This is exactly what I say to my patients. Well, maybe not word for word, but certainly exactly this idea, from Frank Lipman, MD:
“Creating balance rather than just treating symptoms
When you are driving your car and the oil light goes on, you don’t cover the oil light and drive on. You take the car to the garage and see why the oil light has come on. Or when the fire alarm in your house goes off, you don’t (or you shouldn’t) take the battery out so you won’t hear the alarm anymore, you look for what triggered the alarm, where the smoke is coming from.
Similarly, when you have a symptom, for instance heartburn or a headache, it is your body’s alarm going off, it is a cry for help. It is telling you something is off, something needs to change, something needs to be done to see why your body is crying out for help. Unfortunately in Western Medicine, what we do is put a band aid over the oil light or we take out the battery to stop hearing the alarm. We suppress the symptom with a drug. For instance, if we have heartburn, we take Nexium or an antacid, if we have a headache, we take Tylenol, for depression, Prozac. When we do that, we think of heartburn as a Nexium deficiency, a headache as a Tylenol deficiency and depression as a Prozac deficiency.
We usually do not look to see why we have that symptom, what is the cause, what are the underlying imbalances. I learnt in Chinese Medicine that a symptom is a pointer to some imbalance in the system, it is telling us that something needs to be done to create balance again. Instead of suppressing the symptom, we try to create balance. Sometimes you do need to suppress symptoms, for instance if you are in a lot of pain, but it is essential to see symptoms as pointers to some underlying imbalance and try to see why your oil light is on.
In this new model of Medicine, we look for the underlying imbalance or dysfunctions and look for the root causes and address those to treat dis-ease rather than automatically resorting to drugs to suppress the symptoms.
Written by an MD, this newsletter that I have just subscribed to puts conventional medicine in perspective. This is a cut and paste of the last e-newsletter I received. You can check it out yourself by googling his name and signing up for it yourself. Of course, I’ll probably post more from him if it keeps of interest to me.
Changing our Disease care system to a Health care system
Although we call our system a health care system, it is actually a disease care system. Doctors are trained to treat disease, not to keep people healthy. Our two primary tools as Doctors of Modern Western Medicine are drugs and surgery. We have no tools to keep people healthy.
We are not trained in nutrition or other lifestyle modalities that keep people healthy, nor other medical systems that have been helping other cultures for centuries. At medical schools, we doctors are taught to treat the symptoms of disease, rather than how to create health and prevent people from getting sick. For example, in our entire training as doctors, we receive very few lectures on nutrition, even though diet is fundamental to good health.
I am not saying there is no place for this disease care model in the new model of medicine I am proposing. I am the first to acknowledge that Modern Western Medicine and science have made phenomenal advances and alleviate much pain and suffering. Surgery is often lifesaving and many new surgical techniques are quite remarkable. Trauma treatment, burn treatment, emergency room management and the management of acute medical and surgical emergencies are incredible. And certain drugs when used appropriately are life saving. We are blessed to have all this as part of our arsenal and we need Modern Western Medicine for all this. I would not encourage someone to see a herbalist or Acupuncturist for any of the above.
But this medical model is not adequately addressing almost 75% of the problems that most people go to their Doctor for, including most chronic problems. It has failed miserably to address the majority of problems people have today and because of this, many people suffer unnecessarily.
Apart from antibiotics where the drug can kill the bug causing the problem, most drugs treat symptoms, not the cause. Similarly with surgery, it usually addresses the symptoms, not the cause. For instance, bypass surgery, (which can be lifesaving!!!), does not address the underlying reason why your arteries are getting blocked in the first place.
And with both drugs and surgery, there are often side effects, which are then addressed with more drugs. Many patients end up on multiple drugs and often it is only the first 1 or 2 which were given for the original problem. The other 5-10 are dealing with the side effects of the original 2 drugs or the interactions of the other drugs.
The tragedy is that for many of these problems, changing lifestyle, behavior, diet and taking some supplements can often deal with the underlying processes causing the problems and no drugs (and therefore side effects) would be necessary. Unfortunately, it does not suit the drug industry to have patients take a drug which cures or eliminates the problem. It is much more lucrative for them if the drug can manage the symptoms, so you have to stay on them for life (eg statins, anti- hypertensives etc)
Modern Western Medicine is a disease care system, it is not preventive nor does it teach patients how to stay well. In fact what we call Preventive Medicine in Modern Western Medicine…Pap Smears, Breast exams, certain blood tests etc are really early detection medicine. They are not teaching patients how to stay healthy.
So the best medicine is using Modern Western Medicine for what it is good at….crisis care medicine, acute medical and surgical emergencies, when you break a bone, when you are acutely ill etc, and using diet, supplements, exercise, stress management and other benign modalities for prevention and initially for most non acute problems.
In this new model of medicine I am talking about or in a true health care system, we look for the underlying imbalances or dysfunctions and the root causes of the problem (to be discussed in a future “pearl”). We are not content with waiting for disease to occur nor with just suppressing symptoms.