The only people interested in your ailments are your doctor and your mother, and then not much. You could probably add to that list ‘other geriatrics’ if you are over seventy; much of the conversation of the very old, I’ve noticed, seems to be exchanging complaints about their deteriorating bodies.
But the reason I’m going to tell you about my various disorders is not completely self-indulgent. I’ve discovered a few things which no doctor ever told me, despite seeing plenty,1 and I thought it might be of interest to someone? somewhere? Scan the list below — if none apply to you, perhaps at least it might inspire you to look for a solution for your own health problems.
- Headaches. I spent thirty years trying to work out why I got headaches. At first I thought the cause was tyramine, a chemical found mostly in cheese, chocolate, red wine and artificially fermented products. Then for many years I thought it might be changes in air-pressure. Nope. A classic cause of headaches is dehydration, which of course I’ve occasionally had, but that wasn’t it either. Another one is work, which has definitely given me a few mind-clenchers. Work was the cause of my grandmother’s migraines — she ended up having a brain haemorrhage (‘felt like an iron bar being pushed through my forehead’). If you get pounders, rule out all these (and your monthly cycle if you’re a woman) before proceeding to more exotic triggers. Don’t forget also that your gut is directly connected to your brain and that it literally has a mind of its own.
In the end though I discovered…
- Exhaustion. The main cause of my headaches, and a massive drain on my general energy, turned out to be sugars and carbs. If I eat mashed potato on an empty stomach, a huge bowl of pasta, or any sugary foods, a few hours later I get a sickening slump of vital power followed by a ‘bastard behind the eyeballs’. I have come to realise that carbs and sugars are one of the great evils of civilisation, sucking the mojo from millions of us. Living without chips and crusty pastry is a little bit inconvenient, but nothing like as bad as the constant rock around my brains that an overcompensating insulin-system causes.
- Backache. Usual causes — too much sitting, soft mattress (which I’ve always hated) and not enough exercise, all of which easy to deal with. Amazingly though, the cause of my worst back pains, including three agonising slipped disks, turned out to be constipation (pressure put on the spine by the gut). So…
- Constipation. I thought this was down to the other modern devil Gluten! but no: I discovered, after about eight years of periodic misery, that this was caused by white rice, eggs and, occasionally, changing time-zones. Too much sitting doesn’t help either. (Related: I strongly recommend homemade kefir — absolutely amazing effect on gut behaviour).
- Impotence. It’s never happened to me before! Honest! This one struck in my late thirties and turned out to be because of a horrible, boring job. I’d had those before of course, but I’ve discovered that although the old belly-fire remains potent throughout life (intensifies if anything), as you age — I mean as a man ages — libido also becomes in a sense more ‘delicate’, which is to say more sensitive to anxiety, stress, ennui, vitiating fucksex, unspoken frustration and so on. Deal with the room before leaving it.
- Tooth decay. Never had problems with this either (because never liked sweet stuff), then I started getting cavities — turned out to be increased consumption of potato crisps, which lodge in the teeth and the high sugar content rots them.
- Colds & Flu. Once again, I’ve only ever got these when working — starting to see a pattern here are you? Bored, stressed, moving or sitting in unnatural positions and wanting to be elsewhere (immunity lower) creates a tonne of physical illnesses and mental problems (problems, not illnesses). Being locked up in air-conditioned cells with other human cattle (more viruses and bacteria around) doesn’t help much either.
- Sinusitis. Had infected sinuses for half a year (again, from work), until it spread into the ear, which was pretty uncomfortable. Eventually I checked what antibiotics work best and went for Amoxicillin Clavuluate. Researched the appropriate dose and went down to my local unprofessional pharmacist to buy a course. Some people get anxiety attacks from ‘Amoxy’ and I had a smallish plate of tension on my chest for a few days, but it sorted out the infection and the clenchies dissolved.
- Joint pain. Cider vinegar was the miracle cure there. I have a touch of arthritis (I think that’s what it is — always worse when humid) which I find stinging nettles help with. Every humid summer day I go down to a playing field and plunge my aching thumbs into a bush of stingers and it clears up.
- Pained lungs. London. Moved out.
For me doctors are a last, final and desperate resort — for invasive stuff only, for tests I can’t do myself or if I am totally and utterly flummoxed. I do have a good doctor — he actually listens to my observations about my own body, considers himself a partner with his patients, working out together what might be up rather than dispensing Wisdom From on High; and he bends the laws to help us out — but he’s still not me (and of course he’s not, like all other doctors, even a scientist); he had no idea of what caused the problems I sorted out myself. What’s more he would never recommend freedom from work as a cure (much less bollock-igniting psychological revolution).
Of course what you do to diagnose and treat your own ailments is your own responsibility. As Ran Prieur once said; I’m not qualified to give medical advice — I’m not a lawyer.
Tomorrow more criticism of the sickening medical profession.