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Top 5 reasons we visit the doctor
In the final part of our series, Dr Mollie Hunton looks at the five most common reasons why patients seek help from a homeopathic doctor and provides interesting case studies to support the conditions she highlights.
Although I spent many years working as a GP, I’m now in private practice. The patients I see are usually self-referred. They very rarely consult their doctors about homeopathic treatment first. Often they have looked me up on the internet, either via the BHA web site or from articles I have previously written. I also get a lot of family referrals. If one member of the family is happy with the consultation and outcome other family members will come along to see me when they are ill.
As a medical doctor I always check that the patient has had the correct investigations and advise a visit to their GP with a letter from me if further tests are needed. I always continue to wear my doctor’s hat throughout the consultation as people sometimes come with the wrong diagnosis; for example back pain, when the real problem is fibromyalgia syndrome, which is easily missed by doctors with short consultation times who are unable to look at the whole patient. I’ve seen patients who have told me they have previously seen top doctors who have listened to their story but never actually examined them. So it is no wonder that something like fibromyalgia is missed. This syndrome depends on finding multiple tender spots up and down the back, even though the patient may be actually only complaining of pain in one area at the time of the consultation.
1. Gynaecological problems
I’ve always had a special interest in gynaecological problems and this is my number one on the list of most common reasons for patients consulting me in private practice.
Endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and fertility problems are now conditions that doctors are seeing more frequently. Polycystic ovarian syndrome used to be called the Stein-Leventhal syndrome and was so rare that as medical students we were told about it, but never actually saw a patient with it. It is related to obesity which is why it is much more common today, even in teenagers.
Endometriosis is defined as the presence of endometrium, the womb lining, outside the womb. It can be anywhere in the pelvic cavity, even as far away as the upper abdomen, and when on the ovaries and Fallopian tubes can cause infertility by blocking the development of the egg and its passage down the tubes. The diagnosis is made from the history, scans and endoscopy. The cause of endometriosis is unknown, though a number of contributing factors are thought to play a role.
- Genetics can be a factor as it seems to run in families. However, it would seem to me to be obvious that you cannot have any disease without having genes for it. The crucial factor is what happens to trigger the appropriate genes.
- It is thought to be intensified by higher than normal oestrogen levels, but then that would not be a cause as such, only the result of some other process.
- Toxin exposure. Toxins in the environment, like those in plastics, can mimic the action of oestrogen in the body, as can the large amounts of oestrogen in cow’s milk. Research has shown that when animals are exposed to high levels of oestrogen they develop endometriosis.
- Candida (thrush) overgrowth in the gut caused by antibiotics eliminating “good” bacteria and the normal amount of candida, which is yeast and so not killed off by antibiotics. A lot of patients with endometriosis have recurrent vaginal thrush, which comes from their own bowel. This interferes with the removal of old hormones from the body and contributes to hormone imbalance. This is why modern diets can contribute to the problem as high sugar content helps the growth of candida.
- Compromised immunity. There is good evidence that the immune system in the pelvic cavity does not work well. All women menstruate through all three exits from the womb: the cervix and both Fallopian tubes. The small amount that goes through the tubes is usually mopped up by the immune system, but if it is not it stays in the pelvis and causes symptoms.
The most common symptoms are menstrual irregularities, pelvic pain including painful periods, pain on intercourse and infertility. The doctors may find ovarian cysts when the pelvis is scanned. The usual medical treatment is with drugs like Danazol, the contraceptive pill or laser treatment via the laparoscope (keyhole surgery).
By the time people come to see me with this problem they have undergone all the tests and taken all the medication, often over a number of years. And it is a real problem if the patient wants to become pregnant, but has to take the contraceptive pill for her treatment.
Case Study: Mrs A is 39 with a one year history of severe endometriosis and oesophageal reflux. She had lost a stone in weight due to worry and being only able to eat a small amount. She felt full after only a small portion. She also had a fear of choking.
Her appetite was normal but easily satisfied and she felt some nausea. She had had pneumonia aged 22 and was in hospital on an antibiotic drip. In her 30s she had acne which again was treated with long term antibiotics. She now wanted to become pregnant, so stopped the pill and the symptoms of pelvic pain on the right side occurred.
She described herself as a worrier who wept easily, especially at music and upsetting things on TV. Her sleep was poor with wakeful spells and she felt exhausted. She was in despair because the medication she had taken for the pain of the endometriosis (ibuprofen) had caused the reflux and the medication for the reflux (ranitidine) had caused swelling of her mouth and itching. Her throat was dry but she was not thirsty. She was a lady who was dictatorial and intolerant of contradiction.
The remedy I chose to give her was Lycopodium 200C, three tablets in 24 hours, to be repeated in two weeks if needed.
Her stomach settled down very rapidly in about 10 days. The endometriosis took longer and she took the Lycopodium when she had pelvic pain. Over the next six months she made good progress. She then stopped coming to see me as she was well, and I never found out if she became pregnant.
This, along with depression, is the second most common problem I see. Everyone has their own way of expressing anxiety. For a lot of people it means worrying; for others it means panic attacks. But for nearly all it involves some form of fear. Not necessarily fear of something like spiders, but more often unspoken fears. Often the problem stems from childhood, for example bullying that destroyed a child’s self-confidence. It is as if the person’s brain has been rewired when these emotional problems occurred and needs to be wired differently to be normal again.
Feeling frequently anxious and seeing no end to your problems can make you feel depressed. Conventional treatment for this problem was with tranquilisers like Valium and Librium, but now people with severe anxiety are referred to clinical psychologists who try using cognitive behaviour therapy. The patient is helped to think differently about their symptoms and to master their thoughts and think constructively. This is difficult and it takes a long time for people to change their thought patterns. People also try hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming to help. However, these methods also take time and involve a lot of patient cooperation. I believe homeopathy helps by healing the disordered pathways and in my experience seems works far quicker than other methods, often achieving a permanent restoration of health.
Case Study: Mrs M aged 51, complaining of anxiety for many years, sometimes very bad, sometimes not so bad. She had had a problem with her leg some weeks previously and this had caused fear of a clot, fear of going out and panic attacks which left her feeling shaky and weak. She had a strong fear of death and thought about it all the time which made her feel very low. This had caused the added symptoms of painful tightness in the throat and diarrhoea driving her out of bed in the early morning. She was a worrier and had the pressure of aging parents and teenage children to look after.
Her sleep was poor with frequent waking and frightening dreams of her teeth crumbling. She felt the need for company and then at other times to be alone. She felt snappy, weepy, sentimental and slightly manic, spending a lot of time cleaning. There was a lot of anticipatory anxiety and she got very anxious when she couldn’t find things. She had a strong desire for chocolate and alcohol which she felt she was using as a tranquiliser. She was belching a lot, which is always a symptom of anxiety.
I taught her how to relax and breathe from her stomach and suggested Gelsemium 30C whenever the anticipatory anxiety was severe and Aconite 30C to carry around with her for panics. I also gave her three tablets of Sulphuricum acidum 200C. This remedy is one of the acids, and people who need this group of remedies are debilitated. Hurry is a symptom with anxiety and a craving for alcohol.
She returned after three weeks saying that she was 95% back to normal mental health and 75% back to normal physical health. She’d visited her GP with a lump in the throat and he told her she needed rest. I arranged a follow-up appointment for another two months, and then it was a year until I saw her again. She said she’d been back to normal for ages, but last week she had become very anxious at the thought of a trip to India. She feared becoming out of control and making a fool of herself. I prescribed Lycopodium 30C and the trip went well.
3. Respiratory disease
Respiratory disease is the second biggest killer in the UK, with one person in every seven in the UK affected by lung disease – this equates to approximately 8 million people. More than 40 conditions can affect the lungs and/or airways and affect a person’s ability to breathe. These include lung cancer, tuberculosis, asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cystic fibrosis, avian flu, sleep apnoea, bronchiolitis and bronchiectasis.
Bronchiectasis is a lung disease that causes dilation of the alveoli at the end of the bronchial tree and the symptoms are coughing with copious, foul sputum, but not a great deal of wheezing. The usual treatment is antibiotics for exacerbations and surgery to remove the affected areas.
Case study: Mrs R, aged 64, has had bronchiectasis for over thirty years. I have known her for all of that period as her GP and private doctor.
Mrs R has had her left lung removed in three operations, and after ten years was devastated to discover that the bronchiectasis started again in the right lung. She dates her lung problems from when she had measles aged seven, which left her with lung weakness. She suffered occasional bronchitis in her twenties then repeated winter chest infections in her thirties.
The condition progressed and she had her first lobectomy in 1988. In 2004 she had such a severe infection that she was on intravenous antibiotics for five weeks. She lost a lot of weight and needed a year off work to recover. She then needed the rest of her left lung removed. She was told that things were unlikely to improve. In the meantime she had also developed coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues which is triggered by gluten. She took a lot of inhalers and medication from the doctor and also some supplements, including acidophilus as she constantly had thrush. After another bout of bronchitis a scan showed that the bronchiectasis had returned in the lower lobe of her remaining lung.
Her cough produced green, clumpy sputum and she felt panicky over the thought of breathing with only one lung. It was difficult to lie down and her sleep was disturbed. Mentally she felt she was still grieving for her mother who had committed suicide 20 years ago.
I decided to start her treatment with Morbillinum 30C (measles nosode) as her problems had started after measles which is called “the never well since” syndrome. She took three tablets a day for three days. I asked her to take Bacillinum 30C (a nosode made from all the organisms that cause chest infections) weekly, and Stannum for her cough and sputum. Stannum is the Latin word for tin and it has an affinity for the respiratory organs, producing copious green sputum and a violent cough which is exacerbated by laughing, singing and talking, and is worse on the right side.
Using this regime her sputum became much paler and less copious. She has not had any further hospital admissions for chest infections and during one winter did not even need any antibiotics. It is now seven years since the pneumonectomy (surgical removal of a lung) and she has been much healthier with the homeopathic medicines.
4. Skin conditions
Most skin conditions are not dangerous to health, but can cause extreme discomfort and embarrassment to the sufferer. Among the most common are eczema, psoriasis and acne.
Cases of eczema have been rising steadily and there are now 1.3 million sufferers in the UK. The most common form of eczema is atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis. Atopic is a medical term use to describe allergic conditions, such as hay fever and asthma.
Acne is the most common type of skin condition and most prevalent among older children, teenagers and young adults. Acne is thought to be caused by changes in hormones that are triggered during puberty. The symptoms generally ease up when people get into their twenties but in some cases can last well into adulthood. Severe cases of acne can lead to facial scarring.
Psoriasis is a condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. Although most people are only affected on small areas of the body, for others it can appear in large patches all over the body and seriously affect the quality of their lives.
Eczema, psoriasis and acne bring a lot of patients to homeopathy. They feel it is not a good idea to put steroid creams on the skin for a long time (eczema) take antibiotics for three months (acne) or the treatment doesn’t help (psoriasis).
Case study: Ben, aged 18 months, has had widespread eczema for two months. His Mum felt that it had started after his MMR jab. He had been to see a paediatric dermatologist, but none of the creams suggested had helped, and Ben was very, very itchy, worse at night and he needed to scratch so much his skin bled. His Mum had a lot of food allergies, and his Dad had psoriasis. Ben was tall with pale skin and dark circles round his eyes. There were no pets in the house.
His sleep was broken and he usually got up and went into his parent’s bed. He frequently woke to scratch. He always felt hot and walked around in bare feet to keep cool. He was very hot at night. His most comfortable way to sleep was in the knee-chest position. His skin was red, hot, scratched and infected. Taking all this into account I prescribed three tablets of MMR 30C, then Medorrhinum 200C, three tablets in 24 hours plus Staphylococcus/Streptococcus mix 200C one tablet daily until relief.
A month later Mum said that he had changed back into the Ben he used to be. He had slept much better and was a lot cooler His eczema had started to clear after a short aggravation and had taken two weeks to go completely. She had also realised that his catarrh and cough (which she didn’t mention at the consultation) had gone. I have since successfully treated his Dad’s psoriasis too.
Most patients who visit me suffering from headaches have had them thoroughly investigated and taken all the medication, but are still not better. Some people have migraine, which is a severe headache preceded by an aura and followed by nausea and or vomiting. Classically the person needs to lie down in a dark room to recover, as light can aggravate their condition. The remedy with all these characteristics is Iris versicolor and this can be taken frequently in the 6C potency until relief. Alternatively, three tablets can be put into a small glass of water and stirred, and then a teaspoonful taken as often as needed.
Otherwise, headaches can have many different characteristics, from the site of the pain, the character of the pain and the time and circumstances when they occur. Therefore there are many different remedies that can be prescribed. Sometimes if there are strong characteristics a helpful remedy can be found. For example, Belladonna is good for hot, throbbing headaches in the forehead and temples, while Bryonia is good for the sort of pain which is bursting or splitting and is worse for movement and better for rest. People need to be left alone with this headache and it is better not to disturb them or they are very irritable. However, if a lasting cure is needed, a deeper acting remedy will need to be found.
Case study: Mr D was 52 and complained of headaches for 50 years. He could not remember being hit on the head by a brick when he was two, but his mother always told him that was what triggered his headaches. Aged six he fell off a table and hit his head again. He was involved in a car accident aged 14 and hit his head a third time. He had taken all the conventional treatment and a scan had shown no abnormality. He took a lot of analgesics. He had attended a chiropractor for ten years but it had helped his back but not his headaches. He has learned to live with it.
He had the headache nearly every day and it was mostly felt in the right occiput, like a very sharp knife. He was a gardener and spent a lot of time outdoors and found that this helped his headaches. He was warm blooded and sweated a lot. He always wore a hat because the hot sun aggravated the headaches. He was frequently wakeful at night and dreamt lovely dreams in colour of flying off cliffs and soaring over the land. He was a worrier and suffered from anticipatory anxiety. He likes to please people and bottles things up. When tense he liked to go out alone and shout.
To look for the right remedy I looked in the Repertory under “head”, “pain” and “injuries after” where there were only three remedies: Carcinosin, Kali bromatum and Natrum sulphuricum. I also looked up “dreams” “flying” which highlighted Carcinosin and Natrum sulphuricum, but not Kali bromatum. On looking up Natrum sulphuricum in the materia medica it referred to ill-effects from falls and injuries to the head. So I prescribed Natrum sulphuricum: 200C three tablets in 24 hours to be repeated if needed.
I saw him again five weeks later. Following the consultation he’d had a short aggravation but since then had only had fuzzy heads. He said: “I’m gob-smacked. I feel so much better.” The remedy had also cured his tennis elbow and his indigestion, and he had slept much better with fewer dreams.