If you've been following the news you can't help but come across the trial and conviction of David & Collet Stephan that just wrapped up this week. This one has stirred up A LOT of controversy and so many feelings. Anytime a child dies, we are (rightly) outraged. We want to blame SOMEONE or SOMETHING because the death of a child is too scary if it wasn't someone's fault. I get that-I have two little animals who I would die trying to protect. Because of this it's hard to imagine letting one of them get that sick without a visit to our paediatrician-I value modern medicine and the advantages our society has come to have. BUT I also value natural alternatives and have found a place for them in our lives. So-the question for me while watching this tragic trial unfold is "where is the line?". Why do I feel so strongly that I wouldn't follow the same path as the Stephans yet also consult with a Naturopathic Dr., turn to nutriceuticals when my kids catch a virus and avoid processed foods, plastics and other modern 'things' that I believe hurt us rather than help us?
I think the answer lies in respect for both sides of the argument. Science is valuable. We have come a long way as a society due very much to scientific research and discovery. I love science because it's rooted in facts. There is beauty in reading a study in a journal like Nature and deciding for myself what I agree with/don't agree with in regards to the design of the study, biases, conclusions drawn etc. This is where my decision to vaccinate my children comes from. I've read the science. IMO vaccines are a testament to the value of scientific advances for our community and I happily take part knowing my kids are safer for it. I've also read the science put out by the anti-vax movement and for me at least, the evidence is just not there. Thus, my decision was made.
Following the science has also led me to avoid the conventional route of frequently using antibiotics and go the more natural route of supporting our bodies immune systems to fight off minor infections. Yup-thats right in this case the science tells me to be wary of giving my kids antibiotics unless they are proven necessary. I believe this because I've read the research on the ecosystems of gut bacteria and their far reaching consequences for current & future health. Using antibiotics disrupts this natural ecosystem. For this reason, when my kids are battling a cold or a minor virus we try to stay out of the paediatrician's office knowing it's most likely viral and that antibiotics wouldn't help anyway. We drink lots of fluids, up our vitamins and use herbal remedies such as elderberry and oregano. In this way we are much like the Stephans. The important difference I have come to realize is that I RESPECT the medical community and their role in keeping my kids healthy. When a minor cold crosses into a serious fever, drags on for more than a few days, or my kids start acting really sick we don't hesitate to get to our paediatrician or use emerg if we have to. We have also used Telehealth and listened gratefully to the advice of the nurse on the other end of the line. We will happily accept antibiotics when the need is really there. We then use probiotics (natural route but steeped in science) to help counter the side effects.
My advice to parents considering natural treatments instead of conventional? Read the studies and form an opinion BUT if you aren't a medical professional recognize that you may be wrong and seek help & advice. Googling does not make you smarter than your Dr., and when your child's health is on the line always take safe over sorry. Every.Single.TIme. Your children's health is never a time to be stubborn or one sided. It's easy to think we know everything after a few clicks down a rabbit hole. What Google doesn't give you is the years and years of experience. It doesn't give you the context that is so important when understanding health.
I think we need to stop pitting natural health care AGAINST the medical community. They both have their places and are both extremely valuable. Once again our society wants to see black and white, good and bad where only grey exists. In my family natural health is a wellness model and we use it to keep our bodies healthy. Conventional medicine is our illness model and when we get really sick we turn there. We also continue to use natural health as a complementary treatment like using probiotics alongside antibiotics or supplementing with Vitamin A, C, E & Zinc to promote healing after surgery. I'm not saying this is right or wrong, but it's the model I'm happy with and it works for us. It's the model that makes me confidant the same situation won't play out in our family as did for the Stephans. It's the model that lets me sleep at night knowing my kids are covered and if the worst happens we will throw everything that modern medicine AND Mother Nature has to offer at it.
Let's be clear: I don't think I am any better or worse than the Stephans as a parent, caregiver or person. I don't know them but I wholeheartedly believe they love their children as much as I love mine. I feel horribly for what they have gone through and I can't put myself in their shoes-it's too heartbreaking. Where I think they went wrong is letting their distrust of the medical system cloud their judgement: they weren't willing to admit that what they had believed in for so long wasn't working. That it wasn't enough. They had too much blind faith and they let it go on too long and didn't admit defeat until it was too late for poor Ezekial. After much contemplation this week I realized that my take on natural health and traditional medicine is in looking at both sides as halves to a whole. I believe that when you are faced entirely one way you become blind to the other-and I don't believe that is healthy or safe when it comes to our children (or ourselves).
What do YOU think? Am I way off or do you agree? This is an important topic & I think it's going to continue to be something we as parents and human beings will struggle with as the divide grows deeper between conventional medicine & natural health care.
Until next week....