Consider this scenario: A bout with “food poisoning” that lead to swollen lymph nodes and then a diagnosis of strep throat. The antibiotics made the symptoms worse. Next referred to an internist for pain/inflammation, he declared the problem mental, not physical. The internist referred her to a psychiatrist who said she was mentally healthy who referred her back to an MD who—despite her nearly passing out in the waiting room with blood pressure of 70/50—said “everything’s normal, why do you keep coming back here?” Meanwhile, others became frustrated and labelled her “lazy and selfish” or “needing coddling.”
This is the famous author Laura Hillenbrand who documented and published the best-selling novel Seabiscuit: An American Legend—now a major motion picture. Hardly lazy; definitely in need of holistic health care.
Where did western medicine go wrong?
She didn’t fit the model:
- Modern medicine concerns itself with diagnosing a disease;
- Once properly named, then the “evidence-based” drug or surgery can be prescribed.
Medical doctors are extremely good at naming and prescribing—but this only works if there is a single entity underneath that disease—an entity that can be controlled with a medication. Something you “catch” and that can then be killed with a drug. Or something your body can’t make anymore because the organ that makes it has been removed.
It doesn’t work if the person’s story or the body’s situation is more complicated.
In Hillenbrand’s case, since 1987 she’s had chronic fatigue syndrome. Initially, a string of doctors tried to convince her that the illness wasn’t real—specialist after specialist considered everything from delayed puberty, or perhaps heartburn, or an eating disorder… or her imagination.
Today, although no one understands the cause, nearly 1 million people with this mysterious set of symptoms are diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.
The old paradigm
Or consider Matt who could be the guy next door. 57 years old and getting ready for an adventure trip to Africa. Describes himself as “pretty healthy.” He sees an internist, a gastroenterologist, a pulmonologist, and a dermatologist who each have made separate diagnoses and prescribed 12 different medications that he takes for colitis, asthma, alopecia areata (a type of baldness), and high blood pressure. He’s also 30 pounds overweight. A common scenario.
These treatments are considered standard for the named disease. In 2014, we spent over $9500 per person on healthcare expenses.
Both of these individuals do what most people do: they went to the specialist, the expert on that specific problem.
Everything is connected to everything
Looking through the holistic, whole body, lens, we see that Laura and Matt have something in common: each of these “diseases” have inflammatory components that affect multiple organ systems (and specialties).
Connecting the symptom patterns, for Matt, produced a grain sensitivity as his actual problem. Taken together, most of his symptom patterns could be explained by something he was eating. Steps to address his grain-caused symptoms included the obvious grain-free diet and also manual therapies to speed along the healing process. Within six months, his hair grew back, he lost 25 pounds, and stabilized his blood pressure with no more need for medications. His asthma symptoms disappeared and his bowel movements normalized.
For Laura staying ahead of her fatigue is also mostly about balancing with diet, plus very rigorous pacing and yoga to keep her as fit as possible and for its emotional benefits—many things can cause the pattern of pain and weakness known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Her doctors have not yet found the underlying cause in her case but the holistic view has given her a better life.
The body is smart
Inside each of us is the complete blueprint for every function, to run every system, for every single chemical reaction, every tissue formation, to fight off every bacterial invasion or viral infection, in short to do everything the body needs to do without us ever thinking about it.
If left to itself and given enough of the genuine building blocks it needs, the body will stay healthy.
Everyone is unique—there is no one-size-fits-all
Each of us has a unique set of blueprints; the instructions vary from person to person. Our 30,000 genes have some 3 million variations which create unique needs in all of us.
Beyond that, the interaction of our unique genetic blueprint with the environment around us and even in the womb will make us taller or shorter, change our jaw structure and bone length, turn our hair gray or cause it to fall out sooner and even compared with our identical twin if we have one.
Factors such as nutrition, stress and environmental toxins, especially early in life, set in motion a response by the body that can become ill health in middle age.
We each need a unique set of genuine building blocks to facilitate optimal function and prevent disease. And if we do not get the amount we need, we will get a pattern of symptoms that can vary from person to person.
The new medicine
“Degenerative disease of unknown origin” doesn’t really exist. Each of us has a need for a certain level of genuine building blocks. If that need is not met, the resulting “deficiencies” will become chronic symptoms and disease.
The one-size-fits-all camp says we need a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of some 30 nutrients to avoid disease. Or, if we get a disease, we need the “proven by clinical trial” drug which means it worked a little better than other approaches in barely more than 50% of the very defined and narrow trial group.
But, for example, RDA of vitamin C is based on the amount needed to prevent scurvy. For most people, taking a synthetic supplement is simply not what the body needs for optimal health. And when they don’t get enough of the whole food nutrient (which is far more complex than synthetic ascorbic acid), they are at greater risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, tend to become mineral deficient, get sick easily, and their skin and joints age prematurely.
Years later, traditional medicine and specialists will prescribe drugs for high blood pressure, antibiotics for the named infections the body can’t ward off, pain medications and/or inti-inflammatory medicines for arthritis and expensive lotions to help their wrinkled skin.
Restoring balance by understanding the symptom pattern
There’s another way:
- Modern medicine must assess each patient as a unique individual.
- We have to look at the symptoms for their patterns; not in isolation but as patterns and search for the underlying cause.
- We must also go beyond the symptoms to understand each individual’s beliefs and lives.
- We must listen to each individual’s story and develop a collaborative plan to help them; the doctor-patient relationship.
- And we must involve each individual patient in making decisions about a treatment plan that can work for them taking into account all of the above and integrating the range of tools available including education, rebalancing nutrition, manual and restorative therapies and judicious use of medications as needed only.
This is what I do. Call us, there is hope. –Dr. Childers
Gluckman PD and Hanson MA. Living with the past: evolution, development, and patterns of disease. Science. 2004;305:1733-36.
Kaplan SH, Greenfield S and Ware JE Jr. Assessing the effects of physician-patient interactions on the outcomes of chronic disease. Med Care. 1989;27 Suppl 3:S110-127.