Dr. Dale Peterson, Personal story,

My Personal Odyssey

My Personal Odyssey

© 1999 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

A number of years ago I found myself in a discomforting position. Throughout my medical career I had often stated, only partly in jest, that mothers and doctors were not allowed to get sick. It is an unwritten law of nature, I would state assuredly. Gradually, however, despite my best efforts to live in denial, my body was forcing me to admit that I was the exception that proved the rule. I was sick!

The thought that I was not the invincible specimen I had always prided myself in being was difficult to accept, but the facts were undeniable. Colds, which had always been rare, were becoming commonplace. Now if my throat became scratchy or sore I could expect it to progress to bronchitis or pneumonia.

I was tired. My sleep pattern was characterized by waking up as many as six times a night. Rosalie complained that I was running in my sleep and kicking her out of the bed. I struggled to wake up each morning, and felt as though my head was full of cobwebs. I would plod through the day and plop into an easy chair at night where I would sit until I raised the energy to climb the stairs and go to bed.

My hands and fingers hurt. I could hold a pen only by keeping my fingers and thumb perfectly straight. I began to wonder if I could continue to see patients, since that entailed writing instructions and prescriptions.

My future appeared dim. My father had died suddenly of a heart attack at age 54. He had been a non-smoker and physically active. Other male relatives had not fared much better. My cholesterol ratios made it clear that I was doomed to follow the family tradition of dying in the fifth or sixth decade of life. My life expectancy appeared to be down to single digits.

I learned that I did not respond well to the medical treatments I had been taught to administer. I tried numerous medications that were recommended to improve sleep, but they only left me more groggy the next day. I took anti-inflammatories for my joint pain, but my stomach became irritated and the joint problem worsened. I tried all the standard cholesterol-lowering medications, but I found that the ones that were the best at improving my numbers caused unbearable muscle pain.

Self-preservation is a powerful motivator. I began to look for answers beyond the established boundaries of my profession. I found hope at a most unexpected time and place.

I had been invited to a lecture on cholesterol management. In the middle of the talk the speaker said something that caught my ear – it certainly didn’t catch his, for he went on to recommend the latest and greatest drug for lowering cholesterol – and it gave me a new sense of hope and opportunity.

What he said was this: LDL cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, is not harmful in its natural state. Only when it is attacked by a free radical and “oxidized” does the body consider it harmful. In an attempt to protect itself the body tries to remove this new entity from circulation. A white blood cell called a macrophage reaches out into the blood stream, grabs the oxidized LDL cholesterol complex, and pulls it into the wall of the artery forming a foam cell, the first stage of an atherosclerotic plaque.

A light bulb went on in my head. That means, I reasoned, that if I can find a way to keep my LDL cholesterol from being oxidized I don’t have to follow in my father’s footsteps. I began reading about the process called oxidation and the molecules called “free radicals” that are responsible. I read what Linus Pauling had written about vitamin C, I read what others were saying about vitamin A, about vitamin E, and about selenium.

I did more than read, however. I began taking vitamin supplements for the first time in my life. I didn’t expect anything striking to happen; I was only hoping to stop the hardening of my arteries and avoid having a heart attack at a young age. To my amazement, my joint pain gradually disappeared. This did not occur quickly; the process took place over a period of approximately six months. I now know that this was due to the correction of trace mineral deficiencies in my body by the vitamin/mineral supplement I was taking.

My attitude improved. Only later did I learn of the relationship between B vitamins and a positive mental outlook. I continued to read. I continued to research, expanding my studies to include articles being published in other countries.

I learned that there is more to healthy eating than avoiding fat and adding fiber. I found that supplements beyond basic antioxidants play a role in may aspects of health. One of these, an OPC (oligoproanthocyanidin), finally took away the cobwebs in my head and made it possible for me to sleep restfully and awake alert and refreshed.

Having regained my own health, I could not withhold the information from others. I began to offer those seeking my help nutritional options. Most preferred to stick with symptomatic treatment of their conditions with prescription drugs “because my insurance will pay for it”. Some, however, preferred to avoid the drugs and their potential adverse effects and toxicities. As these people began to respond to nutritional supports as I had, I knew that it was time to change my approach to sickness and disease.

On March 1, 1999, I left my successful practice that I had worked to establish over the course of twenty years. The inability to spend enough time with people to identify the real causes of their illnesses and to teach them how to restore their health was one factor in my decision. Another was the anguish I felt when being asked to prescribe medications I had come to view as devastatingly harmful by individuals who were committed to taking them. The internal turmoil I experienced by being required to act in ways I did not feel best served those seeking by assistance with their health challenges demanded that I take a different path.

Note:  This article was originally published  in September, 1999.  The decision to step away from my established medical practice has proven to be the correct one for me.  While I had significantly curtailed my drug prescribing over the last years of my practice, I did not fully appreciate the degree to which drugs adversely affect the lives of those who take them until I had been away from the drug culture for at least six months.  The ability to work effectively with individuals who are seeking answers to their health challenges has made the subsequent years the most satisfying of my career.

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