Non-OTC things I’ve tried

1. Acupuncture

I luuuuuuurrrrv acupuncture, but I only saw results when I went to dedicated practitioners — that is, people who took a few years to learn it, not a half-day course at a medical conference somewhere. There was a Chinese guy in Seattle, the kind with the wall of wooden boxes full of herbs; an M.D./D.O.M.; and an osteopath. One doctor who just practiced it a little on the side referred to that type of practitioner as “medical acupuncturist.”

I had no luck with it for sugar cravings and insomnia. It did work for my back-muscle spasms, sciatica pain, and hypothyroidism. It did not end the sciatica attack, but it stopped the pain for a while.

In the case of the cravings and insomnia, I was treated for adrenal and liver issues — very common in Chinese medicine — on the assumption that that was behind those complaints. The fact that the symptoms did not resolve might simply mean that our assumption was wrong. For all I know I now have the strongest liver on the planet. I might try swallowing some mercury just to see.

2. Amino acid/neurotransmitter supplements

A “functional medicine” naturopath suggested this. Functional medicine tries to figure out the cause of your symptoms and addresses them with nutritional supplements and…I don’t know what all else.

After a blood test of my neurotransmitter levels, I went home with $400 worth of this stuff and a detailed dosage schedule. I felt noticeably better after two days, but unfortunately not in the areas I was complaining about. After a week, I got splitting headaches, complete insomnia, and zombie brain, which back then was my usual response to everything, even iron. (Part of it was a B12 deficiency. The other part I haven’t figured out yet.)

The odd thing is that since then, I no longer suffer the overwhelming urge to buy things whenever I step into…that addictive budget store with the bull-terrier mascot. It was a very interesting, albeit very expensive, experiment.

3. Armour Thyroid

This is a prescription drug derived from pig thyroid and used since the 1920s for hypothyroidism. It is considered easier on the system and less disruptive than synthetic drugs like Synthroid.

It worked well, but since my adrenals were underefficient, I couldn’t take as much of it as I needed. (One of the hormones that Armour helps to increase relies on the adrenals to process it. If your adrenals are already whipped, you’re out of luck.)

4. Chinese herbs from a D.O.M.

This went along with some of the acupuncture he used to treat my adrenals. They definitely gave me more energy, but it wasn’t earth-shattering. I don’t think you actually need a prescription for them, but you need to be treated by someone who knows how they all work together, like a D.O.M. The herbs were expensive so after a year I gave them up, and didn’t feel any worse once I stopped.

5. Chiropractic/osteopathic adjustments (I don’t know what the difference is)

I’ve gone to six different people. I discovered something surprising about myself: I like to have my neck wrung until it makes really loud cracks, even if I see no other positive effects from it.

The first success I had was with one of the hardcore snappers, an osteopath. Back then I couldn’t walk for more than a few blocks without feeling that one side of my body was becoming shorter than the other. After an adjustment, I’d be okay for a month or so. After a year of better nutrition, nightly yoga, and an unpleasant acupuncture session on the muscles along my spine, I discovered I didn’t need the adjustments anymore.

The other success I had was with another practitioner for sciatica. When I walked in the office the pain was already lessening, as it was toward the end of the six-week period of suffering that sciatica usually entails, and when I left the chiro’s office it was gone and never came back. As I recall, some very undignified and unladylike stretching positions were involved in that session.

Another attempt with yet another chiropractor to address what I assume is TMJ — my jaw and facial muscles ached if I had to sit still for long periods of time — came to naught. It later went away with B12 and magnesium.

6. Hydrocortisone (brand name Cortef)

This was a prescription used by the first alternative practitioner I went to to try to improve my adrenal function. I don’t remember it helping me at all in the six months I was on it. There are dangers in using it too long, I believe, such as lowering your potassium levels.

7. NAET (Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique)

This is a combination chiropractic and acupuncture treatment based on Dr. Nambudripad’s theory that you have to be in physical contact with a wee tiny bit of the offending allergy you’re being treated for. You hold a small vial of the substance in your hand while your vertebrae and perhaps some other big muscle groups are being punched/adjusted/clicked with the little metal clicker tool that chiros use (the “activator”). After that a few needles are used in a few places. I’m not sure all practitioners use the acupuncture.

I tried this at the very beginning of my journey when I felt terrible eating anything and was exhausted and desperate. Back then, each potential food allergen had its own vial and you’d use a few vials per treatment. After the very first treatment for vegetables, I could eat, and even craved, vegetables again. Because of that first success, I continued on for many treatments and hundreds of dollars in bills. (Since then the treatment has been modified to require only three treatments.) But I had absolutely no further progress.

Since I later concluded that my food issues were not allergy-related, I cannot say that the failure of NAET to solve my food issues is proof that it doesn’t work at all. But it has been met with a great deal of skepticism by the medical community. I have met three perfectly reasonable people who swear they had significant improvements using it, but I have to say that I have my doubts about the vials, which to me look like they contain water.

8. Other spa treatments I tried, to relax more than anything: reflexology, massage, body polishes, hot rocks, reiki, cranial/sacral therapy

I love anything at the spa, but I learned the hard way that when requesting massages you have to specify RELAXING massage. Otherwise you risk being tortured by a big Russian woman. Or being walked on by a tiny Thai woman. Also, if your spa therapist talks the entire time about how men are pigs or the economy is controlled by evil rich people, it pretty much ruins the hour.

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