Tuesday, 13 February 2007

First experience of german doctors

When I moved to Germany to be with my girlfriend and to continue my recovery I never imagined that I would visit a German doctor so soon. I thought that I knew enough about my state of health to recover by pacing my activities and working on my diet. Nevertheless I was wrong. During my time in Germany I have been plagued by digestion problems. This was initially just trapped wind, which occasionnally caused some pain when the pressure built up. However, on Sunday last, the heat turned up a little.

Suddenly the wind was no longer trapped and causing pain, but free flowing and endless. I have been rifting continuesly since Sunday evening. This sounds comical, at worst embarrassing, but I can assure you it is much worse than this. It is extremely uncomfortable and the condition has worsened steadily since Sunday, with the air becoming more and more acidy and pressurised. Last night I could stand no more. I decided to go to the doctor. In Scotland I would have gone a long time ago, but a number of factors put me off going in Germany. The first factor is the unknown, what will the doctors give me? Will this undo the good work of my herbalist and doctor in Scotland? Then there is the language barrier. My German is hardly fluent and my medical vocab is not my most complete. Again, my timing here is attrocious. My girlfriend is fluent in both languages and would have been able to translate without problems. However, she is away at a conference until tomorrow evening. Could I wait until Thursday? I don't think so I was so uncomfortable that I didn't think this was an option. Further, on Thursday we were meant to be travelling to Essen to visit my family there. I'm not sure if this will happen or not.

So, I decided to brave visiting the doctor, hoping he or she would be fluent in English. Alas he was not, so I gave it my best shot of communicating 10 months of illness with particular emphasis on the last three weeks. I was rather proud of my efforts as the Doctor seemed to understand, but of course one always has niggling doubts. My bloodpressure and pulse were taken and were incredibly high! I was thrown back at this because these usually return normal like every other test. My pulse measured 120 and bloodpressure 156 / 68. I also gave a sample of blood but I am unsure what they used it for.

I was given the option of homeopathic or traditional approach, which was a difficult choice for me. I know nothing about homeopathy, but the natural approach appealed more than say an antacid. Although for all I know the homeopathic method, it may have the same effect. Nevertheless I chose this option and was prescribed gastricumeel, which is described as "relief of indigestion and heartburn. Helpful when overeating or eating bad food combinations".

This is not the most informative of statements but it is the best I can find. All I can do is trust in the doctor.

Anyway, after returning home, I checked my bp and pulse, which had started to lower. Now (3 hours or so later) thankfully, they have returned to normal. The airflow has not relented since taking my first tablet, but I will give my digestion some time. The other advice the doctor gave me was to eat little sugar, beans and pulses, onions, alcohol etc. and to drink herbal teas such as peppermint and fennel. Most of this I have been trying to do over the last few weeks, but I will continue and try to be more disciplined.

I will keep you updated with my progress. Meanwhile, I will try not to panic.


Ian said...

Hi Dave, hope you don't mind me leaving a comment here. You know how skeptical I am about this stuff and I really think need to understand what homeopathy is before you commit yourself to what amounts to little more than quackery with no positive evidence to back up the claims of its proponents. This site has some good resources on homeopathy, including analysis of it's central tenants here and here . I also think, but this is just my opinion, that if your doctor is recommending homeopathic remedies, you find another doctor.

Ian said...

Oops, broken link. Hope it works this time. Checked the preview, should have done that in the first place!

David Elsweiler said...

Hi Ian,

Of course I welcome your comments. There are few opinions that count more! I understand that you are skeptical. I scientific mind is a skeptical one and I share your concerns. However, with most things in life context is important, and the decision to trial homeopatic treatment for my digestion was no different. Firstly, I was not a calm state of mind. I had been worrying about ever decreasing levels of health, was in a foreign land and had just explained to a doctor 10 months worth of problems in a language I am not comfortable talking in. On top of this I had just been told that I had a pulse of 120 and high b.p.

Then I had the option of taking homeopathic medicine or standard medicine, which I believed would have been an antacid (something I had been adviced against taking). I knew little about homeopathy with the exception of the main principle. My understanding was that the idea was to add a diluted form of the illness to the body and that provokes some kind of reaction. I have no idea how this translates in terms of increased wind of stomach acid, but I decided in the context to go with that. Remember I didn't have time or resources to research before making a decision. However, I am not sure I would have made a different decision with hindsight. The German health service does not have a bad reputation and most German doctors provide both Homeopathic and traditional medicines. The medicine was also dispensed from a normal pharmacy. It still puzzles me how this can be the case if there is little documented evidence of clinical trials. However, as you say, I cannot find any either.

The tablets definately had an effect though. They stop the wind, even if they provide some uncomfortable side-effects. I think the major factor in reducing the source of the wind has not been the tablets, but a non-sugar diet that I have been following for a week now. I have long suspected some kind of bacteria imbalance as the cause of my symptoms, the wind problem was further evidence for this.

I will post my thoughts on Candida later. Thanks for your reply


Ian Macphail said...

You said you were puzzled by the acceptance of homeopathic remedies within the German healthcare system given the lack of scientific studies demonstrating any positive effectiveness. It should be pointed out that there is a large public support for homeopathy within the country, probably having something to do with its origin there. There is likely to be a great deal of political pressure to provide homeopathy, overriding scientific concerns over whether or not it actually works.

This article on government regulation of homeopathic remedies is pretty dense, but I think the conclusion is pretty telling in this regard, particularly:
The safety of homeopathic medicinal products needs strict control, because of the risks they may present. Therefore, homeopathic products should be included in pharmacovigilance systems. Safety requirements, however, should not be applied in a way that might discriminate against this particular therapy. The requirements should be adequate and in proportion. In Germany there is a strong political will to support homeopathy and to allow different schools of therapy. This is an expression of the pluralism of German society.

The article also points out that homeopathic remedies only have to be tested for safety in order to be marketable, and the vast majority are still under review. It is from 1998 so may be a bit dated.

I would also be wary of attributing any relief to the tablets you are taking. Just because A precedes B does not necessarily mean that A causes B.

I've got a few more things I would like to say on the issue, but I'll cut it short just now. I do hope you continue to get better, and your time away gives you a well needed chance to lay back and relax some!