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The Practical Herbalist

The Cautionary Tale Of The Medical Tourist

Once upon a time, a woman buys what she feels is the perfect table for her kitchen. Once in place, she notices that the table wobbles. Many would stick a matchbook under the leg and be done with it. For this woman the table needs to be perfect. Therefore she tries to sand down three of the legs. This does not work, she tries to straighten the legs by pushing the legs in various directions. After more sanding and shaving, pushing and pulling, a vicious cycle of frustration and desperation develops, with more valiant attempts to make the table perfect. In the end, the table is short and the joints so weak that it can no longer function as a table. There was nothing wrong with the tools she used, they were just misapplied to a table that was quite likely on an uneven floor.

Some people do this to themselves. They feel that their bodies should work perfectly, and that there has got to be a "fix" out there for their problem. They begin with the premise that their problems are caused by too much of something. They try many different medical, diet and alternative treatments. They use every tool they can to eliminate what may be wrong. They eat low calorie healthy, use special diets, eliminate all "bad" things from their life. Soon the tools of health and medicine are no longer a means to an end, they have become an end in themselves. Desperation starts to drive the process. Their lives are defined by a string of appointments to different practitioners, as they desperately try to follow several paths at once. Living life now revolves around health, rather than health care enhancing the living of life. The patient becomes a medical tourist, traveling around on a tour of medicine. They seek out new and different cures, the latest exotic herb, newest technique, hoping the next trip will "fix" the problem, purge the toxins, and remove more of the “bad” things that must be there causing poor health to their perfect body. Eventually, just like the table, the body starts to break down.

We have all seen these people. Their conversations always come back to the latest health research, supplement or medical theory. They are thin, and have a dull complexion, they micromanage their lives and are often more worried about whether food is organic, rather than whether they actually got a nutritionally sound meal. In the extreme we find eating disorders, anxiety, depression, obsessions, unexplained symptoms and physical ailments. Sometimes fears of cancer and other chronic diseases become self fulfilling prophesies. It is just too much of a good thing. Proper tools, used improperly. Balance has been lost creating a downward spiral until there is little "life" left.

This person needs to nourish and add to life, not eliminate another suspected problem. The focus should be on food, friends and fun. A life with a balance of good and bad, joy and sadness, excesses and deficiencies, and sickness as a way to understand and appreciate health. True health and balance within ourselves is not found in unobtainable perfection, but rather in the imperfection of a matchbook under a table leg.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066