Grumpy Young Man: The naturopath and slippery elm

In the fall of 2009, I got sick. Then, I just stayed sick.

I’m not going to go into details, all you need to know is it was a complete head to toe sick and it stuck around for a couple of years (I still have some symptoms but I’ve learned to ignore them like every other problem in my life). In those two years, I went to many doctors, but I never received a concrete diagnosis. Mostly I just learned what I don’t have. I don’t have AIDS. Ladies?

Because I wasn’t getting anywhere with doctors, I sought out alternative health help. I started seeing a naturopath.

According to Wikipedia, the most trusted source for all things, naturopathy is “a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and, similar to conventional medicine, encourages minimal use of surgery and drugs.”

Mostly that just means they prescribe you your spice rack. Here’s a sample conversation.

Jared: My stomach always hurts.

Naturopath: Have you tried garlic?

Jared: Uh, do you have any medicine?

Anyway, this naturopath said he had just the thing for me: slippery elm. What? That’s not a thing. You can’t just put a word in front of another word. Plus, I know elms. Those are those diseased things all over Winnipeg with the Band-Aids on. The last thing I need is a case of the Dutch Elm. I don’t want to have to wear a sticky belt.

So, I took the slippery elm, which if we’re being honest, not that slippery. Of course, it not being medicine, it didn’t do anything. The naturopath said: “Hmm, slippery elm usually works. Perhaps you have a stomach parasite.” It seemed plausible; I’ve been told I’m a good host.

To test for parasites, they do a stool test. Stool is shit by the way. Now, when you get a stool test from a doctor, you shit, collect a shit sample and then you take your shit back to the hospital. But in this case, there was no hospital. I had to send MY shit MYSELF to a lab in the States.

So I called FedEx. When you call FedEx to have them pick up a package, they tend to ask you what you’re sending. It’s some crazy rule they have. Embarrassed, I told them, “Umm, a human specimen.” Then they asked me “What’s the weight and dimensions?” Really, I just told you I’m sending a HUMAN SPECIMEN and you don’t have any follow-up questions? That doesn’t seem right.

Side note: I was going to use Canada Post, but this was during their strike in 2011 and they told me “We don’t take shit from anybody!”

Eventually, the naturopath got the results of my stool test. I actually did test positive for a parasite. Entamoeba Histolytica Metallica or something like that. Finally, a diagnosis! The naturopath gave me a prescription for garlic and cinnamon and I was on my way, to finding some real medicine.

But really, I was a bit sketchy about this diagnosis as I received the same test from a doctor, A REAL DOCTOR, and there was no evidence of a parasite. In fact, I’ve had lots of invasive tests that haven’t found anything. One time, I had a gastroscopy (down the throat) and a colonoscopy (up the butt) at the same time. I called it being spit roasted. That was until I typed “spit roasted” into Urban Dictionary. Use your imagination. Actually, don’t.

Come to think of it, I’ve had doctors poke around down there a few times. That’s an experience. Not romantic at all. They just say “Pants down, turn around, hands on the examination table.” You’re just staring at the wall, scared, waiting for whatever’s going to happen, asking yourself questions like: When’s it going to happen? Will it hurt? Will I like it? Oh god, please don’t let me like it!

But actually, although slightly uncomfortable, it’s quick and not that weird at all. Well, it’s a bit weird in the middle, when the doctor rubs your head and tells you’re doing really good. But that’s just standard practice. Right? Right? Come to think of it, I was a bit doubtful when she strapped that thing on.

Speaking of skepticism, that seems to be naturopathy’s downfall. A naturopath once said to me “If you don’t believe in it, it won’t work.” Um, maybe it just doesn’t work. I mean, I can’t believe it’s not butter and guess what, it isn’t butter.

Actually, that’s not fair. Naturopathy does have its good points. Mostly it’s just about good diet and healthy living, which isn’t exactly controversial. It’s the herbal concoctions and tinctures that are contentious, given the lack of real evidence surrounding their efficacy.  That being said, I did have some success with that celery salt and oregano or whatever that naturopath sold me. Best soup I ever made.


Jared Story is a stand-up comedian and freelance writer. Yes, it’s a pen name. His real name is Dave, Dave Story. Follow him on Twitter at @jrockarolla.