healthcare

7 natural remedies to have in your home

Last week I was down with the flu (or some heavy cold with fever and coughs and muscle pains) AND I burned my hand with hot oil AND I went to the dentist who left me with a bruised palate

Oh yes, it was a great week.... to use all the natural home remedies I love. :D

***Please make sure to read my disclaimer before reading the rest of the article, always ask for medical advice with your own healthcare professional, GP or pharmacist and always use medication and supplements (pharmaceutical or natural remedies like naturopathic or herbal medicine) as prescribed on the package insert.***

The 'common cold' (rhinitis) 

Echinacea 

Echinacea comes in drops or capsules or tea. I hate capsules so I always use drops and tea. When the R is in the month (September until April) I drink at least one cup of tea with Echinacea in it. It enhances your immune system and helps to fight off bugs before they get to you. When a virus enters our home, I start my drops too. Sometimes it helps me to prevent catching the bug myself, and if not, it sure helps because of the immune system boost. 

Chamomile 

I use this as a tea. Chamomile soothes the throat and has antiseptic qualities. You can use it just to drink and clear the throat, you can add some honey to it to enhance the antibacterial properties and to make swallowing easier. You can also gargle with it. 

Saltwater

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water and gargle with it (not so nice) or use it as nose spray or drops to dilute mucus in the nose. This really helps to keep the airway free and it prevents the sinuses from getting inflamed. It's important to keep the entry to the sinuses open, you don't want a sinusitis on top of your cold. It takes way longer to recover from that.

 

The flu (influenza)

Fluids

Drink a lot when you have a fever. It helps to clear out the toxins that are produced by fighting the influenza virus. It also helps regulate your temperature, due to fever the body loses much more fluids. Preferably drink water, herbal tea and broth, not just water. Broth will help to compensate for the loss of salts through transpiration when there is a fever.

Homemade chicken soup

I don't know why but this is one of the best remedies. Ask someone to bring you homemade chicken soup. Processed foods somehow don't have the same effect. 

Note: If your fevers don't break, or when there are other symptoms present like shortness of breath, extreme coughing, pain in the upper torso, muscle weakness, drowsiness, vomiting, diarrhoea, and so on, always consult your doctor. Be aware that influenza can lead to pneumonia when severe, even in healthy young individuals.

 

Bruises

Arnica

For bruises, muscle aches from working out or straining the muscles too much, Arnica is a helpful natural remedy. You can find it as drops, or salve to apply locally. The salve works perfectly on bruises and bumps, also with your children. For severe muscle pain or tore muscles, I use the drops to ingest for a systemic approach. I also used them after childbirth, to heal the damaged tissues faster (it was recommended by my midwife). And I recently learned that it can also be helpful in emotional 'bruises' and growth pain, for example when you are in a difficult painful life event or transformational process. 

 

Burns

Aloë vera

The best home remedy for burns from a heat source like hot water, oil, fire or hot objects or sunburned skin is Aloë vera. It is a plant you probably have in your home already. It's a very easy, difficult to kill plant ;-) that you can put everywhere in your home. When there is a burn, always cool first, with lukewarm water. Cold water can lead to hypothermic shock and constricted blood vessels, which is not helping to remove the heat out of the tissues. After thorough cooling (15 minutes), apply some fresh Aloë vera gel. To get the gel, cut off a leave of the plant, and slice it in half lengthwise. You can use the inside of the leave as a bandage or just put on the gel/liquid from the inside to the burns. It takes out the heat and the pain. You can repeat this if needed.

In the following situations, ALWAYS seek IMMEDIATE medical care:

  • burns larger than 2 cm/1 inches in diameter
  • burns on the hands or the face (in children)
  • when the burn changed the color of the skin to completely black or white (possible 3rd-degree burns)
  •  presence of other symptoms
  • when the burn is caused by electric shock

You can also use Aloë vera with other skin conditions, like rashes or scratches, to help them heal and to soften the skin. 

Please share your personal favorites in the comments! Which natural remedies do you use often?

#metoo - witnessing sexual harassment in the medical workplace

#metoo - witnessing sexual harassment in the medical workplace

The Truth must be uncovered to heal the wound. In this blog post, I recalled my experiences with sexual harassment in the medical workplace, inspired by a medical colleague who walked away from the healthcare system years ago (Dr. Lissa Rankin).

Paradigm

Apart from some traumatic events that were quite raw or graphic in nature, there were a few other pivotal moments in my years of medical training that I remember vividly. One of those moments was a lecture on Ethics and Philosophy in my second year of med school which was considered extremely boring by my peers, and to be honest, I thought it was pretty dull too. It was about the role of science in medicine.

*yawn*

Until an unfamiliar word was mentioned. Although I consider myself having a large vocabulary, I had never heard it before. As the Ethics professor spoke on the topic he used the word paradigm.

I believe the context was something like this: "Science as we know it has its rules, regulations, and guidelines to ensure that what is discovered matches the idea of science itself, which is that the truth only exists when we can prove it, using those rules, regulations, and guidelines. When we are not able to prove something, or when we can prove it but it doesn't match the rules, it, therefore, can't be proven. That is the paradigm of science. If we think about the fact that paradigms can change, it is foreseeable that science as we know it, will someday become obsolete, or at least challenged to a large extent."

par·a·digm

(păr′ə-dīm′, -dĭm′)

n.

1. One that serves as a pattern or model.

2. A set or list of all the inflectional forms of a word or of one of its grammatical categories: the paradigm of an irregularverb.

3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

This woke me up in a second. What if everything we were taught could change when the rules changed? I couldn't wrap my head around it but this concept of changing paradigms stayed with me over the years. Later, when I was working in science, doing research, reading and writing articles, and people around me were arguing the relevance of their research or trying to convince (or destroy) others with their point of view, it helped me to see the bigger picture. It gave me the perspective and the ability to see science (and 'truth' for a lot of colleagues) for what it was: a temporary set of rules we were working in agreement with until it changed. It made life as a Ph.D. researcher a whole lot easier.

At this moment in history, we live in a world of environmental, economic, political and humanitarian crisis. We see old systems fail. Global warming due to the excessive and disproportionate use of fossil fuels requires investment in sustainable energy sources. The financial system is still trying to overcome the inflation of loans and credits leaving people and organizations bankrupt. Politics is heavily influenced by money and power and lost the connection with the people and core values entirely. While globalization happened and planes can fly us everywhere, we face the largest refugee crisis on the planet. The call for a paradigm change is everywhere. The old systems are dying and we need new structures to be able to continue the evolution of humanity. Today I read about this word 'paradigm' every other day, it seems. We need a new paradigm and it's already happening.

This is also the case in healthcare. People are getting older, but not always healthier or enjoying more quality of life. We have the technology to 'fix' a lot of diseases but it doesn't heal people. We are so disconnected from nature and from our own bodies that we do the wrong things, the things that make us sick, and we forgot how to heal ourselves. Healthcare professionals are trying the best they can, with limited resources, with ever more patients to treat, with less budget from the insurance companies or governments, and the ideological drive of 'helping people' or 'healing others' is worn out, leading to massive amounts of care providers with burnout, mental illness like depression, PTSD, anxiety, addictions and even suicide. We need to acknowledge that the current healthcare system is failing, in order to find other ways. The paradigm needs to shift.

There are many layers of human existence that we are just beginning to understand. Intuition, energy fields, energy systems in the body. Research in the field of quantum physics is showing us that the concepts of energy and matter, consciousness, and manifestation are connected. Concepts the ancient Eastern doctors, yogis, and shamans of the world already knew about thousands of years ago. Ideas and techniques that were abandoned and destroyed, because the patriarchal societal structures of ancient Greece, and later the Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam, were threatened by the innate power these concepts provided to every human being. Submission was forced upon the people, in order to control them for the sake of money and power. And it made humanity ill, in many ways. We need the old ways of healing so desperately. Knowledge of herbs, energy healing, meditation, shamanic journeying, the body-mind connection, spiritual healing, the power of intention and manifestation ('magic'). Not with the purpose of going back in time, in this day and age it's needed for progress and evolution. Western medicine has brought us so many technological and biological progress if we are able to connect that to the field of energy, quantum physics and natural healing this will lead to a huge step in the evolution of medicine and healthcare.

I'm looking forward to it, I'm convinced it will come in the next 50 years. The paradigm is changing. And it's changing fast.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in the most primitive form - this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of true religiousness. The Cosmic religious experience is the strongest and oldest mainspring of scientific research. My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.

- Albert Einstein

Letter to my colleagues

Dear fellow doctors,

This letter is directed to two of you. We share the same educational background, we are all trained to be Medical Doctors. I met you last year during a difficult phase in my life where I encountered acute physical problems. This was not the first time for me, however, these particular encounters were part of a traumatic experience that changed my life. I should have written complaints to you individually 9 months ago. Unfortunately I was in such a bad shape that I couldn't force myself to do it back then. I was recovering from emergency surgery, could barely sit or breathe and I was suffering from arrhythmia attacks. So, consider yourself lucky that it took me too long to recover to file a formal complaint and that my story only makes it to be a letter on my blog today. And that I'm somehow grateful that you were part of my final eye-opener.

September 2016 - I came to the emergency GP office in the evening hours. I was suffering from severe abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant for 2 days and my regular GP was very worried. He did some lab work and we were waiting for the results to come in the next morning. He told me 'not too wait and go see the out of office GP during the evening or night whenever the pain got worse'. He also told me that however the next day was his day off, he would come in and see me. Doctors don't tell you that often. 

The pain got worse, I was keeling over at the couch. We left the children sleeping in their beds to go see the GP at 10 pm. You don't do that easily as a mother. The neighbour agreed to sit downstairs to keep an eye. 

The GP didn't listen. I told him it was something related to my ovary or uterus, that it reminded me of labour pains. He said that couldn't be true. He poked around in my abdomen and told me 'now it hurts everywhere, doesn't it?'. I wouldn't call it a decent physical exam. He refused to do an internal examination 'because I wasn't having so much pain'. He refused to look up the lab results. He told me I was having irritable bowel complaints. I have been suffering from digestive issues since I was a child, so I know what bowel pain is. This was different. He didn't care. I told him I was a doctor myself and that I thought it was something else. He seemed offended and asked me patronisingly 'what severe and very rare cause I was thinking about then'. And he laughed at me when I suggested a few not so unlikely things. And then he discharged me. 

The next day I was admitted to the hospital with a twisted and dying right ovary. I had to have emergency surgery right away. Fortunately they could save my ovary. This might not have been the case if I had decided to skip my morning appointment with my regular GP because the GP of the night before had installed a deep feeling in me of 'overreacting'. The only reason I went to the appointment was because my regular GP had told me to come and see me on his day off. I didn't want him to come for nothing.

In the hospital I told 9 people I didn't want morphine or other opioids after surgery because my body wouldn't take that very well. I told 3 ward nurses, 2 gynaecologists, 3 anaesthetic nurses and the anaesthesiologist herself. She told me just before I went to sleep 'we will see'. I woke up totally sedated and later found out I was given opioids anyway. I suffered from severe tachycardia from the side effects through the night - my heart ran the marathon while I was laying in bed unable to move. It tore my body to shreds and was the last push over the edge.

I didn't recover for months. I couldn't walk. I couldn't sit. I couldn't breathe. I was suffering from arrhythmia attacks - my heart rate would be over 160 bpm for hours. I was diagnosed with severe physical exhaustion, burnout and supra ventricular tachycardia. I couldn't sleep or eat. My BMI dropped to below 20. I was having panic attacks 24/7. I couldn't take care of my kids. I couldn't work, and that was the least of my problems. 

Why this letter? I sought medical help because I expected to be helped. To receive healing. To ask for support. But you, my colleagues, medical doctors, although you think you did, you didn't heal, help or support me.

You misdiagnosed and mistreated me. You harmed me. You made me sicker. You abused me. You made fun of me, you laughed at my pain. You dismissed my suggestions, my knowledge about my own body, my medical knowledge even. You almost let a critical organ die. You gave me medication against my permission that almost killed me. 

You killed my faith in the medical profession. 

So, tell me, how could a patient trust you? How should they put their life in your hands? They don't know about hospitals, or procedures. They have no clue. How do you treat the voiceless, the weak? 

Do you rely on your authority only? Forcing them in the name of medicine and science? Neglecting what they tell you about their symptoms, their bodies? The body THEY know best, because they have lived inside of it for their whole lives? 

Why did you go into medicine? To be an authoritarian figure in a sick patriarchal healthcare system? Or do you want to be a good doctor, a healer, a compassionate co-creator of health? 

Only you know your motives. But I would strongly suggest that you read this letter if you want to be a good doctor. Listen to your patients, take them seriously and put your ego away before you harm others too. 

For me, this episode let to a profound belief that the medical system should change. Their is no way back. We need compassionate healthcare. We need true healers who work with patients instead of harming them. I am now determined to help people find health and happiness through their own power. And I sincerely hope, that when they need acute intervention, you will be there to help them heal too.

Yours sincerely, 

Willemijn Maas, MD

 

 

How to recognize burnout?

After having lived for 9 months with burnout syndrome I have learned a great deal about it.

As a Medical Doctor I had obviously heard about burnout, but I never knew that burnout was so physical and so scary. I always thought it was 'just being stressed and overworked and you will have to take a break'. Now that I'm 9 months in and still have concentration issues, more bad days of exhaustion and physical pain than good days, you won't ever hear me say that again. Burnout is a serious condition, with serious implications for the patient and his/her surroundings and has to be taken seriously to prevent life-long damage to the body, brain, coping abilities and career.

I'm on a mission now. I consider it my duty to share my story and some facts about burnout to educate people and to make them aware about it, so they can seek help and prevent hitting a brick wall.

Burnout is defined as a stress related disorder by the World Health Organisation and is considered one of the most prevalent stress-related disorders at this moment. It is especially prevalent in people within caring or serving professions (medical personnel, social workers, teachers), stressful positions or a combination of stressful situations, both at work and at home.

What is burnout?

The “burnout syndrome” has been defined as a combination of emotional exhaustion, cynicism or depersonalisation, and reduced personal accomplishment caused by chronic stress - World Health Organisation

Emotional exhaustion represents the basic individual stress dimensions of burnout and refers to feelings of being depleted of one’s emotional and physical resources. The cynicism or depersonalisation/detachment component represents the interpersonal context dimension of burnout and relates to difficulties in social relationships with self and others. Reduced accomplishment represents the self-evaluation dimension of burnout and refers to feelings of incompetence and a lack of achievement and productivity.

Usually, burnout is mentioned in the context of a job situation, but it can occur in other situations as well, for example due to severe interpersonal stress (conflict) or chronic stress in personal life (e.g. taking care of family members, life events). Contributing factors are high amounts of stress, high work load, heavy job demands, low supervisor or co-worker support (or family/friends), inconclusive communication and uncertainty about demands, conflict of responsibility (e.g. between expectations of the organisation and the employee, or conflict between work demands and personal needs), low control, low empowerment. Usually people with a coping strategy of striving, pushing through difficulties and persevering (the people you definitely want on board!!), are the ones who crash themselves into burnout. I can now absolutely see how my masculine energy that made me accomplish a lot in my life, finishing medical school in under 6 years for example, completely wiped out the balance and drove my head into the ground after 5 major life events and never taking a break to integrate and recuperate.

What struck me when I was confronted with burnout, were the prominent physical symptoms. It started with chest pains that I ignored for months, and I ended up suffering from palpitations, tachycardia (fast heartbeat while resting) of 170 bpm, sleeplessness, weight loss and severe problems in filtering light and sound. The latter made a visit to the grocery store between all the products and choices a true nightmare. Taking the kids to school or going to a classical music concert was also stepping into a hell of sound which I had to escape as soon as possible. What also struck me where the severe cognitive symptoms, like executive brain function disorders (I couldn't cook a meal or label a package anymore, I just didn't know how to perform small tasks). There is evidence that burnout changes neural circuits in the brain. It can lead to impaired memory and cognitive performance. It can also lead to impaired ability to modulate emotion, which means that it is harder to deal with strong emotions caused by stressful situations. The chronic stress that caused burnout, also created a vicious cycle of being less able to cope with stress.

How to recognise burnout?

Burnout is never something that happens overnight. The symptoms come and go and increase until a threshold is crossed. The symptoms that can tell you that burnout is imminent or happening, are listed below (source: www.psychologytoday.com).

  • Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:
  1. Chronic fatigue. In the early stages, you may feel a lack energy and feel tired most days. In the latter stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day. I wasn't able to sit upright for most of the day.
  2. Insomnia. In the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week. In the latter stages, insomnia may turn into a persistent, nightly ordeal; as exhausted as you are, you can't sleep.
  3. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can't get your work done and everything begins to pile up. Like I was having problems planning and organising simple tasks like cooking, schoolrun, packing bags, choosing groceries, making lists. Impossible. Talking on the phone or finishing a sentence took all my energy.
  4. Physical symptoms. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed). I was assessed for arrthythmia attacks.
  5. Increased illness. Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems. It's better I don't go into this... the list is endless.
  6. Loss of appetite. In the early stages, you may not feel hungry and may skip a few meals. In the latter stages, you may lose your appetite all together and begin to lose a significant amount of weight.
  7. Anxiety. Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes in your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life. I wasn't able to drive or use public transportation because of my anxiety, something I've never had before.
  8. Depression. In the early stages, you may feel mildly sad, occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. At its worst, you may feel trapped, severely depressed, and think the world would be better off without you. (If your depression is to this point, you should seek professional help immediately.)
  9. Anger. At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace. (If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or coworkers, seek immediate professional assistance.) 
  • Signs of Cynicism and Detachment
  1. Loss of enjoyment. At first, loss of enjoyment may seem very mild, such as not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave. Without intervention, loss of enjoyment may extend to all areas of your life, including the time you spend with family and friends. At work, you may try to avoid projects and figure out ways to escape work all together. This was very hard as I didn't want to slip into depression. Luckily I was always able to see the beauty in nature. 
  2. Pessimism. At first, this may present itself as negative self-talk and/or moving from a glass half-full to a glass half-empty attitude. At its worst, this may move beyond how you feel about yourself and extend to trust issues with coworkers and family members and a feeling that you can't count on anyone.
  3. Isolation. In the early stages, this may seem like mild resistance to socializing (i.e., not wanting to go out to lunch; closing your door occasionally to keep others out). In the latter stages, you may become angry when someone speaks to you, or you may come in early or leave late to avoid interactions. I have been stuck to my home for 6 months. I have never felt so alone in my entire life. I even felt disconnected from the Source.
  4. Detachment. Detachment is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment. It can take the form of the isolative behaviors described above, and result in removing yourself emotionally and physically from your job and other responsibilities. You may call in sick often, stop returning calls and emails, or regularly come in late.
  • Signs of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment
  1. Feelings of apathy and hopelessness. This is similar to what is described in the depression and pessimism sections of this article. It presents as a general sense that nothing is going right or nothing matters. As the symptoms worsen, these feelings may become immobilizing, making it seems like "what's the point?" My kids were the reason I pulled through, I don't know what would have happened if I didn't have them to be around for. 
  2. Increased irritability. Irritability often stems from feeling ineffective, unimportant, useless, and an increasing sense that you're not able to do things as efficiently or effectively as you once did. In the early stages, this can interfere in personal and professional relationships. At its worst, it can destroy relationships and careers. I remember being so angry with my sweet neighbours across the street for slamming the doors of their cars which I could hear through the wall (no filter....). 
  3. Lack of productivity and poor performance. Despite long hours, chronic stress prevents you from being as productive as you once were, which often results in incomplete projects and an ever-growing to-do list. At times, it seems that as hard as you try, you can't climb out from under the pile. Well, I'm so happy to have found my husband, he did EVERYTHING for months without complaining. I wasn't worth a dime in the home and he took care of the laundry, the kids, the dishes, the groceries...

Whenever you recognise a few of the symptoms from the lists, even mild ones, or when you think you are suffering from burnout or heading towards it with increasing speed, seek help. Stopping the train from derailing and taking a step back is more effective than having to remove the wreck from the track, like I had to do. Don't wait, take action towards self care, self compassion and talk to somebody who can help you in taking action if you can't.

Burnout is serious. I hope my story inspires you to take action TODAY.