(Reprint of 07/1997 Newsletter)

Dear friends,

Those of you who have worked with me for a while are sure to have heard me talk about suppression. Since that is one of the more confusing subjects having to do with homeopathy, I thought I would address it this month.

Homeopathy is based on the idea of stimulating the body to heal itself. I am not terribly regimented on that particular idea in that I am not averse to the idea of using antibiotics and other medicines if the body is not responding to appropriate homeopathic treatment. Something that I am more stringent about is making sure that suppression does not take place.

Homeopaths around the world follow principles that say - among other things - that the body heals from the inside out. That means that problems with the brain, heart, and lungs are much more serious than problems like eczema and other skin rashes which are called "outer pathologies". In homeopathy, it is believed that these outer pathologies have not yet gotten to the core of the body or have been at the core and are working their way out.

Suppression - as the term is used in homeopathy - is doing anything which is not curative and that would disallow the body to express symptoms of disease. This includes things, which make the symptoms, such as a skin rash, miraculously go away. Homeopaths believe that those suppressed symptoms just go deeper into the body and must be addressed elsewhere.

One of the main things that is suppressive is cortisone. It is used with abandon in our culture although medical doctors know that the use of cortisone is not curative. Often when a client calls me with an illness, I can trace it back to the use of some suppressive medication like cortisone or Benadryl. Sometimes it is hard for people to see how putting cortisone cream on their baby's diaper rash has lead to the baby having an ear infection three weeks later. Occasionally cortisone is used again and there is another ear infection soon afterward. Unfortunately, it is easier to understand how suppression works when you see it in action.

Here are some of the prescription medications and over-the-counter products, which are more likely to cause symptoms of illness to go away and come back in some other location or come back more frequently.
nasal sprays
migraine medications (Imitrex)
hay fever medications
Zovirax (treatment for herpes and cold sores)
cold medications
cough suppressants

Other than Benadryl, which can be used in case of an anaphylactic reaction, all the other medications listed (including Benadryl) are used to treat minor discomforts or cosmetic problems. In such cases, vanity can truly be dangerous. It is much more productive to try to figure out and solve the problem that the body is trying to express. If suppression is used, it is important to watch carefully for the next place that the body tries to exhibit symptoms and to treat them homeopathically rather than suppress the symptoms in a second location.

Much of my job consists of trying to piece together people's health history and get back to the original problem that was bothering them regardless of how it was suppressed. Homeopaths often liken this process to gently peeling away the tattered outer layer of an onion until the smooth inner layers are revealed. It can be a confusing process, and it is not one that you can easily figure out on your own.

One of the best things that you can do to assist me is to avoid suppression. If suppression of symptoms does take place, keep good notes on it. Did you put a little cortisone on the spot on your arm only to wake with an unusual racking cough four or five days later? Did you take Benadryl for itchy mosquito bites only to have your stomach act up for two weeks? Medical professionals often do not acknowledge the connections between these events, and so we are trained not to see them as connected. You may feel that something you took over-the-counter was "no big deal," but it may be a very integral part of what ails you. In most cases, the damage is not permanent and we can deal with the problem where it next arises. It is repeated suppressions that will start eroding your health.

A final note: The main place that it is absolutely critical not to cause suppression is in children. Although the comfort and well being of the child is always first and foremost in my mind, I tend to think long term rather than short term. A well-meaning grandparent may strongly urge you to put cortisone on the child's diaper rash but they probably would not do that if they knew that it would cause the child to have a painful ear infection. Others may not have the information that you have (and they might not believe it even if they had it), but it is important to stick to your guns when refusing to suppress symptoms in children. Their health is often deeply effected when a parent is just trying to "do the right thing". Particularly if the child is not in danger or pain, think very carefully about whether is worthwhile to take the chance of suppressing their symptoms.

If you have any questions about suppression, feel free to contact me.
Happy summer,
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