The Digestive Tract: Meeting of the Mind, Body and More
Joe Kellerstein, DC, ND
The digestive tract is a great testing ground for the ”vision” of a naturopathic doctor. The gut is considered external to the body and yet, strangely enough, I don’t think of mine that way. In many ways it is the meeting point of mind (stress response), body and internal/external environs. Many typical expressions speak very profoundly to this: “I can’t stomach this,” “I can’t swallow this,” “Give me time to digest that,” etc. We assimilate our food, thoughts, emotions and the external world. Rarely does the gut act alone. There are almost always concomitant circumstances that impact its behavior. The problem is always multisystem. I fear that as NDs we know this but don’t reflect that knowledge in our treatment regimes. We have become allopathic to the extreme – perhaps not in our use of harmful drugs, but in our reductionistic biochemical thinking. Too often, the endpoint of our philosophy is the almighty supplement. For homeopathy, holistic thinking is prerequisite.
Phyllis is a bright, attractive 28-year-old lady with a very engaging manner. She has been suffering chronic headaches since she was five years old, and has had a bowel issue tenuously diagnosed as IBS since age 18. Her father is severely schizophrenic, and her parents have divorced.
- Headaches: Occur at least once per week. During high school they occurred daily. Pains are pulsating and located frontally, especially over the left eye. When she is upset and crying, they are guaranteed. With the pain, lying with the head low is useful. Fresh air is nice. The headaches will often come on in the morning. Eating breakfast is important. Staring at computer screens, perfumes and loss of sleep will aggravate. There is a good degree of weather sensitivity. Weather changes can be felt – spring, fall or the approach of rain. Worse during menses. Pains have a slow onset and decline.
- IBS: Has been more problematic the last three or four years. Cramps are debilitating: “I can’t move. I am in the washroom eight or nine times a day.” Mucous stool, which is black and thick. There is no obvious blood at present. Pains are cutting, stabbing and ameliorated walking outside. There will be three to five movements before leaving in the morning, initially normally firm and becoming progressively loose. Passing stool is effortless. The painful part is the stab in the abdomen: “It comes on quickly and it feels like I have to rub hard into the side where the pain is. If it all gets severe, I become weak and get bluish-purple under the eyes. It seems to aggravate after major emotion. I tend to get involved with everyone else’s stuff. I become overwhelmed and physically crash.”
- Menses: Heavy; seven days. The blood is bright red, but there is definite weakness with the flow. Menses are regular since taking oral contraceptive pill (prior was very irregular). Since the pill, the patient has had yeast overgrowth and menses are heavier.
- Appetite: Desires French vanilla ice cream (intensity of 1 on a scale of 0-4) and olives (intensity 2), and has an aversion to fish (intensity 2).
- Sleep: She cannot fall asleep on the back; prefers to be covered and in a warm room.
- Nature: “I love to laugh. I am sensitive. Easily taken advantage [of]. I suffer fear and anxious thoughts if alone at night. I hate being sad. I do everything to avoid that.”
What strikes one about the disease is the reflex rubbing of the onset of severe pain. The patient is sensitive to weather, perfume and is sympathetic. Clearly, Phosphorous is indicated. However, is another remedy indicated first? She has clearly changed in menstrual pattern and yeast since the use of the pill (discontinued now).
Plan: Sepia 200c. Single dose. Wait one cycle.
Soon after the remedy, Phyllis reported lots of short stabbing pains and lots of diarrhea. Eight to ten movements per day. It has eased off since, but without improvement. No change in menses. No occurrence of yeast. Diarrhea is still bad in the morning. Now, she is feeling pronounced numbness of fingertips two or three times per week.
Assessment: Aggravation without improvement and intensification of numbness. It seems as if the vitality is again pointing toward Phosphorus. I can’t get away from it. (Organon tells us that the vitality will help clarify the correct remedy if we make a mistake.)
Plan: Phosphorus 200c. Follow up in one month.
The patient reports that her bowels have been quite good. No pain and very little diarrhea since the remedy. Headaches are also much improved.
Assessment: Remedy useful. Response quick and without aggravation.
Plan: Repeat as needed at first hint of relapse.
Over the next three years, Phyllis suffered several relapses, each usually with a combination of emotional stress and weather changes. Each became an opportunity to increase the potency of the remedy, which seemed to take effect within 24 hours and last approximately four to six months. Relapses are less and less intense.
Joe Kellerstein, DC, ND graduated as a chiropractor in 1980 and as a naturopathic physician in 1984. He graduated with a specialty in homeopathy from the Canadian Academy for Homeopathy, and subsequently lectured there for two years. He also lectured in homeopathy for several years at CCNM; for eight years at the Toronto School of Homeopathic Medicine; and for two years at the British Institute for Homeopathy. Kellerstein’s mission is the exploration of natural medicine in a holistic context, especially homeopathy and facilitating the experience of healing in clients.