MEDICINE IS GROWING. ARE YOU?
pray herbicides on your farmland for a few seasons and what do you get?
Use antibiotics to control disease-spreading microbes for a few generations and what appears?
Medicine is changing fast. But the medical system is not, at least not nearly as rapidly as the health challenges we face. Mainstream medicine’s been forced to march in place, locked into ways of understanding disease and relying on treatment models that haven’t changed substantially in decades.
This situation is partially the result of insurance company reimbursement schemes that are constantly looking to cut costs, seizing on any excuse to refuse payment for newly-developed treatments and enforcing standards of practice that long ago fell behind recent advances in medical science.
It’s also a response to the understandable resistance many of us have to recognizing how the choices we make every day set the biological stage for our diseases. We’re busy. We’re stressed and already overwhelmed. Who’s got the time and focus to become their own doctor and besides, isn’t that a foolish thing to do?
So managing symptoms takes the place of identifying and addressing the dynamics that cause disease in the first place, largely because it’s simpler, cheaper, and easier to get many people to take pills than it is to teach them what they need to know in order to do a good job of examining and changing the lifestyle choices that set the stage for their disease in the first place.
Today, those of us interested in doing the best medicine possible are moving away from treatment models of care and towards education-oriented models of healing..
Because in the end, it’s not the things people in scrubs or white coats do for us that heal us. It’s the things we do every day. The more we understand; the more we act on our knowledge of how our daily habits either build or undermine our health, the better that health will be and the longer we’ll be able to enjoy peaceful, productive lives.
The new medicine understands that modern industrialized food has crucial nutrients refined out.1,2,3,4,5 It understands that the dose is not the poison, and that the witches brew of agricultural and industrial toxins that accumulate in living tissue can be much more damaging at very low concentrations than at higher concentrations, and in combination than alone (the way they’re typically tested.)6,7,8,9
The new medicine recognizes the crucial, life-giving role of the four to five pounds of friendly bacteria that live in our guts and on our flesh, creating essential nutrients for us, helping us digest difficult-to-break-down proteins, regulating the level of alertness to danger (and low-grade inflammation) the body’s immune system maintains.10,11,12,13
The new medicine gets that this low-grade inflammation tied to inappropriate immune activity triggered by an unhealthy environment in our digestive systems is the root of many chronic diseases.14,15,16,17,18 The new medicine understands how important it is to address the causes of this inflammation rather than suppressing symptoms with gut-destroying anti-inflammatories. It recognizes that stress makes inflammation worse19,20,21,22 and that inflammation in turn can drive chronically depressed or anxious mindsets, making it harder for us to cope successfully with the demands of our crazy-busy modern lives.23,24,25,26,27,28,29
Don’t get me wrong. Classical 20th-century style science-based medicine has worked wonders. Millions of people are alive today who, in earlier times, would have died without its help. It’s particularly excellent at dealing with medical crises.
But it can be a different story when it comes to chronic conditions, which by definition are the very problems for which classical medicine hasn’t been able to deliver good answers.
Just like throwing antibiotics at microbes or pesticides at insects works for awhile, classical 20th-century style medicine bought us time.
But now the bill’s coming due. We can see it in the relentless inflation of medical costs, the society-wide struggles over how to pay those costs and make sure the economically vulnerable have access to care.
To be sure, insurance and pharmaceutical company profiteering and the increasing needs of an aging population are some of the causes behind those ever-escalating costs.
But we’re also witnessing the passing of an old way of understanding just what good medicine is. As miraculous as it’s been compared to what came before, 20th century style medicine has reached a point of diminishing returns.
The new medicine is being born. It’s also science-based, but it looks at the issues involved in chronic disease from a very different direction, through a very different lens.
It’s often low-tech instead of high tech. It’s patient-centered and education-based instead of treatment focused.
That’s the medicine you’ll find here. That’s the kind of healing we offer.
Because in the end, it’s not the things that folks in scrubs or lab coats do that really heal those chronic root causes, as hard as they try and as amazing as the things they do can be when stuff hits the fan.
It’s the things each and every one of us do every day.
Assuming we’re informed.
1. Scheer R, Moss, D. Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious? Scientific American. April 27, 2011.
2. Bear, F.E., S.J. Toth, and A.L. Prince. 1948. Variation in mineral composition of vegetables. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 13:380-384.
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 1999. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 13. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page
4. Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6):669-8.
5. Close attention to these studies reveals only modest drops in macronutrient minerals (Ca, K) but more substantial drops in micronutrients (esp. Mg.) Micronutrients are the essential minerals that modern agricultural methods dictate we supplement intelligently these days.
6. Hayes TB, Case P, et al. Pesticide mixtures, endocrine disruption, and amphibian declines: are we underestimating the impact? Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Apr;114 Suppl 1:40-50.
7. Rizzati V, Briand O, et al. Effects of pesticide mixtures in human and animal models: An update of the recent literature. Chem Biol Interact. 2016 Jul 25;254:231-46.
8. Hernández AF, Parrón T, et al. Toxic effects of pesticide mixtures at a molecular level: their relevance to human health. Toxicology. 2013 May 10;307:136-45.
9. Cedergreen N. Quantifying synergy: a systematic review of mixture toxicity studies within environmental toxicology. PLoS One. 2014 May 2;9(5):e96580.
10. Latulippe ME, Meheust A, et al. ILSI Brazil International Workshop on Functional Foods: a narrative review of the scientific evidence in the area of carbohydrates, microbiome, and health. Food Nutr Res. 2013;57. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v57i0.19214.
11. Kang DW, Park JG, et al. Reduced incidence of Prevotella and other fermenters in intestinal microflora of autistic children. PLoS One. 2013 Jul 3;8(7).
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13. Stecher B. The Roles of Inflammation, Nutrient Availability and the Commensal Microbiota in Enteric Pathogen Infection. Microbiol Spectr. 2015 Jun;3(3).
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17. Morris G, Berk M, et al. The Role of the Microbial Metabolites Including Tryptophan Catabolites and Short Chain Fatty Acids in the Pathophysiology of Immune-Inflammatory and Neuroimmune Disease. Mol Neurobiol. 2017 Aug;54(6):4432-4451.
18. Rodriguez-Iturbe B, Pons H, Johnson RJ. Role of the Immune System in Hypertension. Physiol Rev. 2017 Jul 1;97(3):1127-1164.
19. Bonaz B. Inflammatory bowel diseases: a dysfunction of brain-gut interactions? Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. 2013 Sep;59(3):241-59.
20. Coussons-Read ME, Okun ML, Nettles CD. Psychosocial stress increases inflammatory markers and alters cytokine production across pregnancy. Brain Behav Immun. 2007 Mar;21(3):343-50.
21. Black PH. Stress and the inflammatory response: a review of neurogenic inflammation. Brain Behav Immun. 2002 Dec;16(6):622-53.
22. Fagundes CP, Glaser R, et al. Depressive symptoms enhance stress-induced inflammatory responses. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Jul;31:172-6.
23. Rieder R, Wisniewski PJ, Alderman BL, Campbell SC. Microbes and mental health: A review. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Jan 25.
24. Rivest S. Interactions between the immune and neuroendocrine systems. Prog Brain Res. 2010;181:43-53.
25. Schiepers OJ, Wichers MC, Maes M. Cytokines and major depression. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Feb;29(2):201-17.
26. Raison CL, Miller AH. The evolutionary significance of depression in Pathogen Host Defense (PATHOS-D). Mol Psychiatry. 2012 Jan 31. doi: 10.1038/mp.2012.2.
27. Vargas HO, Vargas Nunes SO, et al. Oxidative stress and lowered total antioxidant status are associated with a history of suicide attempts. J Affect Disord. 2013 Sep 25;150(3):923-30.
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29. Iwata M, Ota KT, Duman RS. The inflammasome: pathways linking psychological stress, depression, and systemic illnesses. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Jul;31:105-14.