We all know the story: the ocean liner Titanic was heading straight for an iceberg and its watery grave while the passengers, totally oblivious of the danger ahead, were having a ball. Most died when the ship sank. A common analogy for the useless manoeuvring of things that have no effect on the final outcome or the underlying cause is to say that a procedure is like ‘shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic’.
Sharon had asthma since infancy. After regularly seeing a doctor and taking medications for many years, she decided to go it alone once she moved out of her parents’ home, and used only a puffer as a preventive measure.
Sharon had not had a severe attack since she was thirteen, and that was almost ten years before. She knew that it was probably wrong to use her puffer for so long as her only medication but, as she put it: ‘I don’t really fancy taking steroids’. Yet, a few months later, that is just what she had to do after experiencing a scary asthma attack. Her new doctor started to experiment with different medications while monitoring her lung function, and finally decided on the one that appeared to work best. Sharon did not like taking drugs so she sought the advice of a naturopath.
Following the advice given, she made a few half-hearted attempts at diet changes by avoiding sulphites, monosodium glutamate and food colourings, and this helped her to reduce her need to use medication a little. She also took some herbal medicines, but after a few weeks she felt that such a small improvement was not worth all the trouble and her Ventolin was working anyway, so why bother? She was happy until another attack forced her back to her doctor, who placed her on yet another medication.
Next she visited an acupuncturist. Once again, she improved and stopped the prescribed drugs. After a few weeks she was experiencing breathing difficulties, although she did not have an attack as such. She decided to see a homeopath. This helped her so much that she did not even need to take Ventolin any more.
Then Sharon experienced what was the worst attack of her life, ending up in hospital and nearly losing her life. Back on steroids. She neither understood nor cared to search for the underlying causes of her problem and she certainly did nothing to alter her personal environment. Australia is full of people who think and act just like Sharon. Like the passengers on the Titanic, they rearrange a few chairs and sail happily towards possible disaster.
By the time Sharon became my patient in 1992 she was using her puffer nearly a dozen times every day. First of all I advised her to throw away her vacuum cleaner, get rid of the carpets, clean up her bedroom (our investigation with mould plates found an alarmingly high mould count near her bed) and avoid some food additives and colourings. I also prescribed some garlic and a diet which included lots of fresh vegetables, especially onions, and excluded milk. For the first few days I arranged a B12 injection (methylcobalamine) daily. The only vitamins I prescribed were vitamins C and B6 and some fish oil.
Within two weeks Sharon was hardly using her puffer and felt great. Sometimes it can be as simple as that. Sharon obviously reacted badly to environmental factors she breathed in at home.
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