“Don’t walk the thief in the house.”
In my oriental medicine class my teacher was trying to explain why you wouldn’t tonify qi if you have a wind invasion. He said, “You don’t walk the thief in the house.” In plain English he was cautioning us against strengthening the very cause for our ills. For example, if a person has a rhinovirus, would we give them something that would increase that virus’s ability to spread and replicate throughout the body? This made me wonder what troubles we could unintentionally brew when we Dr. Google ourselves into oblivion.
The way we access information today has changed our relationship with health and put more responsibility in the patient’s hands. Unfortunately, this has made it even easier to avoid seeing a doctor.
“An apple a day, if well aimed, keeps the doctor away.”
― P.G. Wodehouse
This is of concern since the patient may, with the very best intentions, try to doctor themselves with what they think is “healthy” and yet without seeing the big picture may actually be walking the thief in the house. For example, there are certain vitamins you wouldn’t want to supplement with for particular cancers. There are also certain botanicals you wouldn’t want to use for a patient with an autoimmune disease. And no, research has shown that there is no statistically significant relationship between eating an apple a day and a reduction in doctor visits . Yes, that study has been done!
Nerd note: An apple a day is correlated with a higher education and a slight decrease in prescription medications .
On the other end of the spectrum, patients may refuse to acknowledge to themselves that they have a problem and fail to seek help from any source. Men are especially notorious for this and not only die at earlier ages than women, but are more likely to die from chronic diseases – something naturopathic medicine excels at ! Societal norms are partly at fault for this, but that's an issue for a later day.
Nerd note: Research has shown men to prefer male doctors but to be more honest with female doctors .
The top reasons for avoiding healthcare are: unpleasant associations with healthcare, fear of serious illness, belief that symptoms will resolve on their own, and barriers such as time and cost . Don’t let fear stop you from getting your health concerns addressed. Find a doctor you resonate with and can respect and enlist them in becoming your ally in a journey to be the best you can be.
Remember – doctors are there to help you be well, and stay that way. If you are trying to find a physician, check out my friend 3030 Strong’s series on how to find the right physician for you.
- Davis, M. A., Bynum, J. P. W. & Sirovich, B. E. Association between apple consumption and physician visits: appealing the conventional wisdom that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. JAMA Intern. Med. 175, 777–83 (2015).
- Himmelstein, M. S. & Sanchez, D. T. Masculinity in the doctor’s office: Masculinity, gendered doctor preference and doctor-patient communication. Prev. Med. (Baltim). 84, 34–40 (2016).
- Taber, J. M., Leyva, B. & Persoskie, A. Why do people avoid medical care? A qualitative study using national data. J. Gen. Intern. Med. 30, 290–7 (2015).
Photo credit: Ryan Tauss