Fruitcakes and Cornflakes: how lunacy in alternative medicine harms people

house_religionJust….wow.

I had the pleasure of being a member of a forum, primarily women, who discussed health concerns and post questions about natural avenues of treatment.

It is hosted/facilitated by a “Wellness Educator” (her unofficial title, according to her website) without any actual standardized training or degree of any kind.  This person is giving medical advice (albeit holistic) to people who are writing in with serious problems that need some supervision.

I made several posts suggesting some basic functional testing when appropriate (and some adequate/appropriate supervision only in the direst of cases), and had the DIS-pleasure of being met with a staunch anti-testing mentality, complete with stern orders not to suggest those things in that forum.  So I have a couple of thoughts I feel compelled to make known.  Now.

Thought #1: It doesn’t make sense NOT to test.

The fact is, medical doctors do not do all of the testing necessary.  They don’t do the tip of the iceberg, they do maybe a snowflake on top of that iceberg tip.  There is so much more that MDs don’t even know about and don’t do.  Even the blood test panels they run (standard testing) are not complete.  They don’t give the full info.

My question is, why would you not want to get to the bottom of the issue?  Maybe blood tests were “normal” (a phrase frequently up for serious debate in itself), but what about stool tests?  Urine?  Saliva?  The scanty blood tests run are not, by any stretch, the ideal medium to detect certain common issues such as intestinal floral disruption, hormonal imbalance, cortisol circadian rhythm, and the like.

The facilitator that rallied so staunchly against my advice will forever baffle me.  These ladies are already most likely on kick-butt diets (after all, they’re part of a real food forum).  They’re already probably taking mountains of supplements.  And yet, their problems persist.

The one question nobody’s asking (not themselves, not their doctor, not their naturopath, not their acupuncturist, not their yoga instructor) is, why??  Why are these problems persisting?  I know they’re looking for a magic bullet, some product they can buy or fad diet they can start.

But we know that’s not the full answer.  The answers are more complicated than that.  Don’t you want to know what your body is doing?  Don’t you want an objective starting point?  Don’t you want some way to measure your progress and know that those supplements, dietary changes, and the like are producing results and doing you some good?

Thought #2: Good food and a multivitamin isn’t enough anymore.

If it was, we wouldn’t still be having these issues.  There’s a whole lot more in the mix these days.  We’ve got genetic mutations, toxic metabolites, xenoestrogens, water additives, genetically engineered food, severe chronic stress, audiovisual overload, mesencephalic escape, gastrointestinal dysbiosis, receptor polymorphisms, breakdowns in the mitochrondria, excessive oxidative stress, and more.  So, juicing, going organic, going vegetarian, doing raw foods, shopping at Whole Foods, or avoiding certain foods alone isn’t enough.  Taking an MLM product won’t solve all your problems.

You may have a genetic issue that slows down your liver detoxification.  Your immune system may be swinging, casting an attack on the various tissues of your body.  Your HPA axis might be completely dysregulated and neuroplasticity (reinforcement of this dysfunction) may have set in.  You may have candida growing systemically throughout your entire body.  Apple cider vinegar isn’t going to cut it alone.  When only 7% of any nerve in the body carries information about pain or discomfort (and the gastrointestinal system doesn’t even have that much), you can’t rely on symptoms alone.

Thought #3: I was accused of giving “medical advice” when in fact I was giving the LEAST amount of medical advice and I was the ONLY one in that forum qualified to give ANY medical advice in the first place!

“Wellness Educator” =/= DOCTOR.  Maybe she felt threatened?  Undermined?  Overshadowed?  Who knows?  Her insecurity or defensiveness is not my problem.  I was simply trying to help expose all of those members to another way that I know they hadn’t heard of.  But the frustrating part is, although some “liked” my posts (this is the kindergarten playground known as Facebook, after all) and thanked me for my info, many were content to respond most favorably to simple, kneejerk pseudo-solutions based on frequently-disproven old-wives tales from 60 years ago.

Thought #4: Alternative Medicine gets some of its bad press from its own lack of logic (i.e. the practitioners do it to themselves).

Much like chiropractic doctors (post on this coming later), in an effort to differentiate themselves from mainstream medicine, alternative practitioners often go too far the other way.  They claim they can get miraculous results just by “listening” and “feeling” more intuitively what’s going on in their body.  That’s all well and good, and I believe we should listen and feel a lot more often.

But it’s NOT–I repeat, not–a substitute for diagnostic testing.  I realize nobody’s looking for approval from some egotistical short-sighted MD.  That’s great; I’m not either.  But that doesn’t let alternative practitioners off the hook.  Sometimes (often), “listening” and “feeling” alone don’t cut it.  If they did, why do these people end up in my office a few wasted years (and a lot more tissue destruction) later, frustrated and tearful, with a bag of supplements and no good health to show for them?

The tests I mention are functional.  They look at functions of the body.  Do you not want to know how well you’re functioning?  Do you not want to know where the breakdown is?  They honestly go hand-in-glove with what the thrust and goal of an alternative practitioner, so why the resistance?  If nutrition, naturopathy, “Wellness Education” and holistic health counseling want to be accepted (by mainstream forms of medicine or even the public), they’ve got to move forward and embrace current technology.  We “listened” and “felt” our bodies using intuition before the testing technology became available.  It’s sad to know that many are still stuck back in that era, refusing to embrace (or even give attention to) the improvements and advances and new tools we can use.  As people who want to help others, they should be all over these tests as new ways to see inside the body that weren’t available before.  If you truly want to help your patient, you’ll consider ALL options and all alternatives and you’ll let the person decide for themselves.

Typical alternative medicine is stuck in the dark ages without much acceptance because it chooses to stay there.

And why would the alternative practitioners want acceptance, you ask?  Most don’t, actually.  But what they don’t realize is that they should.  I watched too many of my brethren attempt to establish an island separate from mainstream medicine, in hopes that they could “convert” the public to their way of thinking.  It was “us (alt med) vs them (mainstream med)” and we had a separate identity, dammit!  WE were not like them.  In fact, some of us refuse to call ourselves Doctors because we deem it “too medical”.  Yes, the most extreme of my brethren are willing to throw away their title, their scope, and a large significance of their degree and education for the sake of remaining staunchly separate from “the system”.

Look, I despise the system, too.  I don’t like the medical establishment or conventional wisdom or the poor excuse of a cattle call that passes for standard medical care in the 21st century US.  However, when you position yourself as a vehemently separate island, doing everything you can to reject and abhor medicine, and you aren’t on the mainstream side, you make your patients/clients choose between you and their regular doctors.  And guess what?  You gamble, and you lose.  The patients choose the other side, not you.

Sure, you’ll probably get a few converts.  But the lion’s share of the public end up sheepishly schlepping back to their GP’s office, with their tail between their legs, defeated and broken, knowing that they’re making the same mistake they did before (seeing a conventional MD for their chronic problem) but not knowing where else to turn.  They simply aren’t aware of their options.

Saddest of all, hardly anyone is aware that there’s a third way, one that is congruent with both sides and beautifully meets nearly every need of each individual.  Functional Medicine is a fantastic approach – it’s what 21st century mainstream medicine should have become.  It’s tragic that it sits on the sidelines, waiting for discovery, but it is a miracle that in these times of pharmaceutical-favored legislation/medical education, we have it at all.

Thought #5: Serious cases require supervision.

I don’t care who you are; if you have a laundry list of symptoms and they affect multiple systems and areas of your body and your life, you have got to admit that you are in over your head, that successful self-treatment is not usually possible, and that you’re going to need some help navigating through the mess.

Most of the ladies on that forum had hormonal issues, or issues of pain/fatigue/insomnia, or neurological problems or immune problems.  Each of these needs appropriate supervision, and here’s why…

Hormonal issues are later-stage signs of serious biochemical imbalance.  Usually it has to do with fuel-for-delivery (blood sugar and oxygen) at the cellular level.  Since they’re late-stage manifestations, the imbalances are chronic and pretty serious.  It’s not just about balancing blood sugar anymore.  You’re going to need to regulate adrenals and probably go for some neurologically-based therapy.  That is not within the realm of conventional medicine, nor is it something you’re going to be able to do on your own.  Sure, you can adopt a wholesome diet and dabble in some relaxation techniques, but wouldn’t it be that much more efficient and effective if you got some expert help?

Same could be said for any mood disorder (depression, anger, anxiety), insomnia, or even fatigue.  Much of this is adrenal-based (which by definition is a neurologically-rooted problem, not an adrenal gland problem), and treating it isn’t nearly as simple as going to Whole Foods and talking to someone in an apron about “adrenal support”.  There’s waaaaay more to it than that.  (And the conventional medical doctors are utterly clueless, too.)

Fatigue, though, enters into a whole other realm, opening up a whole new set of rabbit holes.  Possibilities include anemia (B12, iron, or other), mitochondrial dysfunction, toxic overload, neurological mis-firing, heavy metal load, chronic viral or bacterial infections, or what-have-you.  Fibromyalgia is more of a brain-based disorder (which is not the same as psychosomatic!).  Chronic fatigue is more of a mitochrondrial problem or persistent virus (or maybe the aftermath of an acute/chronic viral infection).  So many possibilities.

Again, it’s not as simple as picking up some Ginseng at Whole Foods or starting every day with coffee, even if it’s organic.  Adrenal-boosting supplements will probably not even do you any good.  Unless, of course, the reason for your fatigue is a severe cortisol dip in the morning or afternoon.  But how will you know unless you test?

Immune issues are not as simple as getting some “immune support” and thyroid issues aren’t candidates for “thyroid support” because in both cases, the herbal formulas in those supplements could be doing your system waaaay more harm than good.  Many herbs upregulate the wrong side of the immune system!  (Yes, there are multiple sides, not just one.  It’s not all or nothing; it’s not as simple as being immunodeficient or overactive.  It’s more of a teeter-totter, and you’ve got to know which side you’re dealing with.)  Echinacea, grape seed extract, astragulus, and many other popular immune boosters could be doing you actual damage.  They could actually be the last thing you need.  It’s not all about taking boatloads of Vitamin D, either – you’ve got to keep an eye on your levels.  Yes, this means a blood test. You’ve got to make sure that your system is utilizing it properly and that you’re not building up too much.  Bet our Wellness Educator doesn’t even know about that?

Thought #6: Let’s talk about this Wellness Educator.

Looking on her website (I will not give her the publicity by mentioning it or linking to it here), she updated it an hour ago with the explanation that she does not need medical approval, nor does she need biomedical testing to show her this or that finding.  (Wow, I have the feeling that was added all because of little ol’ me! I’m humbled.)  She says she’s been in the medical world and knows all about their testing.

Really? So she’s heard of Metametrix, Genova, Diagnos-Techs (all CLIA-certified diagnostic-quality lab companies) and she’s certain they’re not necessary?  Really??  Wow, lady, please come work in my office if you’re that good that you don’t need testing.

Because get this: the rest of the world does, including the poor folks who slink to your forum for “help”.  So you’re totally convinced that those labs are useless?  You’ve seen them in action and they’re not necessary?  Really?  Gosh I didn’t know that.  Maybe you should come to my office and talk with my patients who have also had their experiences with medical testing, only to be told they’re normal, but listened to–and felt–themselves and knew those test weren’t right, so after not being able to tackle their problem on their own, they ended up in my office 10 years later, and I did run these tests on them and told them they had….count ’em…..*3* parasites!  Not one.  Not two.  But three!  Gosh, no wonder that patient was a mess.

But if she had followed our “Wellness Educator”‘s advice and only “listened” and “felt” she would never have known what was wrong or how to deal with it.  And she would’ve been exactly zero steps closer to solving the problem.

What are we on, Thought #7?

Suffice it to say that the alternative medicine world needs to get a clue if they’re to help anyone with the chronic, complex, complicated, multi-factorial disorders going on out there these days.   I’ve got the feeling by resting on the laurels of their 1960s nutrition deficiency/Master Cleanse books, they’re equipped to do exactly: dick.

Meanwhile, my information is the kind of thing that desperate people pay 10-20 thousand dollars for.  There is probably a lesson for me in this whole mess as well, and maybe it’s the Universe telling me to stop going around giving this away for free.  Value is largely perception, and the only way to really create a perception of value is to charge for what you do and what you know.  So maybe it’s time to go back to devoting my time to people that pay me for what I’ve worked so hard to learn.  (After all, I have to eat, too.)

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