Disagreeing about Health Care

Have you ever had a situation where a doctor, nurse or other health practitioner has suggested you do X but your own instinct moves you to do Y?

A blogger writes about a situation where she is confronted with a young dietitian who wants to fatten up her baby:

she was completely clueless about nursing and wanted me to cut back. And finally, she kept suggesting the most inane ideas.

For example, she insisted that I put unprocessed tehina paste into TBIQ’s vegetables to add calories. (Result: TBIQ stopped eating vegetables.) Also, she wanted me to melt butter into TBIQ’s baby cereal. (Result: None, because I ignored this suggestion.)

But the final straw came when she told me to feed TBIQ a certain type of high-calorie artificially-flavored and -sweetened pudding instead of yogurt. She told me that the pudding came in two flavors: banana and strawberry.

Read the whole story.

Part of her post is about comparing health care in America to that of another country. But I had a similar experience in the U.S., with a doctor who wanted me to cut back nursing to three times a day to fatten up my baby. (If any of you have nursed a baby, you would know that suddenly cutting back would cause engorgement pain to mom; ouch. An ignorant doctor). Another doctor, the senior doctor in the office, had already suggested I feed my previous baby butter, eggs and cream at ten months. I switched to another doctor, who said that babies often plateau at eight months. He is now a healthy twelve year old (and he rarely has gotten sick in his life, mostly just sneezing allergies while in New Jersey that “miraculously” disappeared when he went to camp in Western Pennsylvania this summer). As an aside, when my breast-fed babies were moving from breast milk to food, they all seemed to like chulent.

So my question to you, dear readers, is have you ever been confronted with a situation where a health care provider says you should do something that does not feel right? Do you have a hard time speaking up for yourself? Did you take some action that you would like to share?

31 thoughts on “Disagreeing about Health Care

  • Fascinating story. I feel for the nursing mother, as I was one for four years to a very healthy baby who is now a healthy 30-year-old, and I got some negative advice at that time.

    But what I want to relate is the (simplified, of course) story of my back surgery. I had problems for years, finally went online and self-diagnosed as stenosis, got an MRI, went to three different neurosurgeons, all of whom recommended a highly involved and invasive surgery with rods and pins “in case it comes back later” and went with a minimally invasive procedure to rotor-rooter some space for the pinched spinal cord. I didn’t even stay overnight in the hospital. My recovery was quick and steady and now, three years later, it’s like a totally new life, with NO problems. I am SO GLAD I listened to my instincts about what was right for me.

  • A collegue did not give milk to her young son for one year because the pedatrician thought he was allergic to milk. In fact he had a bad earache. She only found out when she started havig doubts and consulted another pediatrician.
    Thanks for linking to my chulent post.

  • Ilana-Davita, I keep wondering if anyone will comment on my little chulent aside. Thanks for sharing the story about the young son. I’m glad she was able to find someone else to consult. Poor kid, if he had an earache for a whole year!

  • My babies liked cholent too.
    As a breastfeeding counselor, I try to “empower” the mother to talk with her doctor when she questions the doctor’s advice.
    Cutting back on nursing does not help an older (or younger) baby gain weight. Breast milk is higher in calories than most solid foods (but I’m not sure about tehina!)

  • Mother in Israel, sounds like this sort of thing happens to often. I wish I knew you eleven years ago. You probably would have been a good counselor!

  • What a powerful topic. I can’t remember when I first started hearing horror stories from the medical world, from horrendous errors made in hospitals, to tragic stories of results from vaccinations, to mix ups with medications, to complexities as one medicine has this effect and another to counter it and another to counter more ad naseum. Those sad stories of babies’ deaths from vaccinations I may have first heard at baby fairs when mine were little, which started me on the road to questioning alot of what the medical world assumes we must swallow (literally). I found Mothering Magazine, a wonderful support for my early years of mothering which didn’t conform to the rest of the let them cry it out world. I felt fortunate to have La Leche in those early years. Now I feel wonderfully fortunate (as those who read my interview know) to be following macrobiotics. I have a friend about to publish a book following her experience with cancer and afterwards spending three years gathering stories of others who healed with macrobiotics. I am privileged to be editing it now and finding it filled with stories of people who were not ready to go along with the physician’s advice (or worse, were told there was nothing they could do, go home and prepare your leave. How awful). My favorite story is of a patient who was told he would die soon and he outlived his physician (that’s from a different book).

    I am not saying all doctors are wrong. I am not saying there isn’t worth in the sciences. I am saying there are other ways, and it takes a very brave person to search out the other ways.

  • Klara, I really appreciate your perspective. And I also appreciate the doctors (and nurses) that do see there is more than one route to healing. And are capable of saying, “we don’t know everything.” Western medicine works marvels at emergency medicine, like a broken leg. Chronic illness seems to be harder. And I wish prevention were more valued in a doctor’s office. I’ve heard doctors say, my patients aren’t going to do that anyway, so why should I tell them that?

    I understand doctors still get very little nutrition studies in med school.

  • After much research and soul searching, I have decided to forego mammograms. I feel that the dangers of radiation and compression far outweigh the benefits. My gynocologist (whose office was covered in Gardisil pens, scale covers, stirrup covers, note pads, etc) first tried to ‘order’ me to have a mammo; when I politely stated my views, he tried to bargain with me, “Just get them every two years”…. I finally took the prescription from him (it was a high pressure situation), and then threw it out. I’m comfortable with my decision and feel it’s right for me. The Doctor certainly didn’t see it that way…..

  • Trish, thanks for writing about mammograms. I hope you are following preventative measures against cancer (the simplest being throw out your margarine), so you are very concerned about the safety of the detection methods.

  • “have you ever been confronted with a situation where a health care provider says you should do something that does not feel right?”

    A bunch of people told me stories of their doctors telling them to mix stuff up into foods to get the medicine or fat in them, and then it always caused the child to never want to eat that food again. So it’s never smart to put medicine in a kids favorite food.

    One person said he ever switched doctors because the doctor told him to put stuff in tuna, which caused his kid not to eat tuna again.

    But yea, one of the babies I babysit for is halfway nursing, and the mother said the only food she’ll eat is chullent.

    Also, when I was little I went to an ear doctor who said that I should stop having dairy for that time. That was probably a big mistake, cause I never wanted to eat dairy again, because I had stopped for so long. So then after that my grandparents tried to make reward systems with me to get me to drink some milk to get calcium, but I just couldn’t do it. So now I get my calcium from orange juice. Although I do eat some dairy products, like ice cream and chocolate, where you can’t tell that there’s milk in there, like oud pretzels and stuff.

    Also, one of the mothers I babysit for told me a story of what happened when her son was born. That they thought he was having trouble breathing so the assistant medical student person tried to take the baby away for something, and the mother didn’t let, she said there’s nothing wrong with her baby. So then they had to get security to hold down the mother while they took the baby away. The kid is a perfectly healthy 8 year old now.

  • Babysitter, I’m wary of dairy. Could be the pesticides or the pasteurization or the dairy itself, but I’m not sure its as healthy as the dairy industry wants us to believe. Many Ashkenazi Jews are lactose intolerant (me, too). At some point, I’ll post more on dairy.

    And about the mom who had her baby taken away: I’m afraid a medical person might be able to relate an opposite story, where there really was a problem. It’s hard to say.

  • Leora: o, really, that’s nice to know that, so I shouldn’t feel so guilty every time my grandmother gives me a “milk speech”.

    right, so I’m not so sure about that story, when I heard it, I honestly thought perhaps something was wrong with the mother, cause wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry.

  • Babysitter, milk used to better for you, but nowadays it gets processed too much. A few details: “The nutritional hype is that milk is a great source of calcium. The high amount of phosphorus in cow’s milk interferes with calcium absorption. Aging in the human body prevents the absorption of calcium. The older you are the less calcium you are going to get from milk. Cow’s milk is also high in lactose, a carbohydrate sugar that bothers many sensitive individuals.” I just took that from here:
    It’s all stuff I’ve read elsewhere.

    Still, if someone doesn’t have problems with dairy, raw milk is supposed to be quite healthy. But the government doesn’t believe in raw milk.

    Your grandmother loves you and means well.

  • Leora: right, so that makes sense why they would all try to get me to have the milk when I was young so that I could absorb the calcium. Thanx for looking it up copying it over here for me to read.

    raw milk as in straight from the cow?

    right, I know she means well. She’s very much the grandmotherly type that means well.

  • Babysitter, raw milk as in not pasteurized. Don’t worry about it, you can’t get it in the supermarket, anyway. But some people say it can help with certain ailments. Others just like the fresher taste. The FDA still says it’s a no-no.

  • B”H

    Ok, where to start, where to start????

    Let’s start first with the milk myth. Think about it, guys, cow’s milk is designed to be the perfect food… to turn a baby calf into a huge cow or bull in the space of a year or two (how long do cows nurse???) how could that possibly be healthy for an adult person? the best you can say it’s it’s not unhealthy for some people IF it’s fat free. I’ve been a vegan for 19 years (vegetarian for 31) and, believe me, (I’m sure Leora can vouch for me) there’s nothing wrong with my bones (quite the contrary, BTW).

    Ok, what next???? Nutrition and doctors…. Yeah, the average fat person knows more about nutrition than the average doctor. Alternative med docs (including chiropractors) know more about nutrition, but, then again, so do many health food store owners. I personally read whatever I can get my hands on (including the newsletters for Dr. Julian Whitaker and Dr. David Williams and I’m thinking of subscribing to others). It’s amazing the stuff you can find out from these newsletters (the dangers of pharmaceuticals, the wonders of Vitamin D, for example)

    Though I’ve never been (and likely will never be) a mother, I am an aunt and have had some experience with the feeding and care of infant nieces and nephews — important rules:

    1) Breast milk is best. If you’re vegan, you should breast feed (must breast feed????) until age two because there are fatty acids that older children can get from nut butters but up to age two they can’t digest them and need the breast milk

    2) Never give your baby dairy (if you’re not vegan) until they are at least one full year old

    3) Babies (and even little children if they haven’t been corrupted by junk food) are much more in tune with their bodies. They will let you know what they need if you give them the opportunity to choose from a large variety of foods (when they are old enough for solids) — and they will let you know when they need solids if you listen to them (obviously, unless you have a child like Stewie Griffith on Family Man they won’t vocalize it, but they have ways of letting you know)

    Next — don’t EVER be afraid to question a doctor, throw out a prescription, ask someone else about something a doc said. Some docs are really ignorant, some are on power trips, some are just sexist (yes, even some women docs are sexist). They don’t know everything and far too many of them think they’re G-d.

    I’ve had docs who gave me horrible advice (thank goodness I don’t listen and know enough to know what’s cr**). One doc once told me (when I was about 19) that my tonsils were infected and if I didn’t get them taken out, the poison would go from them and give me a heart attack. Needless to say, I pegged him as a dim bulb right then and there and went to the ENT (Ear Nose and Throat Doc) — I was working at the VA at the time. Dr. ENT told me Dr. 1 was an idiot (not in so many words, but you get the idea). I subsequently found out that the tonsils are more important than anyone knew before — they (and the appendix, BTW) are part of the immune system — don’t snip unless ABSOLUTELY necessary (like a bursting appendix that would kill you if not removed…). I once had a doc tell me that two high sugar tests (not fasting tests, mind you, and her definition of high was a fasting number for a non-fasting test, but I digress) was defined as diabetes (not so — diabetes myelitis means either the pancreas doesn’t make insulin — type 1 — or the body isn’t using it properly — type 2. The test is merely a way of diagnosing it and, as such, isn’t infallible. She further said, after telling me to take drugs to which I answered that I’d talk to my alt Dr., that if I didn’t take drugs I should find a new doc. I didn’t take the drugs and did find a new doc.

    My current doc is used to me by now (I’ve been seeing him probably about 10 or so years) — last summer, I badly cut my finger and didn’t go to the emergency room (I had a bad experience there too) — stopped the bleeding finally and went to the doc the next day as an emergency. After telling me I should have gone to the e room, and understanding why I didn’t (as I said, he knows me 😉 he said took care of it with butterfly bandages and a gauze cover. Then he told me that most docs recommend tetanus shots in these cases. I said, “You know how I feel about that” and he said, “yes, I just wanted to put down that you refused” (cover his A** — that’s why they do what they do, so they shouldn’t get sued) after which I assured him that he could record that I refused.

    I’m glad to hear others who don’t want to “do” mammograms. I did one a few years ago and they called me back because they couldn’t read it (I had told them when it was happening that something was wrong, but did they listen to me??? no!) — the stress I felt going back and all was so awful, I think it was probably worse for me to go through that. BTW, I eat tons of curry these days — ginger and turmeric, which I’m eating by the carloads, are both anti-cancer spices.

    Stick with “G-d’s pharmacy” (my phrase for nutrition answers) IMHO.


    ps — Leora, I’m sure you expected me to comment on this 😀

  • If you are a vegan and nursing, you need to be sure that your breastmilk contains enough vitamin B12. There was a case in Israel of a vegan mother whose baby had serious developmental issues because of lack of vitamin B12. The mother had been vegan for a long time.

  • In Debbie’s case, I’m sure (without even asking her) she gets enough B12, because she probably gets bothered with that question all the time.

    But you are right, Mother in Israel, that many people that go on vegan diets do not have her knowledge and may skip important nutrients, the most common being Vitamin B12.

    About going to the emergency room or not, I have a friend who is a nurse who didn’t want to go. She took care of it and found alternate health care, but the hesitancy about emergency rooms seems to be an issue. My best experience with an emergency room was when the doctor called ahead to say we were coming (when my daughter was a toddler). We got special treatment. Indeed, I think we inspired jealousy, but I learned to tell the doctor to call the hospital and say to expect us (I had to go later with my son, when he bumped his head in school).

  • Maybe I’m really lucky, but I work with physicians, and they are some of the most intelligent and balanced people I have met. On the very rare occasions they tell a mother not to breast feed, it’s either because the baby’s immediate health is threatened by breast milk (i.e. it would cause brain or liver or some other damage) or something in the medicines the baby is taking would be destroyed by the breast milk and therefore rendered ineffective. These babies are extremely ill, though, and not at all in a regular situation.

    I agree with you about the B-12, it’s crucial to monitor in vegan children and adults through regular blood tests.

    Regarding emergency rooms, in Israel we are advised to always take an ambulance (and if that would take longer than a private car, then to call an ambulance and have it meet you on the way to the hospital) because the ambulance staff begins the registration process on the way to the emergency room, saving the triage process once you arrive. I guess the U.S. equivalent could be the MD calling ahead.

    Mammograms? Don’t know. I’ve already had several breast tissue ultrasounds and biopsies for different findings (all harmless, thank G-d) so if they tell me to get a mammogram, I go!

    As for a general comment regarding the demeanor of medical practitioners, here in Israel, communication training is now a required part of the medical school curriculum, along with training specifically in the field of moral dilemmas. I don’t know how many of the physicians I work with have completed such training, but they all act as though they have, and it’s impressive.

  • Thanks for all these positive experiences, ALN. I am glad that someone who works with those in the medical profession is offering a perspective. I have been impressed with what I have heard from bloggers about the current state of health care in Israel.

  • oof – just wrote nice long reply and pushed a wrong button – ok, this is too important to not try again.

    I too admire the doctors here in Israel, but just the experience of MADA (Mogen David Adom) can be weary – you come in – usually in the middle of the night – and end up waiting and waiting and waiting – and if they want to be on the side of caution, they send you to a hospital – where you wait and wait and wait – only to find out hours later you can go home, they found nothing (thank G-d) – it’s hard when your child is looking to you to make it go away, and you’re feeling helpless in the big medical bureaucratic world.

    I totally agree with you Leora that prevention is absolutely what is needed. The problem is that there is such a flood of confusing information that it’s hard for people to sort out what is good for their body. (and that’s for the strong souls who can ignore the very pressurizing ads everywhere) Just look at all the confusion around milk just amongst this aware group of readers (smile). I also feel strongly regarding getting food from G-d’s pharmacy as Debbie put it, tho that too can be open to lots of different interpretations. But also as Debbie said, so clear G-d did a great job, and intended the mother cow’s milk for her baby calf, just as He intended the human mother’s milk for the human baby – aren’t we lucky no one’s come up with the idea of milking us for all we’re worth so they can give our milk to, I don’t know, elephants?? doesn’t it all seem so absurd??

    Yes, the issue of B12 is crucial for vegans – Christina Pirello writes about this eye opening experience she had – I’m afraid to go off the page and lose this again, so if you can’t find it (google her – she wrote about it in her last newsletter – but also I believe in The Macrobiotic Guide) I’ll come back and post the link.

    Our bodies are indeed wonderful – and for some reason can take alot of abuse and still do well. We’re so lucky!!

  • OK, Klara, I googled her (Christine Pirello). Will read more later. Now help me come up with an idea for a new health post.

    Prevention is the one we have in our hands; I’m not giving up the doctors and nurses, but I’d like to see them less, if possible.

  • just so I don’t send you on a wild goose ride, I went checking – here’s her experience with lack of B12: http://macrobiotics.co.uk/articles/dilemma.htm

    (and just a correction, it’s Christina, “a” at the end). But first I went searching on her site and got lost in her blog, you might enjoy that. She’s witty and has a lot of good things to say, note her entry on how some people just don’t like to cook!!!!

    That I think is the crux of the matter – that and our super busy lives – or super filled, whichever way you want to look at it.

    I remember reading somewhere that how we spend our time shows where our true interests lie (I spend way more time on the computer than the kitchen :>) ). There are some people so very ill, but tell them they can get cured if they just cook up some healthy foods, and it’s oh no, I can’t be bothered!!!

    I wrote about it on my discussion group – not sure it can be read unless you’re a member (all are welcome if you’re interested in macrobiotics and Torah Judaism) for all its worth here’s the post:
    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/MacroloversofJerusalem/message/4186. In one line basically I wrote in today’s society, we all just want it easy!!!!

    so my suggestion for the next health post topic would be, “ok, so now that we know, how do we change our old food habits?” or something similar, just how do we change? Sometimes I speak on the phone for hours with a friend whom I try to encourage to post on my discussion group, and her response, oh no I don’t have time – funny no? We have time for that which we like. So how come cooking up a storm (or even just a small drizzle) (and cleaning up after!!!) doesn’t attract us?

  • Klara, the comment went to my spam file because of the two links. I fished it out. So much to learn, so little time! It does get overwhelming.

    I’ll think about how to word a new health post; I greatly appreciate your input.

  • Klara, time is of course an issue, but a lot of people just never learned how. All of the tasks that need to go into getting a meal on the table (and cleaning up afterward) can seem overwhelming.

  • B”H

    I do take a B-complex — it has plenty of B12.

    Just so you all should know, eating animal products in no way guarantees that you will have enough B12. B12 is created by a specific microorganism and antibiotics, which are given routinely to animals raised for meat, eggs and dairy, both to fatten them up and to keep microorganism caused disease from running rampant in factory farms. So much of the animal products consumed in the US lacks sufficient B12.

    BTW, Vitamin D is also very important, especially:

    1) for the elderly
    2) if you live in the North (north of a line that would connect Atlanta to Los Angeles)
    3) in the winter

    RDA’s for Vitamin D are way too low. It’s now recommended that people take AT LEAST 1000 IU (old RDA’s were about 400 IU).


  • Debbie, good reason to eat the organic chickens.
    Vitamin D is all over the news. I like the sunshine method, but it’s not always so easy to get sunshine.

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