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Be Your Own Doc

Marilyn Linton, The Toronto Sun

Exploring Medicine's Better Nature, Healing With An Open Mind! And Common Sense Multimedia Demo in Real Player Format It's Your Body

When Dr. Carolyn DeMarco comes to Toronto from her British Columbia home, she lugs 40 boxes of research with her.

Everything from medical journals to support group pamphlets, from books on breast cancer to articles on repetitive strain injury, from papers on the benefits of a new herb to letters from patients wanting to know more about homeopathy.

DeMarco is already an experienced doctor, but she doesn't think she's too old or too experienced to learn even more. Her favorite kind of therapy, she says, is bibliotherapy - reading. And reading to find out what you can do about your health is her No. 1 prescription.

DeMarco, a general practitioner who specializes in women's health and complimentary (some call it alternative) medicine, is also the author of an empowering health guide called Take Charge Of Your Body (Well Woman Press).

The book includes information on everything from abortion to zinc from birthing classes to the 150 most asked questions about menopause. It's a mini medical course, a 350 page support group, a wealth of information on traditional medicine as well as complimentary therapies using herbs, acupuncture or homeopathy.

"Women are not passive consumers DeMarco says. "I've found them to be active participants in their own health lives. And I believe that information is really power."

DeMarco is one of the few Canadian doctors involved in both traditional Western and complimentary medicine- a marriage in which more and more women-patients are interested. "I did the alternative route very slowly," she says. "It's too overwhelming to do it all at once."

After becoming an MD, she got involved in childbirth and eventually trained midwives for home birthing. "I like birth because it's a health model, not a disease model," she says. (She's so into positive birthing she attended the birth of her sister's child three years ago.)

While seeing patients as a general practitioner, DeMarco found a lot of people had symptoms for which she could find little evidence in lab tests or X-rays.

"You knew they had a real problem, but it was difficult to help them because the reports you got back said there was nothing wrong."

That frustration led her to explore acupuncture, and then homeopathy: "I remember I was always amazed that acupuncture worked when I first started using it," she says. "I'm still amazed that homeopathy works because as an MD you have this scientific mind."

What followed was a self-taught course on nutrition: "In medical school we had one day on nutrition. We didn't learn a single thing. " DeMarco says she constantly learns from her patients: "What they try, I make a note of and then do more research.

"Patients teach you a lot. Doctors today .can't possibly know everything and frankly they're better off saying that. They can say, 'I don't know, but I'll try and find out or refer you to someone who does know'. The information is exploding." To help herself keep up, she's now going to phase out her private practice and focus on education. Here's advice from DeMarco on how to get the most from your doctor and your treatments:

On alternative medicine: "I like the term complimentary because alternative therapy implied A or B while complimentary therapy is really a compliment to traditional medicine. You'd be crazy to throw away all of Western medicine because there's a real time and place for it, especially when it comes to emergencies."

On taking supplements: "Nutritionists seem to think that our food contains the same type of nutrients it did 50 years ago but I feel our food today is nutrient depleted. Also the so-called 'minimum daily requirements' never took into account pollution or smoking, radiation or other modern-day stressors." (DeMarco takes anti-oxidants, and a good multi mineral vitamin.)

On getting the most from your appointment: "If you have a longer than usual list of concerns, then don't go in for a ten minute appointment. Appointments are usually booked for ten to 15 minutes, so if you want a longer one make sure you book it. Sometimes a doctor, instead of rushing you in and out, could say to you, 'I can't answer all these questions right now. We'll have to book a longer appointment, but we will do them' ! "

On getting the serious stuff straight: "Take a person with you if you feel you're not being heard. This is especially important if you're going to a specialist where it can be so intimidating; it's good for you to take someone in with you who will take notes for you so you don't have to try to remember all the things that were said by yourself."

On being a better consumer: "It's true that some doctors haven't listened, but it's also true that some patients women in particular haven't demanded they be listened to. They have let themselves be treated as second class citizens." Don't be afraid to ask for second opinions, she says. And if it's a condition such as endometriosis, contact their association, join a group, and read, read, read!

Exploring Medicine's Better Nature, Healing With An Open Mind! And Common Sense Multimedia Demo in Real Player Format It's Your Body

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