PH Affects My Ability to Take an All-natural Approach to Wellness

Eleanor Bird avatar

by Eleanor Bird |

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The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has sparked a lot of conversation. Some people feel uncomfortable putting something they consider “unnatural” and that they don’t fully understand into their bodies. But as a chronically ill person, this attitude feels alien.

I take four different medications multiple times a day, every day, in an effort to slow the progression of my idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. People like me don’t always have the ability to adopt an all-natural approach to wellness.

It’s easy to advocate for not putting chemicals into your body when you don’t rely on chemicals to survive. 

Being open about my illness online has exposed me to a flood of well-intended advice, such as, “You have to go vegan,” “Have you tried CBD oil?” and, “What about aromatherapy?”

While all of the above can potentially contribute to a healthy lifestyle, the reality is that serious illness sometimes requires serious medications. 

Rachael Bland, a BBC presenter who died of breast cancer in 2018, spoke at length on her podcast, “You, Me and the Big C,” about her frustration with strangers on the internet constantly asserting that she could cure her illness by embracing alternative, natural therapies. We can only imagine how much pain and annoyance this caused Bland, who was enduring brutal chemotherapy. 

For many, the fear around the COVID-19 vaccine stems from the fact that it is new; therefore, it is difficult for us to fully understand any potential long-term effects. I can sympathize with this line of thinking, but I also know that any treatment carries some potential risk.

Many of those battling serious illness must weigh risks and benefits every day, often placing trust in science and modern medicine. As someone who’s participated in various clinical trials, I’m familiar with taking a gamble on something new. Because my illnesses are serious and life-threatening, the potential benefits and added time will always be worth the risk to me. 

I’ve even seen the impact of the all-natural and alternative medicine movement within the PH community, as some patients express a desire to be on as low a dose of as few medications as possible. I realize that everyone’s body works differently, but I could not take this approach given my experiences.

Historically, the life expectancy for someone with untreated PH was about 2.5 years, according to a study published in Maedica: A Journal of Clinical Medicine. That statistic is burned into my mind. But I received my PH diagnosis almost four years ago, and amazingly, my illness has barely progressed in that time — all thanks to modern medicine. 

I felt dramatic improvements after I started treatment. I went from being breathless on the stairs to being able to exercise again. And just in case I’m ever inclined to doubt the power of my medications, if I ever forget to take them, it feels like someone is sitting on my chest.

If I had a perfectly healthy body, I might be hypervigilant about putting anything “unnatural” in it that could mess up its equilibrium. But that’s a privilege I, and many others like me, don’t have. 


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Noah Greenspan avatar

Noah Greenspan

Powerful and poignant commentary that so many are lucky enough to have never before had to understand.


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