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 spent 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.
Functional Medicine Works …
So what other questions aren’t asked? I’ve been doing food sensitivity and other alternative testing and treatments for years.
There are testimonials on my website, and I read tons more DAILY from the dietitians on my food sensitivity list serve 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 found 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 20 years.
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 74. I hope it will happen in my lifetime. But I just don’t know …