Is it Time for a Different Approach to Medicine?
Is conventional medicine failing us all? Are physicians disproportionately focused on managing sickness rather than on caring for and creating health? Is it time for a different approach to medicine? I would strongly argue the answer to these questions is yes!
Early on in my medical career, my work in trauma and intensive care accustomed me to viewing “full recovery” as the standard. In trauma everyone works together with the same goal and mission, to address the initial emergency, stabilize, heal and restore. But with cancer and chronic diseases, the approach is quite different.
Most doctors fail to appreciate the concept of real health and how to fully restore it.
Consider these hard truths:
- The number of yearly deaths from cancer in the United States has almost tripled from 63 per 100,000 people ( to 187 per 100,000 people in the past century.
- Diabetes incidence in the US has increased 400 percent in only two decades.
- One in every three American adults is diagnosed with high blood pressure and about 15 million have coronary heart disease.
- 1 in every 5 American adults struggles with chronic pain, and, on average, about 115 Americans die each day from opioid overdose.
- The incidence of autism was 1 in 10,000 in the 1970s. In 2010, 1 in every 110 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders; now it is 1 in 59. The increase in the past decade cannot be attributed solely to improved diagnostics and awareness.
As disheartening as the numbers above are, these problems are exacerbated by other issues in the medical field.
- We treat symptoms – We prescribe a drug for hypertension, surgically excise a tumor, or administer an antibiotic for an infection. But we fail to ask the more important questions: Why is the patient’s blood pressure elevated in the first place? What lifestyle, nutritional, or environmental factors made it possible for the cancer to proliferate? What conditions made the patient vulnerable to developing a serious bacterial infection?
- We over-specialize – The vast majority of our physicians focus on a single organ system, but the majority of diseases affect multiple, if not all, body systems. Diseases do not recognize “organ boundaries” in the body. Our doctors don’t work as a team in looking a “whole” person approach.
- The drug industry funds most medical advertisements and research studies. Knowledge and awareness about non-drug, natural therapies and breakthroughs rarely see the light of day.
It’s time to stop treating symptoms
We are stuck. Not only are the pharmaceuticals that individuals are prescribed not fully effective for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, asthma, allergies and the myriad of medical problems we have today but also the invasive medical procedures rarely correct the underlying imbalances in the body. They don’t help with actual rebuilding of healthy tissue. It may be hard to believe but iatrogenic illness, death caused by adverse reactions to medications and complications from invasive procedures, represents the third leading cause of death in the United States
To make matters worse, we have gotten away from our evolutionary physiology. For 99% of humankind’s history, we have lived in the presence of frequent physical and environmental stress along with cleaner air and higher levels of oxygen. From seeking shelter, to avoiding temperature extremes, to hunting and gathering, to dealing with famine, comfort was a rare treat.
But our lives today are no longer characterized by physical challenge. Since the mid-twentieth century, we have been living in a way that is radically different from the way any species has ever lived, in a way that our bodies are not designed to thrive in. We are the first to experience continuous comfort, and it is eroding our health in the process. When we take away those physical and environmental challenges and when we don’t get enough cellular oxygen, we have a recipe for metabolic and immune disaster.
Comfort culture is harming to your health
We gain un-shedable pounds. We ache and feel fatigued. We’re more susceptible to illness, autoimmunity, and cancer. We’re living longer but aging prematurely. Our bodies are completely coddled, but we’re more mentally stressed than ever. What’s going on?
The answer lies in the fact that we’ve lost touch with our innate hormetic systems. Hormesis is from the Greek word, “to excite”. It’s a cellular state of health-building following exposure to a mild or moderate stressor. As humankind adapted to life on this planet, our bodies not only learned to cope with physical stressors, they began to require them.
Shouldn’t this be part of our medical model? Shouldn’t we leverage our bodies resilience to build our health instead of coddle it with unnatural and invasive interventions? It’s time for a paradigm shift!
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I lay out the groundwork for what a new medical model could and should look like.
Be well. Here’s to your health!