By Dietitian Jill Place
There’s no kind or subtle way to say this. We’ve been brainwashed by the medical model. You get an ache or suffer a sniffle and your doctor immediately treats that symptom with medicine.
Your doctor also can’t do much with certain conditions until s/he diagnoses you with some disease and … guess what … treats that disease with even more medicine. Sometimes a whole host of it.
Our whole medical system is disease-centered mostly acute care that focuses upon have-a-problem-take-a-pill. It’s a system that mostly focuses upon band-aids, not cures.
It’s a system that spends 80% of its health care dollars on 20% of the sickest population. And it’s a system that’s quickly bankrupting us.
Doctors are not totally to blame for this. I’ve worked in HMOs where the average doctor’s visit was 10 to 15 minutes. And administrators complained about the doctors who took more.
My health educator plate was therefore overfull with patients that doctors didn’t have time to educate themselves. I remember once that I chastised a very sick patient for not taking care of himself. The doctor’s response … “Someone had to do it! I just didn’t have the time.”
But we’re so brainwashed that even Alternative Medicine people are quick to put a diagnostic bumper sticker on something and attempt to treat it like the have-a-problem-take-a-pill medical model.
When in reality, we need to look at illness and wellness in a totally different way. We need to look at it through an emerging new wellness model … Functional Medicine.
Functional Medicine Gets You Well BEFORE You Get Sick
According to the Institute for Functional Medicine,
Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.
It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. …
In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual … Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes considered ‘alternative’ or ‘integrative’ medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.
In short, Functional medicine addresses dysfunction BEFORE it turns into disease. And, in the best of all possible worlds, works alongside traditional medicine to make it even more powerful and effective.
Yet there’s a current disconnect between the two. Even though there’s a ton of actual and anecdotal research that functional medicine works, insurance won’t pay for it.
And medical communities pooh-pooh it at best and condemn it at worst. Which can lead to horriific consequences for some.
Working Functionally in the Cancer Community …
For example, when I worked in the cancer community, statistically up to 86% of cancer patients used alternative means of healing, including nutritional supplements and diet therapy. But most didn’t tell their doctors … less than a third in some studies … for fear they’d be criticized for their behavior.
In addition, doctors don’t delve deeply enough into the dietary lifestyles of their patients to identify any problems like the ones I continually encountered with patients not revealing what they were doing alternatively. Remember … they don’t have the time.
A few years ago, I was referred a breast cancer patient who had two failed chemotherapy attempts in her medical history. And the current third was yielding no better results.
When I took an extensive dietary history, as I always do, I found that she was drinking copious quantities of grapefruit juice, which she thought was “healthy”. Well, grapefruit has this substance called naringenin that competes with some drugs in our natural detoxification pathways, rendering them less potent and even inactive.
I told her to stop drinking the grapefruit juice immediately. Soon after, I heard that the chemo was working and she was on her way to remission.
I hesitate to think what might have happened if she hadn’t been referred to me. Let alone how poor her treatment became just because a single … but vital … question wasn’t asked.
Another Happy Ending …
But I must share with you one particular one … that was solved with one question like the story above. A question that a doctor would never dream of asking.
Possibly because their mindset and training doesn’t tend that way. But the way it was going for this child could have had DIRE CONSEQUENCES.
OK … OK … let me tell the story. A mom called me one day understandably distraught. Her almost-two-year-old daughter was on a tube-feeding … allergic and reactive to just about everything she ate … losing weight rapidly … and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
Come to think of it … I asked TWO questions …
They were “are you still breastfeeding?” and “have you changed your eating habits recently?”
DING … DING … DING … mom had recently changed to a raw diet thinking it was “healthy”. All I said was … “stop breastfeeding … you’re detoxing out your breasts … she’s almost two … she can eat solid food … ”
Because guess what happened on the tube feeding … the little girl’s symptoms magically went away and she easily and rapidly gained weight. In other words, she was now not getting the almost-lethal substances flowing out her mother’s breasts.
After my instructions were followed, the little girl went on to to gain more weight, get off the tube, and eat by herself with no problems. Bodies are smart … when the mom changed to a raw diet … hers could now get rid of toxins she’d probably been holding onto since she was as young as her child.
This affirms two things for me. That diet changes could not only help anyone rid themselves of toxins that could have future negative consequences for them. But also … breastfeeding ISN’T the time to do that change.
What do YOU think about all this? And I ask you … What other vital questions aren’t being asked by doctors?
Functional Medicine Works …
I’ve been doing food sensitivity and other alternative testing and treatments for years. And read tons of testimonials DAILY from the dietitians on my food sensitivity and functional medicine list serves with phrases like “worked when nothing else did!” and, most commonly, “it changed my life!” … phrases rife with exclamation points. I KNOW this stuff works.
But Jeffrey Bland, the founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine, shared with me a few years ago that he felt he was a failure because little change had taken place in the medical model. I sometimes feel the same way when almost daily I have to explain to prospective clients that insurance only pays for sickness … not wellness.
I was hoping that the paradigm would change in my lifetime. But I have been waiting for over 25 years now.
Functional medicine will prevail. I do believe that. I also believe that, in the future, babies will receive genetic and food sensitivity testing to set them off on the right feet even before they begin walking.
And that medicine will be an integrated affair. But, unfortunately, that time is not yet. Those of us who believe in alternative healthcare will still have to pay for it ourselves. And risk the censure of medical doctors who are still more than skeptical.
But it will prevail. Too many people are sick with no solution. And are willing to pay for their own care because they know they have to look elsewhere for one. I am 75. I hope it will happen in my lifetime. But I just don’t know …