Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cultural Differences in Medicine~ Who is Right?

Living in a foreign country gives you an interesting perspective of your home country. I could write hundreds of posts on how my perspectives have focused, blurred and even changed on different topics; but today here are a few of my observations on medicine.

The fine print: I am not a Doctor. These views are just my own experiences, thoughts and observations.

When we moved to Beijing I had a very distinct outlook that all of our healthcare would be taken care of on our visits back to the United States, unless it was an absolute emergency. We packed an entire suitcase full of over-the-counter medications, prepared for any ailment that might occur over the next 24 months. I kept a close inventory about what we were using and replenished the hoard on our visits home. 

It somehow changed over time. Our health insurance is really good as an expat family so hubby began to take advantage of the International hospital here. He even decided to get a long overdue shoulder surgery. I even gave Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) a try for my pinched nerves. 

But the real purpose of this post was a couple of things that happened at the Dr. today. 

Hubby went in because he has been being looked at for low white blood cell counts. A specialist came in today to check him out. As she was feeling around in his abdomen she called the other Dr. over to feel. They began to speak in Chinese. I thought, "here we go...they found a mass..." Hubby was thinking the same thing so he asked what was up. They both began to giggle and one Dr. explained that they were noticing how different American flesh feels compared to Chinese flesh. In a very polite way they implied the fat content (and hubby is pretty slim right now). We all laughed. It made an impression on all of us, though, how our cultures affect our health. 
**Don't get me started on my biggest pet peeve: how "obese" and unhealthy Americans are when so many other cultures smoke packs of cigarettes a day!**

Here was the biggest thing for me today! 
They discussed with hubby about medications he takes. We both said that we take our fair share of Ibuprofen for regular aches and pains. They began discussing with us all of the negative effects that Ibuprofen (among other OTC meds) has on our bodies. They even think that the Ibuprofen could be causing something with his bone marrow that resulted in low white blood cell counts, just a theory as of now. 

But it really got me to thinking. . . I take a lot of Advil! Especially around my period because I have horrid cramps. But I take it at the slightest occurrence of discomfort, I think in prevention of not wanting to feel pain. I never even thought seriously that doing that could be doing damage, especially when I work so hard to eat healthy and exercise. 

I am not one to be an extreme and I do believe moderation in anything is the key. My goal is to use Ibuprofen in moderation from now on. 

But here are some things that it got me to thinking about, when it comes to medicine in the US. 
I would really love to know how you feel about these questions. No judgement here!

  • Do you use over-the-counter medication as a last resort or as prevention for pain and symptoms?
  • Do you feel, when you go to the Doctor, that they are quick to write a prescription? Or is medication usually a last resort? I understand that each circumstance and Doctor are a different.
  • One thing that is glaringly different is our tv commercials and magazine ads for medication. Do you remember a time when that wasn't the case? I do! How do you think drug company advertisements have changed our views on medication?
  • I am not even going to ask a question about drug companies and their relation to our government (because that is a whole other can of worms) but it is something I think about.
  • As a parent, what do you teach your children about over-the-counter medications?
I am not implying that medication is bad or that we shouldn't use it. I am just wondering if our culture has gotten a little bit casual in taking it. Do you agree or disagree?

1 comment:

Riddlez said...

Totally agree! Lots of inflammation is because of the way we eat and we would rather eat yummy, unhealthy food and overmedicate than eat yummy, lean, healthy foods and stay away from drugs. I'm definitely guilty, but since I've become educated about this subject, I've had a big change in the drugs I take on a daily basis. Huge difference for me physically and mentally!