from Paleo experts (The Paleo Mom, Chris Kresser, Robb Wolf, Diane Sanfilippo, etc.) and go from there. If you need further assistance, make an appointment with them or their staff online. Make sure you’re doing things slowly and carefully. You need not be zealous; you need to give your body time to tell you how it feels about something. That’s how we will all heal. Of course, if you’re not comfortable proceeding without your doctor, then you should probably talk to them, anyway. Though I largely have not been helped by the medical community, people with a holistic/spiritual background have helped me tremendously and I had no idea they had that background until I talked to them.
**That being said, though, I cannot take responsibility for your health outcomes if you heed this advice. Please be advised that your health journey is your own, and I cannot take the blame.**
Have you had a really good experience with a doctor? A really bad one? Do you prefer holistic doctors or doctors of medicine?